What is an Engineering Physics Degree?

Engineering is about the way things work. Physics is about why things work the way they do. By combining the two, engineering physicists gain a deeper understanding of the physical environment and apply that knowledge to solve problems in our ever changing high-tech world.

Engineering physics majors study the fundamentals and intricacies of both engineering and physics. They take courses in computational physics, calculus, algebra, statistics, chemistry, strength of materials, electricity, magnetism, superconductivity, statics, thermodynamics, and fluid dynamics. In short, they learn how to apply the insights of physics and other disciplines to the many fields of engineering.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Physics – Four to Five Year Duration
At the bachelor’s level, engineering physics programs are comprised of coursework in basic science, engineering science, and specialized engineering and science. Core requirements also commonly include non-technical courses aimed at broadening students’ awareness of social, economic, and managerial factors affecting engineering and scientific work. The typical curriculum combines lectures with projects and laboratory sessions.

Here is a snapshot of an engineering physics bachelor’s program:

  • General Chemistry and Laboratory
  • Calculus
  • Applied Linear Algebra
  • Introduction to Computing Science and Programming for Engineers
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Engineering, Science, and Society
  • Fundamentals of Informative and Persuasive Communication for Engineers
  • Introduction to Electronics Laboratory Instruments Operation and Measurement Techniques
  • Introduction to Engineering Analysis
  • The Use of Graphics to Communicate Engineering Information
  • Electric Circuits
  • Microelectronics – Analog / Digital Electronics and Basic Device Physics
  • Software Design and Analysis for Engineers
  • Fundamentals of Digital Logic and Design
  • Introduction to Computer Organization
  • Methods to Collect and Analyze Engineering Data
  • Electronic Devices – The Essential Physics of Silicon Semiconductor Devices
  • Embedded and Real Time (RT) System Software
  • Linear Systems – The Modeling and Analysis of Continuous and Discrete Signals Using Linear Techniques
  • Introduction to the Analysis, Design, and Applications of Continuous Time Linear Control Systems
  • Group Project: Project Design, Management, and Documentation
  • Engineering Ethics, Law, and Professional Practice
  • The Business of Engineering
  • Group Project: Engineering Design Project
  • Optical and Laser Engineering Applications
  • Introduction to Microelectronic / Integrated Circuit Fabrication
  • Vector and Complex Analysis for Applied Sciences
  • Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Mechanical and Modern Physics – A General Calculus-Based Introduction to Mechanics
  • Optics, Electricity, and Magnetism – A General Calculus-Based Introduction to Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics
  • Intermediate Mechanics
  • Physics Laboratory
  • Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism
  • Thermal Physics
  • Methods of Theoretical Physics
  • The Structure of Quantum Mechanics
  • Electromagnetic Waves – The Properties of Electromagnetic Waves and Their Interaction with Matter

Master’s Degree in Engineering Physics – Two Year Duration
Master’s programs in engineering physics are hands-on and laboratory-based. They equip students with the troubleshooting and problem solving skills necessary for leadership roles in industry and government research labs, or for further study at the doctoral level. Master’s candidates typically choose a specialization. A thesis or design project is the final requirement for graduation.

Here is a summary of some common specializations in the field:

  • Smart Systems and Laboratory Automation – designed for the student who is interested in working in a technical environment with a focus on automation, instrumentation, and electronics to analyze and control a process
  • Instrumentation and Automation – designed for the student who is interested in developing skills in electronics, instrumentation and automation as well as acquiring business and workplace skills
  • Nanoscience for Advanced Materials – designed for the student who is interested in developing skills in electronics, microscopy, nanotechnology, and materials as well as acquiring business and workplace skills
  • Biomedical Engineering – designed foe the student who is interested in the application of light (photonics) and nano- and micro-devices in health and medicine
  • Nuclear Engineering and Energy Systems – designed for the student who is interested in exploring how inexhaustible energy can be created by harvesting sunlight or nuclear processes
  • Photonics Engineering – designed for the student who is interested in the branch of science and engineering that involves the generation, control, and detection of light to provide useful applications for society

While coursework varies depending on the selected concentration, most graduate programs require that students complete some core courses in areas such as:

  • Applied Quantum Mechanics
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Applied Physics
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Biotechnology

Degrees Similar to Engineering Physics

Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering degree programs teach the analytical, computational, and engineering and design skills needed to work in the aerospace industry. Students learn how to apply this knowledge to the manufacturing, testing, and monitoring of civil or commercial aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, rockets, spacecraft, lunar vehicles, and space stations.

