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Changing career path of an electrical engineer?

  1. Apr 18, 2012 #1
    Hey all, I am looking for some advice on what my options are to change career path. I will graduate this summer with a degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering and have already secured a graduate job within a very reputable power engineering company. The job is everything I could have asked for - good salary, good benefits and exciting prospects and had this been 2 years ago I would have been thrilled.

    I was attracted to the problem solving nature of engineering and my love for maths but recently I have developed an increasingly intense drive to understand physics and the universe. Particularly astronomy and astrophysics. I have always had an interest in this but never really considered it as a career path.

    So I have a few questions. Has anyone ever moved from engineering to physics? Would I have to do some sort of post-grad? Or can I use my engineering degree for a career in physics and if so where would I look for work? I am not talking immediately as I will start my new job this summer and before I consider any career change I want to reach chartered engineer status as I see this as the ultimate acknowledgement of my achievements in electrical engineering. I just want to guage if I can make this dream a reality or if it will forever be just a side interest.

    Any suggestions/advice welcome and thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2012 #2
    I'm sort of in the same boat as you. I'm pursuing an EE degree but in all honesty I'd rather go into astrophysics. However, job prospects for that are piss poor.

    I think one advantage you'd have over other engineering disciplines is your knowledge in electromagnetism which is very important for physics majors. Other than that you'd probably have to take undergraduate classes in quantum mechanics. By the way, people with EE degrees commonly work as research scientists.

    Interestingly enough, the EE graduate program at my school offers research opportunities in quantum electronics.
  4. Apr 19, 2012 #3
    That's a good prospect for you, could be very interesting. I feel like I've committed myself too soon before exploring all of my options. Job opportunities may be piss poor but even research work to satisfy my interests should have been considered. I was just far too narrow minded thinking I wanted to go into power and nothing but. I did a quantum mechanics module as part of my degree and that's what took my interest to a new level but that was just one module.

    I looked up job opportunities for engineers at CERN out of curiosity, which would be a dream come true, but may be a bit out of my league unfortunately. They offer positions for graduates with less than 4 years industry experience.

    Is it common for graduates to leave and go into industry but still apply for research positions?
  5. Apr 19, 2012 #4
    I have been in my career for 26 years. When I graduated, I desperately wanted a high tech aerospace job. However, I had to pay the bills, so I took a telecommunications job at a local water and waste-water utility. Literally six months before I graduated, the cold war ended, and legions of people in the Aerospace industry were out looking for new work.

    I took stock in my situation, and realized that I was doing meaningful work, with lots of cool toys to play with, and pretty fun stuff to work on. I chose to stick around, and I haven't regretted my decision one bit. Meanwhile, my brother, an engineer who did exemplary work on the star wars projects, hitting every performance milestone and collecting every possible bonus there was on the project, was looking for work. He was thrown away like a used tissue. (He is now a patent attorney)

    That's how it is for high dollar physics projects.

    If you truly love physics, you can pursue it on your own while paying your bills as an engineer. You'll make good money.

    As for me, I'm an incompetent gentleman farmer, a private pilot, a ham radio enthusiast, a beer brewer, a firearms instructor, Chairman of an international standards committee, and all around boffin of all sorts of high tech stuff (no I'm not British, but I like the term and I was itching to use it).

    You can scratch that science itch in many ways. You don't have to do it professionally, and (I'm trying to be nice here) often the biggest discoveries were from private investigations. Bureaucracy often accompanies the large programs, and only extroverted publicity hounds tend to find leadership roles in situations like that.

    If you truly love physics, find an area that is under-served, and explore it. For example, there are still many things that people monitor daily on ELF radio that can not be easily explained. Amateur astronomy is yet another area where individuals still contribute a lot of useful data. There are also groups who receive signals from the Stereo A and B spacecraft directly and report their findings directly to NASA. The opportunity to do private radio astronomy is also significant.

    You don't have to make a profession out of science. If it is something you love, use work to pay the bills, and follow your curiosity on your own time.
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