Engineering physics utilizes math and physical science in the analysis and design of scientific and industrial technology. Learn about career options, employment projections, related degree programs and class topics.
Is Engineering Physics for Me?
The field of engineering physics uses physics concepts to develop new technologies and find solutions to everyday engineering problems. Professionals in the engineering physics field often apply their knowledge and skills to the areas of medicine, biotechnology and manufacturing. They may design optical, electronic and mechanical equipment systems for use in data acquisition, measurement or communications, for example. If you're interested in pursuing a career in engineering physics, you'll need strong mathematical, technical and computing skills in order to excel.
Studies in engineering physics generally lead to careers in industrial research and development, as well as applied science and advanced technology. You could work for a high-tech company, engineering firm or any company involved in the manufacturing of technological devices as well as qualify for a career in computer technology, laser technology and software engineering. In addition to institutions within the engineering technology industry, you could work within national research laboratories and research-focused universities conducting and publishing your own research. Some engineering physicists also become scientific entrepreneurs.
Salaries and Job Outlook
If you're interested in a career in engineering physics, job prospects vary with different occupations in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected average job growth for physicists, at 10%, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). In addition, the BLS expected jobs for electrical engineers to grow slightly by 5%, while jobs for chemical engineers will experience similar growth of 4% over this period. The BLS also reported the median annual salary to be $106,840 for physicists, $94,350 for chemical engineers and $87,920 for electrical engineers, as of May 2012.
How Can I Work in Engineering Physics?
Engineering physics degrees are often available through schools of engineering at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. While a bachelor's degree can qualify you for many industrial positions, a graduate degree is often necessary for high-level research and development positions. You can also pursue a combined Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree program that can be completed in five years. Most engineering physics programs offer further specialization in such areas as nanoengineering, applied optics, computer science and digital electronics. Undergraduate studies in this field can also be good preparation for graduate school in a scientific, medical, engineering or technical discipline.
Topics of Study
An engineering physics program curriculum typically combines mathematics such as calculus and physics courses within an engineering program of study. Specific physics courses typically include those found within a physics bachelor's degree program, such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, magnetism and scientific computing. Engineering coursework often covers topics in materials, circuits, mechanics and electrical design, as well as elective courses from an engineering specialty. Programs are generally hands-on in nature, with lessons in laboratory techniques, instrumentation and data analysis. Internship opportunities with corporations or organizations within the industry or in research may also be available or even required.
As an engineering physics professional, you may want to consider becoming certified as a professional engineer to improve your employment prospects within research and development institutions. This can be especially useful since engineers who work directly with the public are required to become licensed as professional engineers in their state. Licensure requirements can vary but generally involve earning a degree from an accredited engineering program, gaining professional work experience (usually at least four years) and passing two qualifying examinations (www.ncees.org).