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Career advice for a high school student

  1. Jan 21, 2012 #1
    Hi I am a grade 12 student who is interested in engineering and passionate about music. So I want to pursue a career which mixes both engineering and music. I want to be involved in a part of time that designs and manufactures electrical musical instruments (digital piano, electrical violin, electrical guitar, bass, etc) My questions are
    1) It seems like Casio and Yamaha are the leading companies in this industry. Then do I have to live in Japan?
    2) What subspeciality of electrical engineering is the most related to musical instruments production?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2012 #2
    You don't have to work in the field that you love. In fact, sometimes that choice may be a mistake.

    For example, I really enjoy aviation, and RF engineering. I suppose it would be a natural for me to attempt to combine the two. But I don't. And thank goodness. There are times when I really enjoy being able to say "I don't need to fly in this {weather, aircraft, terrain, etc}" and not have to worry about the financial consequences of my decision. I fly strictly for fun and it is more enjoyable that way.

    Likewise, I tinker with Ham Radio gear as I've done for many years. I sometimes get to apply these skills to work. But mostly, I enjoy following my notions and building stuff without regard to practicality.

    My day job involves industrial control engineering for a large water utility. It's fun and rewarding work, but it's not what I would have thought to pursue when I was in high school.

    Again, you don't HAVE to do everything all in one place.
  4. Jan 22, 2012 #3
    I agree with the other post. It can be a good thing to keep your passion and your for-profit career separate. The perfect example is anyone who gets into graphic design because they love art. More often than not, after they start working in graphic design, they stop painting. After coming home from a long day of getting a magazine cover to look just right, the last thing they want to do is paint.

    Or, in your case, if you're into customizing keyboards to make new sounds creatively, you're probably not going to be able to do exactly that working for Casio or Yamaha. They're going to tell you want sounds they want better samples of, and you might be doing what you love to do but without the creative part.

    That said, if keyboards have sparked your interest in circuit design, you could stay open to circuit design for any number of products, and still come home at the end of the day and customize keyboards that you sell on the side. That may be the best of both worlds.

    Anyway, this is just my opinion, based on nothing but my own experience. I was also really into music through my teens and 20s, and now work as a mechanical engineer doing HVAC design. Unfortunately my musical endeavors are on hiatus for a few years while I'm working towards my master's degree in the evenings/weekends and doing some hands-on major construction to my house. However, when that's all said and done, in a few years I will definitely get back into music. But, like it was for the 4 years I was working full time after college but before going back for my master's, music for me is an escape from the 40 hour work week, not part of it (I do keep a guitar in my cubicle, but I don't actually play it at work) Even when you have an interesting job that you truly enjoy, you need an escape from it to stay mentally and emotionally balanced.

    Anyway, good luck, whichever direction you decide to go with it.
  5. Jan 23, 2012 #4
    Thank you for your advice. I am glad that I realized it soon enough before I end up hating music as I pursue a career in a related field.
    I have comtemplated and finally concluded that I should major in mathematics. I have always like abstract concepts of pure mathematics.
    But as others suggest, I think I should do a minor in a more real-world-applicable subject so I can get a job.
    So my options are:
    1) Computer Science
    2) Electrical Engineering
    3) Statistics
    Well, I inherently am not quite keen on the first two. But it seems like it is easier to get a job with a CS or EE degree. (If I were to do this plan, I will take minor courses in these subjects so that I can prepare for postgraduate studies)
    So my question is, is the job prospect for statistics degree as good as those with a CS or EE degree?
  6. Jan 24, 2012 #5
    I feel I must warn you about the math major route. That's what I did, thinking, like you, that it would keep the door open to any number of industries for a job that involves calculations of some sort. The industry I ended up in was engineering, working for a consulting firm that designs building systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical distribution, etc). In this industry what you need is a PE (professional engineering) license. If you don't have one, or are working towards one, you don't get far. The problem with a math degree is that in almost every state (I'm talking about the U.S. here) a math degree puts you in the same category as having no degree with respect to getting this license, which means that with an engineering degree you need 4 years of working experience, but with a math degree you might need 12-15. This is why I'm going back for my master's in engineering. If I had majored in engineering the first time around, things would be a lot better for me. That said, if you're certain that you want to go to graduate school as soon as you're done with your BS degree, it would be a different story. But a BS degree in Math alone won't get you very far, at least in my experience.
  7. Jan 24, 2012 #6
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am planing to go graduate school for industutrially applicable discipline (EE, CS, STATS) as soon as I finish my undergraduate studies if I think this is the right route for me. It seems like some schools accepts math undergades for their EE graduate programme, thought some might have to spend some time to catch-up preresequites.
  8. Jan 29, 2012 #7
    Go for CS. In EE you wont get abstract mathematical problems in your dish.
  9. Jan 29, 2012 #8


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    Hey wamozart and welcome to the forums.

