Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Career Guidance

  1. Jun 12, 2007 #1
    Hello, my name is David.

    I am 25 and married with a child. I currently have a job that I can support my family on working 2 days a week, but who knows how long it will last. 1 year, 5 years? I'm a contractor for Comcast, so I'm vulnerable. This has allowed me to go back to school.

    I am very good at science and math. All of my "core" classes are taken care of, and as of Spring 2008, I will have all calculus, a year of general physics, and a year of general chemistry complete.

    For Electrical Engineering/Computer Engineering, Physics, etc... I will only need a few basic sophmore classes not offered at community college, and then junior and senior level courses.

    Currently, I can handle about 15-18 credit hours of the types of classes I've taken. (Gen. Physics, Math, Chemistry, Programming) and still have time for all my other responsibilities. But I do not have time for internships. So I want to be sure I am marketable after graduation.

    Hopefully that is enough background; my questions are this:

    #1 Should I expect to be able to handle less per term Junior/Senior Level?
    #2 If I do EE, is it worthwhile to also get a minor in physics and math? (Especially career wise, I would like to be able to find a job.)

    I enjoy "simple programming", complex math, learning how the world works. I truly love physics (energy, classical mechanics, electricity, and waves) but I don't want to be restricted in where I can live. (Oregon) That is why I've chosen engineering.

    Is EE a good fit? If so, what specialty. Is Computer Engineering better? I just need some general information, and where I can read to learn more. Any advice is very appreciated. Thank you so much in advance.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2007 #2
    Hi Dave,

    I've had a similar situation to you. I was 24 when I separated from the Navy and went to college at a CC. And I have a wife too, but no kids.

    I did a similar intro with basic calc, diff-eq, physics, and chem. Then I even tried a year of EE when I got to my university.

    Yeah, the work load is going to change. But being older and disciplined more you'll do fine. I wouldn't go over 16 credits with a family. But that depends on your institution. At mine 24 EE credits is like 12 math. Our math and physics are in the top 20, and our EE is in the cave still. So it'll depend on where you're at.

    If you want a career, my personal opinion is go with EE. If you supplement EE with either physics or math that'll be great. I believe the advisor I in EE did his thesis in a physics department. And I know half my EE department was once applied mathematicians, b/c the math they use can sometimes grow very hairy.

    Computer Engineering is very specialized. You'll be designing computer chip stuff. It'll make it more difficult to get jobs in the other areas of EE.

    If on the other hand you have a passion, say it's Control. Then go for it. Most likely you'll want a masters or a Ph.d though.

    Here's something beginners don't usually know, but maybe you do. You'll get paid for graduate school if you go. It'll be minimal, but with drive and discipline and a little help from the loved one it's doable.

    Often a good man's failure is in his inability to compromise with life. Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to, like move to another area, or get more education.

    Best of luck.
  4. Jun 12, 2007 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Computer Engineering is awesome, but as math_owen mentioned, its specialized. But its not all "chip design" You do stuff like computer controlled hardware design and programming. You get into the rigors of computer architecture and digital logic. Embedded systems design is also a major role, but most of that advanced stuff is done in grad school.
    When I contrast myself with my EE friends, they get to mess around with a lot of power electronics, amplifiers, Fourier transforms and so on.
    Don't get the impression that CEs don't deal with analog electronics, they do, and quite a lot. It just depends on what your applications are. But for the most part digital logic will become your best friend.

    My plan so far is to get an undergrad degree in CE, then work towards my masters in EE.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2007
  5. Jun 12, 2007 #4
    The Ranger is right, I made a bit of sweeping over generalization with the CE, but it is more specialized.

    I forgot to say where to look for information. Why not try Wikipedia for basic stuff on EE. I'm sure you'll find tons of stuff you can link to via any one article.

    You can also check out the IEEE webpage. It's probably best to join them as soon as you can. You'll also get a free mag like Spectrum as an undergrad.

    There's always that dirty old library place too :biggrin: I've wandered our libraries for many hours just looking at books with no cause. It's helped me get a idea of different things out there in the various fields.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook