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Advice on majoring

  1. Nov 2, 2013 #1
    Hello, new here to PF. Just wanted to know if I could get some advice about my major next fall. I am a senior in high school and plan on going to West Virginia Tech after high school. I know that I want to major in Electrical Engineering, but am kind of torn between a double major with Computer Engineering, Mathematics, or a triple major in all three. I am in the top of my Calculus 1 class right now with like a 98% and am taking Calculus 2 next semester (these are taught by the local college). I really enjoy the Calculus and think that I might like to major in mathematics. I also really think that Computer Engineering would be interesting as well as have a lot of overlap with Electrical Engineering, so I am really not sure what to do. I plan to go to graduate school for Electrical Engineering as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2013 #2


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    I always give the same advice. You cannot learn too much Computer Science. Whether you choose EE or Math in addition depends on your passions and what final field attracts you. Whatever you choose, it should be something you will never tire of learning since it will always be trying to change out from under you.
  4. Nov 2, 2013 #3
    That's another thing, I'm not sure what Computer Science is like. Is it interesting? How much math is involved with it?
  5. Nov 3, 2013 #4


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  6. Nov 3, 2013 #5


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    Be aware that majoring in math is a bit different from Calculus. There are many interesting topics but the theme of a math major is proving things are so, understanding the fine details of proof arguments. This means you'll be learning about set theory, group theory and abstract topology which form the basis for the limits used in deriving calculus rules. However, whatever you learn as a math major it will be that proofs are the thing that must be mastered.

    As a physics major, I too tried to bridge between my joy for physics and my interest in math and found that I just didn't have the skill or patience to do proofs that the math majors did. This made me realize that a theoretical physicist is pretty much akin to an applied mathematician but there are mathematicians who are even more abstract and revel in the subtleties of proof.

    So I branched off into CompSci which allowed me to merge the two interests and do Computational Physics.

    In your case, its clear EE will stress digital logic, Computer Engineering will expand that knowledge into fullblown computer systems and CompSci will complement that and give you the tools to really use the computer.

    The math needed to understand these will be mostly boolean algebra although compiler design will bring in automata theory, computer graphics will bring in vector transformations and linear algebra, data mining will bring in statistics and computer simulation will bring in differential equations and calculus ideas and (I may have missed some too). So mostly the math you would need or learn is applied math.

    I think your best bet is to do a single or dual major but not a triple. Imagine how you would explain it to a future job interviewer. He/she could understand the dual major idea and think Im hiring an EE with a strong CompSci or Math background vs Im not sure if this candidate knows enough EE because they spread themselves too thinly as a triple major.

    A concrete example of this is the BME major, employers sometimes view them as half biologist and half mechanical engineer and then say we need a biologist or we need a mechanical engineer and so they dont get hired for being spread too thin. In the case of an ME with CompSci training, employers think well the candidate has the engineering skills and since so much of the job requires CAD then the CompSci will make him/her a stronger employee for the job.
  7. Nov 3, 2013 #6


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    This is an interesting description of the math needed to do physics.

    http://superstringtheory.com/math/math1.html Note there are 3 pages.

    If you want to major in Electrical engineering, Computer Science will be much more useful. But, Math through group theory will be useful if you want to specialize in communications. Electrical engineering will require Math through differential equations and possibly complex analysis, so you will have time to decide about the really advanced math.
  8. Nov 3, 2013 #7
    First of all, excellency in calculus can not determine your success in higher mathematics. Perhaps you should self-study some of that to get a sense. A triple major is not a possibility by the way. Therefore, you must decide which one or two of those three you want to get a career in. For example, if you want a career in EE or comp.sci, then double major in them and you can self-study mathematics if that's your passion. Be wary that most employers won't hire you merely because you say that you have learned the material. Whats more, if you are excellent in calculus, you might consider EE as it requires quite a bit of calculus. As for computer science, contrary to popular belief, I believe that in computer science there is a LOT of math involved. In the end, it depends on what you want your career to be. EE, CS or Math. If you can decide on only two, then go with that and self-study the other material. Another advantage is that especially in CS and Math, the labs - for the most part - are those you can complete your self. Always note that you don't have to exactly decide your major at this point. Try out some courses, search a few things and then pick which discipline you want your career in.
  9. Nov 3, 2013 #8
    I definately plan on going into EE, but what would be better for that? Computer engineering or Mathematics?
  10. Nov 3, 2013 #9
    By going in to EE, do you mean you want a career in EE?
  11. Nov 3, 2013 #10
    I plan on pursuing a Phd and going into research with EE.
  12. Nov 3, 2013 #11
    In that case, the second major depends entirely upon you. All three of those fields are interdependent. Both EE and CS use math. However, self-studying math is a bit easier then Computer Science. Therefore, I would suggest you go with EE and CS and then self-study mathematics.
  13. Nov 3, 2013 #12
    How is self studying mathematics easier than computer science?
  14. Nov 3, 2013 #13
    How much of a difference is there between computer SCIENCE and computer ENGINEERING really?
  15. Nov 3, 2013 #14
    Computer engineering is the combination of CS and EE. For the most part, you can't study computer engineering on your own. It's a branch of EE and CS. However, if you take EE and CS, you will get introduced to computer engineering.
    Crake, computer science has labs and fewer resources, from what I know. Math, hardly any labs and lots of resources can be found.
  16. Nov 3, 2013 #15
    In computers, if I said that I was more interested in the hardware than the software, what would you suggest?
  17. Nov 3, 2013 #16
    EE. But, you can double major so EECS is THE best way to go.
  18. Nov 3, 2013 #17
    Also, what kinds of labs would be associated with computer science?
  19. Nov 3, 2013 #18
    Well, the term "lab" is a bit general. In CS, it will mostly be just some projects which you have to code. In Math however, this is almost non-existent. That's why I was suggesting to go with EE and CS and self-studying math.
  20. Nov 3, 2013 #19
    Do you think I could graduate in 4 years with an EECS double major if I'm going in with about 20-25 credit hours?
  21. Nov 3, 2013 #20
    That depends, but it's certainly possible to graduate in 4 years. However, if you plan to self-study math on the way, then the math part may not be completed unless you are an exceptionally hard worker.
  22. Nov 3, 2013 #21
    How would one go about self studying math?
  23. Nov 3, 2013 #22
    Textbooks! Lots of good ones available.
  24. Nov 3, 2013 #23
    I feel like some of the upper level maths have some very difficult concepts which would need more than a textbook explanation. If you ever got to a point where it didn't make sense anymore, where would you go?
  25. Nov 3, 2013 #24
    You have lots of information online. You can always ask on a forum, such as this one or other mathematics forums.
  26. Nov 3, 2013 #25
    That's true, but some textbooks are very well written and in them you'll rarely encounter many problems. If you do, however, you have many resources. Forums, professors etc.
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