    A double major in mathematics and computer science might appeal to you. In my university you can complete the double major in three years, but I'm unsure of universities in your province/country.

    With this you can take a course or two in a field of mathematics without having to major in that particular area.
  10. Jan 29, 2012 #9
    That's great!!!.

    Don't try to plan out your career too early. If you like both engineering and music, then you can try to major in both or do a major/minor or use music for your humanities requirement. You may find that that there are no careers that combine both. In Austin, Texas, I know of a lot of computer programmers that are also pretty accomplished actors, film makers, musicians, and science fiction novelists, and then end up being computer programmers because it pays the bills whereas acting or being a rock band drummer (and even an excellent one) doesn't.

    Or you may luck out and there is some odd technology change that allows you to do both. Just to give you an example, in 1987 when I entered college, no one had heard of the internet and the web handed been invented, but by 1998, we were in the middle of the dot-com boom, and all of a sudden there was this sudden need for graphic artists.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
  11. Jan 29, 2012 #10
    I know there is a profound relationship between computer science and pure mathematics, and I know a double or joint major in CS opens up a lot of career routes, but the thing is, I hate programming and especially errors drive me crazy. I will hate my life just staring at monitor all day. But I do know that almost all jobs nowadays involves working with computers. I do realize though, the less flexible I am, the less opportunity I have. So, which computer science displine requires the least programming time? I mean, is it realistic to print out code and work with pencil? I would love to do that.[/
  12. Jan 29, 2012 #11
    This is one reason to separate your life and your work. I know people that don't particularly love programming, but since it pays the bills, then go to work, they do it, they go home, and then do something else, like write science fiction novels or make films. Music may well be the thing that keeps you from going totally bonkers when you are working at your day job.

    Right now the US economy is a mess, and even more so for young people, so the philosophy right now seems to be grit your teeth and take whatever you can get since any job is better than no job. But one can hope that things will improve by the time you get out. Getting a job that you love is a luxury for better economic times. If things are as bad (or worse) in 2016 as they are in 2012, you won't have the luxury. If they get better, then great!!!

    The one piece of useful advice I think I can give is to go to a college with both a strong engineering department and a strong music department in a city that may have strengths in engineering and music (Austin, Texas is one that I know of, other people may have other suggestions). Also, I think it would be useful to get skilled at music even if it doesn't get you a job, since the purpose of music may be to keep you from hating your life, even if you hate your job.

    In fact, I spend a huge fraction of my time coding with pencil and paper. A lot of coding involves debugging, and when you have to debug something, it works a lot better to stare at paper than to stare at a screen. You can get a headache if you look at a screen too long, and it's hard to make doodles and sketches on a computer screen.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
  13. Feb 1, 2012 #12
    Hi again,

    I have been exploring some school's website, and figured out that, some core CS courses are exclusive to CS majors who pay twice as much tuitions as pure math majors. Yet there are some courses open to everyone:

    CS 230 LAB,LEC,TST,TUT 0.50 Course ID: 004374
    Introduction to Computers and Computer Systems
    Basic computer architecture, organization, system services, and software. Typology of processors, memory, I/O devices and their performance.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: W]

    Prereq: One of CS 116, 136, 138, 146; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: CS 241, 251

    CS 234 LAB,LEC,TST 0.50 Course ID: 004375
    Data Types and Structures
    Top-down design of data structures. Using representation-independent data types. Introduction to commonly used data types, including lists, sets, mappings, and trees. Selection of data representation.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: F,S]

    Prereq: One of CS 116, 126/124, 134, 136, 138, 145 taken fall 2010 or earlier, CS 146; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: CS 240

    CS 245 LEC,TST,TUT 0.50 Course ID: 011405
    Logic and Computation
    Propositional and predicate logic. Soundness and completeness and theirimplications. Unprovability of formulae in certain systems. Undecidability of problems in computation, including the halting problem. Reasoning about programs. Correctness proofs for both recursive and iterative program constructions.
    [Note: Enrolment is restricted; see Note 1 above. Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: (CS 136, 145 taken in fall 2010 or earlier or CS 146), MATH 135; Honours Mathematics students only.
    Antireq: PMATH 330, SE 112/212

