in this post, we’ll discover which is better electrical engineering or physics, and know what is the difference between each major.
the difference between physics and electrical engineering
electrical engineering and physics are similar majors, they have some overlap and common subjects especially when we talk about some topics that electrical engineers and physicists study in common like electricity and electromagnetism.
but physics remains broader and focuses on other multiple topics, like mechanics, kinematics, atomistic, quantum physics, and so on. It is much more general and broader than electrical engineering which focuses only on dealing with electrical and electronics boards and some other topics like signal transmission and programming.
We can say that electrical engineering is one specific area of a physics branch, it is more applied, involving design, programming, and solving technical problems, while physics is more theoretical.
Electrical engineers are responsible for designing computer hardware you have on your phones, computer, or any electrical or electronics machine, they can also program them.
In addition, working in other related industries like power engineering where electricity is produced. Every machine or system that involves electricity lime motors, electronics, remote controls, electrical installations … electrical engineers work on.
electrical engineering has many specializations, as an electrical engineer you can be working in different industries like:
- Power and Energy
- Control engineering
- Microelectronics and nanoelectronics
- Signal processing
- Photonics and optics
On the other hand, physicists have different perspectives, they are divided into two parts:
Theoretical physicists are people who solve math and physics equations and prove theories like Albert Einstein who invented the relativity theory. They can be working in many areas including electricity, mechanics, sound, waves, material science, optics, and so on.
Applied physicists are people who use the same physics knowledge that theoretical physics does, but they implement it more in application and tests, they are close to engineers. As an applied physicist you will be working in labs making a lot of tests and helping to invent products or improve systems like sensors, robotics, lasers, and so on.
As a physicists, you can be working in many areas, but the principal areas of physics are :
- Classical mechanics
- Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics
- Electromagnetism and photonics
- Relativistic mechanics
- Quantum mechanics, atomic physics, and molecular physics
- Optics and acoustics
- Condensed matter physics
- High-energy particle physics and nuclear physics
Is electrical engineering harder than physics
electrical engineering and physics are the most difficult majors, but physics tends to be more theoretical and complex than electrical engineering, which involves more practice and design. Physics involves a lot of math, used in complex topics like quantum mechanics and relativity theory.
electrical engineering is more applied and narrowed than physics, students take a single specialization and focus on it, this is not happening in physics majors until you reach or apply for a master’s.
In terms of math topics physics and electrical engineering both require having solid foundations in math, especially calculus advanced topics like multivariable calculus and differential equations.
These topics are used widely in the most complex physics topics like thermodynamics (the science of heat and energy) and quantum mechanics ( the weird science you will be discovered when you take a physics major to video).
Calculus is also required in electrical engineering, especially in electricity and magnetism and circuit analysis.
For instance, Electrical engineers use calculus to calculate the value of components they have to introduce in their circuits like how much it should be the value of the capacitor which is a part of electronics design.
To study physics or electrical engineering, the only prerequisite you have is math, if you are good at math you can take both of these branches with any issues.
what should you choose: Physics or electrical engineering
In terms of financial positions and job opportunities, electrical engineering is better than physics, according to BLS, there are more than 20,400 annual electrical engineering job opportunities offered in the market, compared to only 1600 for physics majors. So electrical engineering is 12 times better than physics.
electrical engineering is much famous and in demand, in addition, electrical engineers earn a respectable salary. Electrical engineers earn around $101,000 a year while physicists $140,000.
but to reach $140,000 as a physicist you might be spending 15 to 20 years of your life preparing for your Ph.D. in physics which might not be worth it in many cases, you can reach this salary only with a bachelor’s degree in physics.
especially if you are looking to work with governmental facilities like in universities or government centers, it requires a lot of time and hard work than electrical engineering.
On the other hand, in electrical engineering, it is enough to get a bachelor’s and start applying for a job, you don’t need a master’s or Ph.D.
You can earn this early quickly if you prove some talent and good skills in a domain, there is a high domain for this profession. You can work in many industries, electricity or electronics and also being a programmer too, programming hardware components like embedded systems… you have a lot of options.
Physics tends to be more limited, most students aim for working as professors or becoming physicists working in research centers with companies or governmental centers. A lot of people struggle to get jobs as a physicist, especially those who opt for teaching.
but if you are looking to work with private companies, you still have many opportunities to find a job as a physicist, but it will not be quicker and easier to get hired as an electrical engineer graduate
How much physics is in electrical engineering
In electrical engineering students are required to complete many physics topics, firstly they take a general physics course which is a basic course, revising high school physics topics including calculus and algebra-based physics topics.
In the second year or freshman year, students are also required to complete a more specific course of physics that encompasses topics like Thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, circuits, waves, and geometric optics.
In the third and fourth years, students are not required to complete any physics course, they will be focusing on taking foundations in Cricut design and programming. But you will be using many physics subjects like electricity and magnetism laws like ohm laws, Kirchoff laws, etc.
You have to focus a lot on the electricity and magnetism physics course because you will be using all its foundations in other upcoming courses. It is more interesting than thermodynamics or geometrics optics.
Can an electrical engineer become a physicist?
An electrical engineer can become a physicist with an electrical engineering degree. After finishing your bachelor’s you can take a master’s and pursue your studies in advanced physics topics related to the field, like quantum mechanics, and semiconductors, or study a pumping field like superconductors.
But you have to take some undergraduate physics courses and pass specific exams many schools demand, like GRE.