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Home » Applied physics vs electrical engineering(5 facts)

Applied physics vs electrical engineering(5 facts)

If you are confused between applied physics and electrical engineering, this is the right post you should read to clarify a lot of things and correct some wrong information.

In this post, we’ll be talking about the main difference between applied physics and electrical engineering, and which one you should choose.

1 – applied physics prepares you for many careers

Applied physics is made for students who have the intent to pursue their academic careers in topics related to physics and have larger opportunities for many careers.

Most applied physics students follow this direction because it has flexibility and the opportunity to minor later after getting their bachelor in many different  industries:

Electrical engineering is a course that prepares you for working in the electrical field and takes specializations on different topics, like signal treatment, computer hardware, software electronics, or programming. So any topics that relate to electrical and electronics careers.

In applied physics programs students study 80% of the context as physics topics and 20% is related to a specialty they have chosen like engineering, medicine, or whatever.

Applied physics majors have many specialties students can choose to study including:

So as you can see from the list you have the opportunity to choose an electrical engineering field in applied physics and become an electrical engineer. This is what we’ll be explaining in the next paragraph.

2 – you can become an applied physicist and electrical engineer at the same time

Applied physics programs offer the opportunity to choose a specialty in electrical engineering by studying a group of topics electrical engineers take in their curriculum.

The difference between majoring in electrical engineering and becoming an applied electrical engineering physicist is:

In electrical engineering you will be studying topics like solid state, computer engineering hardware, and software programming in your first years of the program, meaning the first or second year.

while in applied physics programs these topics are taught in the senior or your last year before graduation.

Because in the first 2 years of the applied physics curriculum students focus on physics topics like quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, vibration, and other pure physics topics.

These topics are not required in electrical engineering. They are optional and you can choose among other easier electives courses.

So applied physics engineers do not go deeper into the electrical engineering application that includes design or study of some narrowed topics, they focus more on the side of physics and its relation to electrical engineering.

For instance, instead of designing electronics boards as an electrical engineer, in applied physics, you will focus deeper on the material you can implement to make the electronics board more conducive and less power-consuming.

In applied physics, you will be playing the role between physics and electrical engineering.

This position is great to work for electrical engineering companies, especially in the research department conducting research and implementing all your physics knowledge to develop new technology in electrical engineering. while electrical engineers work in design and simulation.

You could be even a head of electrical engineers and provide them the instructions they should follow to design.

3 – applied physics is harder than electrical engineering

The applied physics course is more challenging and difficult than electrical engineering, students are required to complete some difficult courses electrical engineers don’t study.

In addition, some schools require advanced physics courses like honors physics courses of modern mechanics and electricity and magnetism. So you have to check the prerequisite of the school you will enroll in before making any decision.

One of the most difficult physics courses you will be studying in applied physics are quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, waves, and oscillations.

Thesis topics are math-heavy and require completing all the calculus courses before including:

You will be required to complete these 3 difficult math calculus topics in your first year. You should have taken precalculus in high school before college.

If you didn’t do well in the previous precalculus and algebra 2 courses you have to think twice before enrolling in this course.

It is also good to have taken some physics courses, especially calculus-based physics or college physics courses it will be good preparation for applied physics courses.

In general, an applied physics course is not made for students who are struggling in math or physics. If you are one of them, we recommend that you stay away from this program. 

4 – applied  physics  is good preparation for Ph.D. in physics

If you are looking or have an intent to prepare for a Ph.D. in physics and you are looking to work as a physicist or take occupations with government facilities, applied physics will be a good choice and better than electrical engineering.

But you have to consider, that it will be a long run to reach this path, but the great thing about applied physics is, that if you decide to drop your Ph.D., you will still have many chances to work in engineering companies due to the practice and application skills you acquired.

5 – applied physics more in theory than electrical engineers

 it is right that in applied physics you will be designing and doing many engineering applications, but it is still less practical than electrical engineering.

To clarify, in applied physics you will be focusing more on resolving math and physics equations and applying them in design.

While in electrical engineering you will focus more on design and practice, you will not be required to understand quantum mechanics or know the electrical permeability of the material, because it is the job of a physicist or applied physicist.

Final toughs:  what should you choose applied physics or electrical engineering

If you are looking to work in research and develop or collaborate on physics concepts like inventing new types of sensors, enhancing optics systems applied physics is the best choice, but if you are looking to work in design and focus more on practice, especially working in hardware programming, robotics, embedded systems, so electrical engineering is the best choice to opt for.

In both cases these majors are demanded, and you have to figure out which you love the most, in applied physics, you will be focusing on theory more than practice, while the inverse is in electrical engineering.