    CS 246 LAB,LEC,TST,TUT 0.50 Course ID: 004380
    Object-Oriented Software Development
    Introduction to object-oriented programming and to tools and techniques for software development. Designing, coding, debugging, testing, and documenting medium-sized programs: reading specifications and designing software to implement them; selecting appropriate data structures and control structures; writing reusable code; reusing existing code; basic performance issues; debuggers; test suites.
    [Note: Enrolment is restricted; see Note 1 above. Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: CS 145 taken fall 2010 or earlier or CS 146 or a grade of 60% or higher in CS 136 or 138; Honours Mathematics or Software Engineering students only.
    Antireq: GENE 342, SYDE 322/221

    CS 330 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004385
    Management Information Systems
    An introduction to information systems and their strategic role in business. Topics include types of information systems, organizational requirements, systems development strategies, decision support systems, data and information management, and information systems management, control and implementation. [Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: One of CS 116, 126/124, 134, 136, 138, 145 taken fall 2010 or earlier, CS 146; Level at least 2B; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: AFM 241, CS 480/490, MSCI 441

    CS 335 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 013658
    Computational Methods in Business and Finance
    An introduction to numerical methods for business and finance. Floating-point arithmetic, interpolation. Methods for portfolio optimization and contingent-claims valuation. Solution of nonlinear equations. Monte Carlo methods, lattice methods, simulation of hedging strategies.

    Prereq: (one of CS 116, 136, 138, 145 taken fall 2010 or earlier, CS 146); MATH 136 or 146, MATH 237 or 247, STAT 231 or 241; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: AMATH 242/CM 271/CS 371, CS 370, ECE 204

    CS 338 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004390
    Computer Applications in Business: Databases
    A user-oriented approach to the management of large collections of data. Methods used for the storage, selection and presentation of data. Common database management systems.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: One of CS 230, 234, 241, 330; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: CS 348, 448, ECE 456
    CS 370 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004400
    Numerical Computation
    Principles and practices of basic numerical computation as a key aspect of scientific computation. Visualization of results. Approximation by splines, fast Fourier transforms, solution of linear and nonlinear equations, differential equations, floating point number systems, error, stability. Presented in the context of specific applications to image processing, analysis of data, scientific modeling.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: (One of MATH 118, 119, 128, 138, 148), (One of MATH 114, 115, 106/125, 136, 146), (One of CS 230, 234, 251, ECE 222); Not open to General Mathematics students.
    Antireq: AMATH 242/341/CM 271/CS 371, CS 335, 337, ECE 204, 304

    CS 371 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 011363
    Introduction to Computational Mathematics
    A rigorous introduction to the field of computational mathematics. The focus is on the interplay between continuous models and their solution via discrete processes. Topics include: pitfalls in computation, solution of linear systems, interpolation, discrete Fourier transforms and numerical integration. Applications are used as motivation.
    [Note: This course may be substituted for CS 370 in any degree plan or for prerequisite purposes; lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: W,S]

    Prereq: (One of CS 116, 134, 136, 138, 145 taken fall 2010 or earlier, CS 146), MATH 235 or 245, 237 or 247; Not open to General Mathematics students.
    Antireq: CS 335, 337, 370, ECE 204
    (Cross-listed with AMATH 242, CM 271)
    CS 430 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004404
    Applications Software Engineering
    An investigation into the role and function of software engineering practice in the construction of computer based systems. Topics include: requirements and specification; documentation techniques; analysis and design; implementation; testing and maintenance; management issues. [Offered: F,W]

    Prereq: CS 330; Level at least 3A; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: CS 446/ECE 452, SE 464

    CS 432 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004405
    Business Systems Analysis
    Survey of organization and management theory. Systems theory and the systems approach. Systems design. Database concepts. Implementation and evaluation of computer based information systems. [Offered: F,W,S]

    Prereq: CS 330; Level at least 3A; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: AFM 341/ACC 442, CS 445/ECE 451, MSCI 444, SE 463

    CS 436 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 004407
    Distributed Computer Systems
    An introduction to networks and computer systems, reliable communication, layered models, distributed file systems, cryptography, concurrency issues. [Offered: W]

