In this post, we’ll be discovering the 3 important facts and differences between applied physics and mechanical engineering.
1 – applied physics is broader than mechanical engineering
Working in applied physics will allow you to choose many careers, including mechanical engineering itself. Yes in applied physics you could take a speciality of mechanical engineering and graduate with an applied physics degree in mechanical engineering. (we will explain that in detail later in the article).
In addition, there are many applied physics careers you can minor into, you could minor in:
After graduating with applied physics you could have a master’s in these subjects, and you will gain many skills and knowledge to help you to succeed in these majors.
While mechanical engineering is a narrowed domain that does not open you many careers to pursue like applied physics, in mechanical engineering you have two choices:
1 continue in mechanical engineering
You could graduate in mechanical engineering and become a mechanical engineer designer working for many industries, it has a brilliant job opportunity. It is better than majoring in physics.
But you don’t have to be confused between majoring in physics and applied physics, because they are not the same. Applied physics is better than physics in terms of job opportunities; it is close to engineering majors.
2 – minor in aerospace engineering
The second choice you have, majoring in mechanical engineering, is to specialize and choose aerospace engineering in your senior year. If you are interested to work with plane companies like Boeing or Airbus and other related industries to aerospace engineering.
After graduation in aerospace engineering, you could minor or take a master’s where you should choose between astronomy or aerodynamics.
but you have to understand that Aerospace engineering is not demanded like mechanical engineering, it has limited opportunities. According to the BLS, the annual jobs offered in mechanical engineering are 20,000 while 5100 in aerospace engineering.
So if you are looking to be hired as fast as possible, you should opt for mechanical engineering.
On the other hand, if you don’t know which path you should choose, having a degree in applied physics will give you more choices later to do a master’s or prepare for Ph.D. While in mechanical engineering you should be knowing that you will be working in design and manufacturing.
2 applied physics is harder than mechanical engineering
The applied physics curriculum involves a lot of physics and math combined, in addition to other practice applications, like design and programming, and so on. But applied physics students study difficult physics topics that mechanical engineers don’t focus on like thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, vibration, and oscillation…
In mechanical engineering you will not be studying quantum mechanics, even if you found it in the program it will be optional.
The challenge that applied physics faces is to balance between studying theoretical physics topics and doing practical work like design and engineering. You will be doing a job as a physicist and engineer at the same time.
For instance, in mechanical engineering, you will be responsible to design a mechanical piece in CAD or Solidworks. In applied physics, you will be doing the same thing in addition to including all physics and mathematics equations to study the strengths and weak points of the piece.
So applied physicists go deeper and know why the mechanical pieces are breaking and all the physics rules behind that while engineers don’t care a lot about it.
Applied physics is a challenging course. It requires you to be very good at math and physics both, students must learn and absorb topics fast to stay in pace with the professor. The killer mistake to make in applied physics is procrastination or ignoring a given topic.
All the topics in applied physics are interesting. In the beginning, you have to focus on calculus because you will need a lot of calculus in physics topics, especially thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.
If you are not good or struggling in physics we do not recommend taking this course, it is made only for people who have a warrior mindset and are ready to spend long hours a day studying.
3 you could become a mechanical engineer with an applied physics degree
In an applied physics degree you don’t graduate with a general degree like physics, in the last year of the applied physics curriculum you should choose a specialty that your schools offer. In generally applied physics schools offer many specialists including:
So as you can see from the list you can take a mechanical engineering branch and graduate as an applied physicist in mechanical engineering. It will be a great idea if you love physics and mechanical engineering combined.
This degree will allow you to work with engineering companies especially in research departments, applying all your physics knowledge to develop new products or enhance them by focusing on scientific material or inventing new structures that are more powerful and less heavy.
The second choice is to pursue your studies by taking a master’s degree or opting for a Ph.D. But, it requires a lot of time and hard work and is still interesting for people who want to work in high academic jobs like becoming professors or research in government facilities like NASA and so on.
what should I choose applied physics or mechanical engineering
If you love physics and engineering at the same time it would be an excellent idea to opt for applied physics but in the condition of being good at math and physics and ready to challenge yourself to complete this program. You will be studying long hours a day, at least 4 to 5 hours a day if you want to get your degree in 4 years.
If you are not sure of your math and physics capabilities and don’t want to take risks to lower your GPA, it is enough to get a mechanical engineering degree and find a job easily. Mechanical engineering is easier and less consuming than applied physics.