If you are deciding between majoring in physics or mechanical engineering, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.
At a glance:
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note|
A hard major.
Lots of possible job paths.
Average predicted job growth.
Good reported job satisfaction.
Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Source for mechanical engineering average pay and jobs
There are important things to consider when choosing between the two degrees since they can take you down very different paths. Also, there are some things to consider if you do choose either of them such as which classes you should take.
Details about a mechanical engineering degree
Below are some details about a degree in mechanical engineering.
According to Payscale, the average pay of a mechanical engineer is $80,251. This is higher than the average pay of most degrees including most engineering degrees including civil engineering. However, it is lower than the average reported pay for computer engineering ($87,000), electrical engineering ($92,000), and computer science($85,000). It is also lower than the average reported pay for someone with a physics degree which is $86,600.
The predicted growth rate for mechanical engineering jobs is 4%, in total, over the next decade and the number of mechanical engineering jobs is said to be 320,000 (source). This, by itself, would give the mechanical engineering major moderately good job prospects.
However, mechanical engineering can also qualify you for jobs in related fields including industrial engineering which has a 10% predicted growth rate. This means that mechanical engineering can have good job prospects, provided that you choose to take classes relevant to areas that are growing and which already have a large number of jobs, at least above 300,000.
Jobs you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering can include:
- Mechanical engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Design engineer
- Project engineer
- Aerospace engineer
Mechanical engineering is a difficult major. It will include a lot of math classes, a lot of physics classes and the mechanical engineering classes, themselves, can be difficult which also include a lot of physics and mathematics. Overall, you can expect mechanical engineering to be similarly difficult to physics which is also a difficult major.
Below are some classes you can expect to take in mechanical engineering:
- Differential equations
- Fluid dynamics
Things to consider
Mechanical engineering is a major that will involve a lot of study time. If you are choosing the major purely for the job opportunities, there are better alternatives that do not require as much study time such as computer science.
However, mechanical engineering can be a pathway into very interesting careers that are very satisfying. Before choosing mechanical engineering as a major, it would help a lot to research the different jobs you could get and to see if they are things that you would truly enjoy doing.
Details about a physics degree
Below are some details about a degree in physics.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in physics is $86,600. This makes physics one of the best paying degrees available and only certain engineering degrees, such as electrical engineering and computer science are able to match it.
However, something to be aware of is that the average pay of someone fresh out of college, with no work experience, will likely be a lot lower than that.
A physics degree can give access to a wide range of job opportunities. However, a physics degree can be quite general in nature and it can be difficult to find a job with just a bachelor’s degree in physics. However, this will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. You can also greatly improve your job prospects by minoring in something more applied such as computer science, completing programming projects and getting summer internships.
Jobs that you could get with a degree in physics could include:
- Software engineer
- Data scientist
- Data analyst
- Mechanical engineer
Physics can give good job opportunities if you combine it with more practical skills. Currently, data science is a popular career path for physics majors. If you are interested in data science, it would help to learn programming, data analysis, machine learning to complete data science projects and to take a number of computer science classes including data structures and algorithms.
A physics degree can also be a very difficult degree and you will have to put a lot of time into the degree. Physics involves a lot of mathematics and the physics classes themselves can be difficult.
You can expect to take math classes such as:
- Differential calculus
- Integral calculus
- Multivariate calculus
- Differential equations
- Linear algebra
- Partial differential equations
In addition you can expect to have the option to take more math classes if you would like. You might also have the option to take some classes from related disciplines such as statistics, engineering and computer science.
You can also expect to take multiple physics classes including:
- Introduction to physics
- Mechanics and waves
- Electricity and magnetism
- Quantum physics
- Statistical mechanics
You can look here to see an example of required classes in a physics degree.
Reasons to choose mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering is a major that can qualify you for a lot of jobs, at the entry-level, by itself without having to learn extra skills in your own time. This should make it easier to find a job after graduation.
Furthermore, the jobs that a mechanical engineering degree can qualify you for tend to be very interesting jobs that have high levels of satisfaction and are very important to society. Although, many of the physics jobs can be very interesting in their own right but they often require a master’s degree.
Reasons to choose a physics degree
As the numbers show, a physics degree can also qualify you for a lot of jobs with high pay. Also, the demand for people with physics degrees is climbing due to companies getting more and more data that they need people with mathematical skills to make use of. A physics degree combined with statistics, data analytics, data science and machine learning skills will likely put you in a very good position in the job market in the coming years. Getting a minor in computer science would also put you in a good position to obtain software engineering type roles.
Additionally, physics can also qualify you for many jobs in other disciplines including software engineering, finance, and engineering, provided that you take relevant classes.
However, it is very important to be aware that a physics degree by itself can be difficult to qualify for jobs with. The degree will only have good employment prospects if you combine it with applied knowledge as mentioned above.