In this post, we’ll be discovering the difference between physics and aerospace engineering, in addtion to knowing which is the best option to choose.
The difference between aerospace engineering and physics
Physics is a major that studies multiple aspects of science like material science, atomistic, electricity, magnetism, mechanics, and so on, while aerospace engineering is a specific field that prepares students to work in aeronautics or astronomy, so aerospace is more narrow.
Aerospace engineering is a form of an applied physics branch that focuses on teaching the physics principle of flying and propulsion, but it doesn’t teach many physics topics. It just focuses on the topics that a major needs like thermodynamics, motion, dynamics, and kinematics.
In addition, students are not required to study a lot of physics courses in aerospace engineering, all the physics rules are introduced in models of design or engineering math courses. They focus on design and math more than physics.
While in physics, students are required to complete different and broader topics about physics, like kinematics, atomists, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and so on. All these topics are different specialties you have to absorb before getting your bachelors in physics which is a little bit hard.
how much physics in aerospace engineering
You will be required to complete some physics courses in the aerospace engineering majors course. They are not intensive like physics majors but are still important and supportive subjects. Aerospace engineers need to study aerodynamics, propulsion, and other engineering modules.
In your first year of studies you have to complete a general physics course which is an example of a similar version of calculus-based physics, also called college physics. In this course, you will be studying physics topics like:
This course is like an introductory course that prepares students to use physics with calculus because in high school most students only take physics-based algebra which is easier, but not so useful for a Stem major like engineering or physics.
If you have taken calculus-based physics in high school you probably are excepted to take this course, this will be depending on each school. But these topics are so interesting and very fundamental.
you will be using aerospace design modules like orbital dynamics, flight dynamics, or mechanics material.
In the second year, you will be taking more advanced topics of physics, including:
You have to focus a lot on thermodynamics, because you will also study it as an individual course afterward, in the same or next year. Thermodynamics is really really important, especially in systems propulsions like rockets or plane engines.
You will be using thermodynamics to study how plane and rocket engines burn fuel to create energy or trust. This is one of the most difficult physics subjects you will face. It involves a lot of math, especially advanced calculus topics like multivariable calculus and differential equations.
which is harder
Both aerospace engineering and physics are difficult majors, they are math and physics involved. Physics could be more difficult for students who don’t like a lot of theory. Because you have to go deeper with advanced math equations like Schrodinger equations in quantum mechanics or einstein relativity that treat a time as a singular dimension.
On the other hand, aerospace engineering designs demanding, you will spend most of your time designing spaceships, planes, or rockets. In other words, solving difficult math and physics equations, especially in thermodynamics.
In both cases you have to be good at math, have a solid foundation in algebra courses, and also advanced calculus topics like multivariable calculus and differential equations. Physics and aerospace engineering are not good branches for people who struggle in math.
The main point that distinguishes aerospace engineering and physics in terms of difficulties, is practicality, meaning if you like to work by hand and craft things, you will enjoy and find aerospace engineering more interesting than easier.
In physics you have to be a guy who likes to read books and dig into theory, you will be swimming in a lot of math and weird physics equations, especially when you will take quantum mechanics as it is difficult and requires having the interest to study.
Physics or aerospace engineering
In terms of salaries, physics and aerospace engineering are closely similar, according to BLS, the average salary of an aerospace engineer is $122,000, while physicists earn a little bit more than $147,000, but when we look at the job opportunities we find a difference.
The annual number of jobs offered in physics is only 1600 while in aerospace engineering is 4 times better, with over 5100 new annual occupations created in this industry. but both of these occupations have poor numbers if we compare them to other industries.
In mechanical engineering, there are more than 20,000 new occupations offered every year, which is 20 times bigger than physics and 5 than aerospace engineering. The same thing for electrical engineering.
So if you are looking to find a job easily and not struggle, physics and aerospace engineering is not an ideal option. The ideal industries to choose are mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. We wrote a complete article about these two majors. You will find them in the following links.
But if you are convinced and love aerospace engineering, there is another option which is getting your bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and then minoring in aerospace engineering fields like aeronautics or astronomy, it is the safest step.
Because if you didn’t find a job in this aerospace engineering field with your master’s degree, you still have a big opportunity to apply with your bachelor’s in mechanical engineering for multiple industries, especially manufacturing ones. Almost all companies require mechanical engineering, from the coffee mug you use to the car you drive.
The riskiest option is to take a physics major, in this case, you will likely pursue your studies after getting your bachelor’s and looking for a master’s or Ph.D. which requires a lot of time and effort. we wrote a compelling guided article about physics Ph.D. to know if it is worth it or not.
But the sure thing we can assume is never taking a physics major for money because it is not a good investment. The job perspectives are limited, especially the ones who are looking to work in governmental jobs like teaching in universities or working in NASA.