    Prereq: CS 230 or 241; Not open to Computer Science students.
    Antireq: CS 454, ECE 428
    467 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 011497
    Introduction to Quantum Information Processing
    Basics of computational complexity; basics of quantum information; quantum phenomena; quantum circuits and universality; relationship between quantum and classical complexity classes; simple quantum algorithms; quantum Fourier transform; Shor factoring algorithm; Grover search algorithm; physical realization of quantum computation; error-correction and fault-tolerance; quantum key distribution. [Offered: W]

    Prereq: One of MATH 114, 115, 235, 245; Level at least 4A; Not open to General Mathematics students
    (Cross-listed with CO 481, PHYS 467)

    CS 473 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 011446
    Medical Image Processing
    An introduction to computational problems in medical imaging. Sources of medical images (MRI, CT, ultrasound, PET) as well as reconstruction methods for MRI and CT. Image manipulation and enhancement such as denoising and deblurring. Patient motion correction and optimal image alignment. Tissue classification and organ delineation using image topology.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: W]

    Prereq: AMATH 242/341/CM 271/ CS 371 or CS 370; Not open to General Mathematics students
    (Cross-listed with CM 473)

    CS 475 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 011444
    Computational Linear Algebra
    Basic concepts and implementation of numerical linear algebra techniques and their use in solving application problems. Special methods for solving linear systems having special features. Direct methods: symmetric, positive definite, band, general sparse structures, ordering methods. Iterative methods: Jacobi, Gauss-Seidel, SOR, conjugate gradient. Computing and using orthogonal factorizations of matrices. QR and SVD methods for solving least squares problems. Eigenvalue and singular value decompositions. Computation and uses of these decompositions in practice.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Offered: F]

    Prereq: AMATH 242/341/CM 271/CS 371 or CS 370; Not open to General Mathematics students.
    Antireq: CM/CS 372, 472
    (Cross-listed with CM 375)

    CS 476 LAB,LEC 0.50 Course ID: 003352
    Numeric Computation for Financial Modeling
    The interaction of financial models, numerical methods, and computing environments. Basic computational aspects of option pricing and hedging. Numerical methods for stochastic differential equations, strong and weak convergence. Generating correlated random numbers. Time-stepping methods. Finite difference methods for the Black-Scholes equation. Discretization, stability, convergence. Methods for portfolio optimization, effect of data errors on portfolio weights.
    [Note: Lab is not scheduled and students are expected to find time in open hours to complete their work. Students who receive a good grade in CS 335 may contact the instructor of CS 476 to seek admission without the formal prerequisites. Offered: W]

    Prereq: (AMATH 242/341/CM 271/CS 371 or CS 370) and STAT 231/241; Not open to General Mathematics students
    (Cross-listed with CM 476)

    CS 482 LEC,TUT 0.50 Course ID: 004434
    Computational Techniques in Biological Sequence Analysis
    Computer science principles and algorithms in biological sequence analysis. Topics include algorithms for sequence comparison, for large-scale database search in biological databases, for sequence assembly, for evolutionary tree reconstruction, for identifying important features in DNA and RNA sequences, and underlying computational techniques for understanding strings and trees and for making probabilistic inferences. [Offered: S]

    Prereq: BIOL 365, CS 246, CM 339/CS 341, STAT 241 or at least 60% in STAT 231

    CS 483 LEC 0.50 Course ID: 010043
    Computational Techniques in Structural Bioinformatics
    Algorithms and techniques used in the identification and functional characterization of cellular proteins. Topics include: protein databases, gene expression analysis, protein structure prediction, protein function prediction, active site detection and ligand docking, protein-protein interaction, HTCS (High Throughput Conformational Search), and QSAR (Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships). [Offered: W]

    Prereq: BIOL 365, CM 339/CS 341, STAT 231 or 241

    Will picking some courses from this list provide a better job prospects? Or should I declare joint CS major to take core CS courses?
  14. Feb 2, 2012 #13
    I second the other posters who replied to you. In my country one university offers a BSc + MSc program that combines electrical engineering and music. It is quite "famous" and attracts students from other countries as well as the combination is so unusual. It is typically picked by people whose motivation is similar to yours.

    But several people have told me that all of the graduates switch to something else after they have finished their studies because job opportunities seem to be extremely scarce.

    This is the English website of the programmes I mentioned - in case you want to compare lectures to other programmes:


    Good luck,
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