Biophysics applies the theories and methods of physics to understand how biological systems like the brain, the circulatory system, and the immune system function. Coursework includes math, chemistry, physics, engineering, pharmacology, and materials science.

Computer Software Engineering
Degree programs in software engineering teach students how to apply engineering principles to software development. Students learn how to design, build, test, implement, and maintain computer operating systems, as well as applications that allow end users to accomplish tasks on their computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. The typical curriculum includes several programming languages, operating systems analysis, and website design. Most programs begin with core engineering classes like mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

Electrical Engineering
Students of electrical engineering learn how to use physics, electronics, and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by or produce electricity. Most degree programs in the field start with foundational classes in calculus, physics, and chemistry.

Materials Science
Materials science involves creating, testing, and improving all kinds of materials that can be used to make different products. Material engineers work with glass, plastic, ceramics, metal and other materials.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Nuclear Engineering
Students of nuclear engineering learn how energy released from nuclear reactions can be used in power plants, medical diagnostic equipment, and other industries. Nuclear engineering courses cover nuclear reactor theory, design, safety, and risks.

Physics is a field that keeps changing as discoveries are made. This means that the field asks at least as many questions as it answers. Students of physics degree programs study matter and energy. They learn about the relationships between the measurable quantities in the universe, which include velocity, electric field, and kinetic energy.

Robotics Engineering
Robotics engineering is focused on designing robots and robotic systems than can perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to perform.

Skills You’ll Learn

Students of engineering physics develop important skills to turn innovative ideas into real-life solutions and products:

  • Application of theoretical and practical knowledge of mathematics, electronics, software, and physics to develop new materials, devices, and systems
  • Research and experiment design
  • Ability to move from big-picture thinking to examination of small details
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Design of prototypes with consideration to functionality, safety, manufacturability, and cost
  • Capacity to learn quickly and digest and use large amounts of technical data
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Ability to interpret and summarize information clearly and concisely
  • Ability to use programming languages and software

What Can You Do with an Engineering Physics Degree?

Developing modern sensors for satellites that measure the earth and the atmosphere. Designing and testing advanced medical imaging and radiation detection equipment. Working on the next generation of communications by designing wireless devices and fiber optics. Conducting research in cutting edge areas of physics. This – and more – is the work of the engineering physicist.

So many occupation areas build on engineering physics, including nuclear and particle physics, micro and nanotechnology, semiconductors and electronics, computer technologies, healthcare, fiber optics and laser design, clean energy, and applied research and development.

Below is a sampling of career possibilities for graduates of engineering physics. Some roles may require further education and/or on-the-job training.

  • Aerodynamics Engineer
  • Analog Design Engineer
  • Application Programmer
  • Astrophysicist
  • Automotive Engineer
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Circuit Design Engineer
  • Computer Systems Engineer
  • Control Systems Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • Electrical and Electronics Research Engineer
  • Electro-Optics Engineer
  • Embedded Software Engineer
  • Engineering Physicist
  • Engineering Scientist
  • Full Stack Developer
  • Fibre-Optic Network Designer
  • Fluid Mechanics Engineer
  • Machine Learning Researcher
  • Manufacturing Systems Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Medical Products Designer
  • Microelectronics Engineer
  • Microprocessor Designer and Application Engineer
  • Microwave Systems Engineer
  • Nanoelectronics Research Engineer
  • Nuclear Design Engineer
  • Nuclear Physicist
  • Optical Development Engineer
  • Optical Systems Expert
  • Particle Accelerator Analyst
  • Patent Agent
  • Photonics Research Associate
  • Physics Researcher
  • Power Generation Engineer
  • Process Development Engineer
  • Professor / Lecturer
  • Quantum Computing Engineer
  • Research and Development Engineer
  • Research Scientist
  • Software Engineer
  • Systems Engineer
  • Technical Project Manager


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