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Active duty AF wants to be engineer

  1. Oct 30, 2008 #1
    Hello, I was searching for information on the Electrical Engineering field and found this website. I'm currently serving as an enlisted member of the Air Force, and am curious as to the demands of an engineering education. A little background, I went to college for about 2 years, but back then I was very undisciplined and did a tad bit to much partying (UNC). Now after being in the AF for a bit, I'm getting that urge again to move on and improve my life. I'm stationed in South Carolina, and have already sent in an application to USC, where I plan to finish an associates in science, but with the help of my academic advisor I will only take courses that will directly transfer to USC at Columbia to an EE degree (I have about 45 civilian credits and 65 military credits). I basically already have an AA in Applied Science from the AF... My job is an Electronic Warfare Technician... basically we repair and maintain radar jamming pods for F16's and A10's... Part of the education was Electronic Principles and the general theory of Electronic Warfare. We learned all about AC/DC theory, solid state circuits, and the usual stuff but I really want to get into designing. I understand EE is not for everyone and even as a full time student is very demanding, I'm honestly not the greatest at math... and its been about a year and a half (besides electronic principles) since my last math course... but is that all it is, is math and more math? Is it mindless memorization of forumlas and theories just to be regurgitated later? If it is, I'm still in for the game, I'd just like to know what I'm getting myself into :)

    Thanks ahead of time, and I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2008 #2
    I don't know, is being in the military just a lot of dressing up and marching around? :smile:

    All joking aside, there is certainly a lot of math involved in any branch of engineering. But if all you do is memorize the formulas and methods, you'll be a lousy engineer. The key is to understand what the formulas *mean*, and how they lead to design tradeoffs in whatever sort of equipment you are designing.

    If you are serious about becoming an EE, you'll have to take, at the bare minimum, a couple of semesters of calculus, some linear algebra, and some differential equations. If you are worried about your math skills, maybe you should try to brush up on them a bit or even study ahead on your own?

    Definitely give it a try, though.
  4. Oct 31, 2008 #3
    Right you are on that one!

    I was given the curriculum, and to be quite honest it looks like a mathmatics major's curriculum lol. Calc I , Calc II , Algorithmic Design I , Alg Design II, Physics I , Physics II, Vector Calc, Stats , Diff Equations... only into the junior and senior years do you get into the fun stuff it looks like of Electromagnetics, and Electronic Laboratory's ... I know from an outside person's perspective reading this thread it looks like I wouldn't want to become an EE, but I like seeing how things work, I'm a huge audiophile and want to design amplifiers. I've read through the "Should I become an Engineer," thread and I'm quite devoted to the idea now. Specifically the line
    Right now I plan to take about 2 courses a semister, and see what I feel comftorable with while active duty. I then plan to take all those credits at the end of my contract and goto UNC Columbia full time with my G.I. Bill ...
  5. Oct 31, 2008 #4
    I would say, go for it. If you are stationed in some place where you can take classes, try to get through as many of those lower-division math classes as you can. If you end up not liking it, there are a lot of other majors to which you could switch.

    The other thing you might want to consider is that the new GI Bill is going to pay you E-5 with Dependents BAH, so if you go to a school with a more expensive zip code, you will receive a lot more money.
  6. Oct 31, 2008 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Surely some of your officers are EE's, right? You might have a sit down with them.

    You're also correct that the first two years of an engineering degree are mostly about building a good foundation for the last two, more specialized years. That's just how it goes.
  7. Oct 31, 2008 #6
    I have no direct contact with officers in my line of duty. (restricted area) ... the most contact I have ever had with any officer is walking to and from the BX or Commissary and passing one on the way to his/her car.
  8. Oct 31, 2008 #7
    The first two years of virtually every engineering curriculum in the world looks like that. The good news is that if you suddenly decide that you want to be a Chem. E. or a Mech. E. or any other sort of E. instead of an EE, you don't really lose any time.

    Anyway, I think your plan of taking a few courses now and then going full-time once you are out of the service is a good one. Good luck.
  9. Oct 31, 2008 #8
    If you ever deicide on going to Graduate school then AFIT is a smart way to go after you get your Bachelors Degree in EE.

    Air Force Institute of Technology:
  10. Oct 31, 2008 #9
    You might be interested in reading "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz / Hill. https://www.amazon.com/Art-Electron...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225478488&sr=1-1

    The authors do a GREAT job of explaining electronic design with an absoulute minimum amount of mathematics ! So this is the "fun" part of electronics. Of course, there is no way that you can become an engineer without biting the bullet and learning all the math stuff you mentioned. But if you browse through the book you might get an idea whether electronic design is for you.

    EDIT: The last post in this thread https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=102417 (an ebook about design with opamps by Texas Instruments) might also be of interest. Probably the other links are good too, but I didn't have a look at them yet. The TI book does contain quite a lot of mathematical equations, some of them even quite lengthy. But at least the underlying math is very elementary.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  11. Oct 31, 2008 #10
    There is a lot of mathematics involved, no doubt. However, the skills are very important. Many people find Calculus to be far easier than the courses prior to it, but that is not to say you don't need to know the basics. Being able to understand graphs quickly is an essential skill, as well as recognizing the graphs of functions quickly.

    Do not worry too much about the math content. Any major university will have a learning center of some sort where you can go to receive help from. Also, most professors will be more than willing to sit down and explain a concept to you.
  12. Oct 31, 2008 #11


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    This is maybe minimally useful, but is really not a good guideline for the best success:

    The best advantage is to do ones own learning as much as possible, and spend the extra time to accomplish this. The more that you can accomplish yourself, the better.
  13. Oct 31, 2008 #12
    Thanks guys, that pretty much settles it then... Come spring semister I'll start loading up the classes :)
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