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College/Career Quandary

  1. Aug 21, 2014 #1
    Hi, all. I'm new here, though I've done some lurking, and I have finally decided to ask a question that's been kind of bothering me.

    You see, I've been interested in particle physics since I was a kid, and now that I'm entering senior year of high school, it's time to hash out what I really am interested in doing. Until now, I've thought that that was particle physics, but now I'm not so sure. My concern is that, disliking Science Fair as much as I have in the past, I won't enjoy research. I could be wrong, but that concerns me. So, I'll have to find something else that lights my fire. Since there aren't too many things you can do in physics specifically with just a physics undergrad (which is what I've been aiming towards until now), I've been trying to find some other possibilities, and I hit on electrical engineering.

    It looks pretty interesting, especially if I can end up in one of the areas that does more physics-type stuff. I also noticed the thread about accelerator physics, which also looks interesting. So, I wanted to ask: Electrical engineers, how do you like your jobs, and would you recommend it to somebody who's intelligent, a hard worker, committed to learning, and good with people? Alternately, I'd also love to hear from anybody that went from EE to physics or vice versa, and why. For electrical engineering, what schools would you recommend? Of course something like MIT or Stanford will be near the top, but what other schools have excellent programs that might be more of a "hidden gem," so to speak? I've got a very strong application, but so does everybody else applying seriously to those schools.

    TL;DR: Was interested in particle physics, but am now considering electrical engineering due to potentially better job prospects. Wondering what electrical engineers think about this, or people who have gone from EE to physics or vice versa.

    I really appreciate all of your responses. Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2014 #2
    I considered Physics, but I initially picked Electrical Engineering as my major because I knew I would be employable with that degree. EE was Math heavy, and I enjoyed it. I had some great classmates. It seemed to me that a lot of them cared primarily about learning things that were useful and practical. I learned about semiconductor Physics, and found that subject very interesting.

    Around my third year of college, even though I liked Engineering, I started looking at Physics. I'm one of those people who is driven to understand how things work. I also like seeing the math (not just understanding the concept) that explains why things work. I chose to add Physics as a second major, and to pick classes in the Physics department that counted toward both majors. I am very glad that I added that second major. There are a lot of opportunities in EE to do Physics, and I gained a broader understanding of EE and non EE principles because of the second major. It took more time to graduate, but it was well worth it.

    What you do with a EE degree can depend on what electives you take. If you take a lot of programming focused classes, you may end up doing software engineering and digital design. If you focus on E&M, you can end up doing things with that. If you focus on analog design and like the Math, you can design computer chips. If you decided that you wanted to do research, you may have to spend a few more years in school, but there are paths that would allow you to do that. You probably won't end up in particle physics with a major in EE, but there are other interesting things that you may be able to do in Physics.
  4. Aug 24, 2014 #3
    Great, thanks! How has that additional physics major impacted your career post-college? Or grad school?
  5. Aug 25, 2014 #4


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    I am an EE and love it. I've also had the opportunity to work on a couple of particle physics experiments. Although physics is declining in the USA, there are still a lot of interesting opportunities and a large number of EEs work on these experiments as the instrumentation is very complex. EE is more flexible as jz92wjaz said and you can go a lot of directions with an EE degree.
  6. Aug 25, 2014 #5
    To be honest, I haven't done much with it. Because of a desire for a flexible work schedule, I ended up primarily doing the software end of things, which allows me to work remotely. My employer is trying to find me work that is Physics based, and I do plan on going to grad school in Physics when I feel the time is right.
  7. Aug 25, 2014 #6


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    I am confused by this statement
  8. Aug 25, 2014 #7
    @jz92wjaz: I see. So mostly you appreciate the added flexibility it adds down the road? What are you interested in for grad school?

    @analogdesign: Thanks for the input! I agree with ZombieFeynman, though. Why do you say that physics in the USA is declining?
  9. Aug 26, 2014 #8
    I added Physics because I like understanding how things work much more than I like making things work. I have some unusual circumstances that require a flexible work schedule, but when I no longer need that, I am interested in working toward becoming a physics professor. I can't think of a single job I would like more than that one.

    I've considered E&M, Quantum Physics, Particle Physics, and maybe Computational Physics. I think I'd be very happy in any of those fields, and I'd probably study all of them if I could.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
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