Shifting Sands: Engineers becoming physicist

With the beginning of engineering career, getting exposure to the college culture and with the new found sense of freedom, we actually start to explore ourselves. And consequently, few among us realize that this isn’t really we want to do. Now it’s very common in India that an engineer wants to pursue physics. Online forums are surfeit with Indians asking for guidance in pursuing physics after engineering, try to surf through quora on this topic and it’s always an Indian guy who asks questions like ‘Can I get a good PhD Physics program with a bachelors in engineering?’.

It is an undeniable fact that there is a toxic culture prevalent in the Indian education system. We as high school graduates are unable to judge our disposition towards a subject. If you want to be an engineer, study engineering. However, if you want to be a physicist, study physics and not engineering. Study what you’re really interested in, not what the society dictates.

Sympathy for those who took science just because they scored good grades in their sophomore year and jumped on the bandwagon due to the prevalent perception of the science as a superior subject in Indian society. So majority of the students are in the race studying science and mathematics just to get admission in IITs not knowing what they will do once they get through. Many of my fellow students didn’t even know what bachelors of technology was, but still they had the desire to get into the IITs. It’s a race of teenagers blinded by the hype of getting into IIT. I won’t deny that many students pursue this goal with an immense sense of purpose and passion and my goal is in no way to undermine the hard work of my peers, many of whom are successful in their endeavor.

For those who have started with their engineering career and are confused whether to pursue physics or not, the first question you should be asking yourself is whether you really want to do physics, which means you are highly motivated, mathematically minded (especially for theoretical physics) and have a deep, insatiable desire to really understand how nature works at the deepest level. If you tick all these boxes and this is your passion, then go for it. There will be a phase when you will see your fellow batchmates getting placed in companies with better pay in comparison to what you’ll be earning by doing physics. Shifting from engineering is not plain sailing. You may have to study some basic B.Sc. level physics courses on your own in addition to your engineering college curriculum.

In the society, you may be loured upon but still what’s important is that it will be a decision of your own choice. You may have to go through the Indian persona as here people don’t realize the cardinality of passion for something over a secured job. If you’re good at something, you will be hired definitely. Don’t be too concerned about monetary gains, it will come with time. Life never ceases to provide opportunities.



Ayush Paliwal


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