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Pre-Engineering Program

Physics-Engineering
Dual Degree Program


McMurry University has several Physics and Pre-Engineering programs available for our students. If you are considering engineering, then it may help to read over the Differences Between Physics and Engineering section of the Welcome Incoming Students webpage.  All of the Physics/Engineering options will start you in the same set of classes. It is not until your sophomore or junior year that the schedules will diverge. We have Bachelor-Bachelor programs available currently, but we encourage you to consider the Bachelor-Masters options.  

Development of the Dual-Degree Idea

A Professional Degree:  Back in the '50s and '60s, a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering was a 150 credit-hour degree.  This was the professional degree with which an engineer was considered qualified to work in the industry.  Since most degree programs were 125 credit-hours, universities pressured the schools of engineering to reduce their requirements and they did.  However, the Bachelors has remained the traditional professional degree.  Recently, there has begun a push towards making the Masters of Engineering the professional degree because, when counted with the bachelors, it is back to the 150 credit-hour degree scale.  

Engineering Physics Programs:  Engineers typically try to answer the question "How can I make this work in the real world?" and therefore tend to focus on the application of technology.  Physicists typically try to answer the question "Why does this work at all?" and therefore tend to focus on fundamental science.  Physics is in some sense the "liberal arts" of engineering.  With a degree in physics, one may not know enough (yet) to be able to do the details that the engineers do, but a physicist should be able to talk at a technical level with an engineer from any engineering field with a minimum of catching up.  Engineers and physicists use different notation and focus on different aspects of the various fields, but because physics is more general, covering ideas related to all of the engineering disciplines, a physicist should be able to transition into an engineering field.  In addition, an engineer who was trained in physics should be able to connect their discipline to other engineering disciplines.

The Dual BS Idea:  This idea is sometimes called a 3-2 program; but this name is a little awkward because it is also used in other contexts to refer to a different idea. This dual Bachelor's degree refers to a student who starts as a physics undergraduate at a school with no engineering program, takes their general education and intro physics courses, and then transfers to an engineering school to take nearly 3-years worth of engineering courses (and no general education). McMurry currently has a dual degree agreement with Texas A&M University in which a student who majors in physics for three years and takes at least 90 credit hours (average 15 hrs per term, but we recommend a little more) can transfer up to A&M and finish off their engineering bachelors degree in two more years. The university agrees that the courses taken at McMurry will satisfy the general education and pre-requisite courses for Engineering at Texas A&M and that the Engineering courses taken at Texas A&M will count as advanced Physics courses for the McMurry University degree. After successful completion of the coursework at both schools (in a minimum of 5 years), you will receive two degrees: a Bachelor of Science from McMurry and a Bachelor of Engineering from A&M.

There are three cautions that I will put with this: First, you should notice that this does not give you the 150-credit-hour master's degree, but it does get you a well-rounded Bachelor's degree, which is the professional degree with which you can get a job. Second, you will be taking 3-5 engineering courses per term after you transfer and a student who is not motivated might spend more than two years finishing the engineering degree. Third, primarily for students from smaller high schools who are considering McMurry because they are uncertain about being at a large engineering school, you should be aware that graduate programs (even at large engineering schools) have a small feel to them even if the undergraduate programs do not. The undergraduate engineering programs are lockstep and all the students take the same set of courses and form communities. You are likely to be more comfortable either starting at the engineering school as a freshman undergraduate or finishing a physics degree and then transferring to an engineering graduate program rather than starting at one school and trying to transfer into a big school where students have already formed their friendships.

The Other 3-2 Idea: The phrase "a 3-2 program" at an engineering school may instead refer to an engineering student who is academically strong and motivated enough to finish a sufficient amount of their undergraduate coursework in a specific engineering discipline to begin their graduate work in the same engineering discipline while technically still an undergraduate. Some engineering schools developed these 3-2 programs for their students because of the situation regarding the professional degree (mentioned above). This would allow a student to finish their masters in 5 years instead the usual 6. Of course, it is necessary for these students to be continuing on in the same discipline that they studied as an undergraduate.

Changing Fields: If an engineer wishes to change fields from undergraduate to graduate school, then they need what are sometimes called "Leveling Courses" to get up to speed in the new field. (These are also called "post-bachelaureate courses.") Typically after a student takes their bachelors in one field, they can spend their first year of graduate work taking the leveling classes in a new field and then move into the coursework of the new discipline. The number of leveling courses that are needed depends on which discipline one transfers from as well as which discipline one goes to, but these courses generally do exist and there is a demand for them.

A New Idea: For a variety of reasons, it would be advantageous to develop a smooth transition from a physics bachelors degree to an engineering masters degree. Because of the differences in perspective between the fields one cannot reasonably expect to get a jump on graduate engineering courses while working on an undergraduate physics major. However, McMurry faculty are currently working with Texas Tech (and possibly others) to develop opportunities to smooth the transition into various engineering graduate programs. The idea is to make use of the leveling courses that exist for engineers who are switching fields, use these as the physics electives during senior undergraduate year, and allow a student who graduates with a BS in physics from McMurry and who has had these classes to enter directly into the engineering graduate program with a minimal amount of leveling. See below for the latest developments in this regard.

Summary of what is currently available

Bachelor-Bachelor Programs: McMurry currently has a dual degree agreement with Texas A&M University in which a student who majors in physics for three years and takes at least 90 credit hours (average 15 hrs per term, but we recommend a little more) can transfer up and finish off their engineering bachelors degree in two more years. (Caution: You will be taking 3-5 engineering courses per term and a student who is not motivated might spend more than two years finishing the engineering degree.) The university agrees that the courses taken at McMurry will satisfy the general education and pre-requisite courses for Engineering at Texas A&M and that the Engineering courses taken at Texas A&M will count as advanced Physics courses for the McMurry University degree. After successful completion of the coursework at both schools (in a minimum of 5 years), you will receive two degrees: a Bachelor of Science from McMurry and a Bachelor of Engineering from A&M.

Bachelor-Masters Programs: Because it is not uncommon for students to transition from undergraduate physics or math into engineering graduate programs, there is no formal agreement of acceptance at this time. However, after extensive discussions with Texas Tech School of Engineering there are recommended class lists for undergraduate physics majors to consider as electives if they are planning to go to graduate school in engineering.




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