Can you work as an engineer with a physics degree?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Nov 09 2023

Given that engineering is the application of physics to help solve problems, it makes sense that people interested in physics are also interested in engineering. However, do you need to study engineering to become an engineer? Read on to learn whether there are specific degree requirements for engineers, some tips to help you decide which subject to take, and why you don’t even need to go to university to be an engineer.


Can you work as an engineer with a physics degree?

It’s definitely possible to become an engineer with a physics degree. A physics degree allows you to delve deeper into the fundamentals of physics theory, and even take modules in areas you’re interested in like astrophysics. When you apply to engineering roles, employers will see that you understand the theory behind engineering, have the skills required to complete a physics degree, and may be a good candidate for the role. Thus, if you’re interested in physics theory and research, a career as an engineer is still attainable for you.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that many students will hold engineering degrees, so will the practical experience employers are looking for. So, you’ll need to think about how you can stand out from the crowd. You could join your university’s engineering society, or a local robotics club. You could also shadow a current engineer or apply for an internship; this will also allow you to decide if engineering is the right career for you. Postgraduate study (via university or an apprenticeship) is also a great option. Completing an engineering master’s is also a requirement of becoming a chartered engineer. Chartered engineers are registered with the Engineering Council (regulatory body for engineers), so can access a wider range of career opportunities.

Can you work as a physicist with an engineering degree?

This is a bit more challenging, as an engineering degree doesn’t reach the same advanced level of physics as a physics degree does. However, providing you can show a demonstrable interest in physics research, and are willing to put in the hours to get up to scratch, this is an option. Note that advanced physicist positions tend to require a PhD. 

Should I do an engineering degree or a physics degree?

It depends on your interests. If you love conducting research in labs and learning more about how the universe works (a more theoretical learning style), go for a physics degree. If you’re interested in how physics can be used in the real world and prefer a hands-on style of learning, go for an engineering degree. One way to make a decision is by looking at the modules offered on different engineering and physics courses, and working out which ones interest you. Many universities even offer engineering physics courses. 

Do I have to go to university to be an engineer?

University isn’t for everyone: the financial costs are high and a theoretical learning style isn’t for everyone. Completing an apprenticeship is a great way to become an engineer, through salaried, hands-on work experience and a fully funded qualification. There’s a number of engineering apprenticeships available, from the Civil Engineer Degree Apprenticeship to the new Space Systems Degree Apprenticeship.