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Double major in physics and electrical engineering

  1. Jan 11, 2009 #1
    I am currently in my first year of electrical engineering and starting to really think about a physics major, but afraid to fully devote myself to physics because of the job availability, can anyone tell me the expected rigors of a double major or any opinions on such a double major.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2009 #2
    What do you wish to work as? Do you plan to go to graduate school?
  4. Jan 11, 2009 #3


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    The job prospects (earning potential, starting salary, employment rate) with a physics degree are only slightly behind those of electrical engineers. I'd suggest you look into these yourself so that you're making an educated decision on the matter and not one fuelled by the myth that physics majors can't get jobs.

    Obviously a double major like that will be a lot of work and will likely require you to add another year to your undergrad. One option might be to continue in your current program, but pick up as many physics courses as possible, and then next year, transfer if that's really what you want to do.
  5. Oct 18, 2010 #4
    Hello i have the same question in my mind. I want to work with photovoltaic technologies.
    The only things is that i live in El Salvador a 3rd wordl country.

    What would be better for a job in photovoltaics┬┐ EE or a Physics?

    Thanks a lot if you can answer =)
  6. Oct 19, 2010 #5
    I'd say just go for the double major. That would leave you lots of options after undergrad. It would really be best to speak with people in both departments though and see what overlaps. I know a few people doing EE and Physics, and yes its going to be demand, HOWEVER, it is splayed out over 5 years opposed to 4, so it may not be any harder than just one of the degrees in 4 years. The job placement as others have said for physics isn't really as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, plus majoring in physics will give you a wide range of options for graduate school admissions if you wish to pursue graduate studies.
  7. Oct 19, 2010 #6
    Well probably EE since photovoltaics, but who knows if you will want to do that by the time you graduate. If your unsure(and still want to go to grad school), then physics is probably the best option as it is a very well rounded degree and goes deeper into the theory and math than engineering.
  8. Oct 19, 2010 #7
    Thanks a lot for taking your time an answer =). But Photovoltaics needs a lot of physics and i think that solid state physics has to do a lot with making more efficiente solar cells?. I defintly will go for physics, but i am afraid of the job market. You say in other post that it isnt that bad, and i dont wana be rich just midle normal class, can i do that with physics degree?

    PS: Sorry for my english
  9. Oct 19, 2010 #8
    I hate memorizing formulas, those engineers memorize more than physicist? I prefer to discrover the equations more than memorizing.
  10. Oct 19, 2010 #9
    Depends on the engineer and the teacher, for instance I've found that most of my Asian professors are fine with reading off a power point and spoon feeding formulas whereas alot of the Americans and Hispanics and Arabs will never even touch a projector and will spend the class time actually deriving things (I'm an engineering student and much I prefer the latter). Some engineers are actually turned off by the math and just want to build things and use their TI-89's and MATLAB to calculate everything (needed in some cases to play devil's advocate), however there are plenty who do engineering because they actually enjoy applied math, it will all depend but most of the time the engineer will try his best to simplify the math down to algebra as much as possible.
  11. Oct 21, 2010 #10

    both physics and engineering have plenty of math. It is in my experience(which is very limited), that actually be able to derive AND prove physical laws/mathematics in physics is necessary. My professor asks us to prove theorems for quizzes sometimes, and learning how to derive will actually help you understand what the formula means, and where it came from.

    It is also in my experience that engineers seem to be more interested in just "getting the formula" and not really worrying a lot about its significance. This isn't always the truth of course there are plenty of engineers who love math and appreciate it, but in general we all know they have different goals and interest, so it should be no surprise that they may show less interest in the theory, and more interest in the application. Thats why they are engineers. Its up to the interest of the individual whether or not he/she wants to discover the underlying logic.
  12. Oct 21, 2010 #11
    I hated memorizing all the formulas in high school, i feel like it was pointless at that point. I was seeing that physics degree have a subject called mathematical physics, maybe there is a lot of comprobations.
  13. Oct 21, 2010 #12
    Ill like to go deeper as you say your teacher told you to do, maybe physics is a better degree.
  14. Oct 23, 2010 #13
    But I thought you said you were more interested in applications of physics to technology than theory? Heres what I think you should do, and you should think hard about whether or not this is a good idea, but I think it is:

    If your university that you get into has the option of something like "First year college" or " Undecided engineering" then do that. I know many engineers who started in this, and basically had a year of taking the intro math/physics courses to see if they even wanted to do engineering. After the first year you would have basically taken the course load that a regular freshman would in engineering, physics, or even chemistry. Usually at my university, the first year is something like Calc 1, Calc 2, Physics 1, Physics 2, Chem 1, possibly Chem 2. After most people take these courses they have a much better idea of what they want to do in year 2, and they wont have to worry about having taken any classes that won't apply to their major, because they all will apply!

    Also from personal experience as a freshman in physics, I know numerous other students who are double majoring in in subjects like chemistry, EE, ME, and Mathematics especially since its not too many more courses. A lot of them are doing math purely because it will help with the difficult physics courses, and a lot of them are doing EE because of the amount of options after undergraduate.

    So again, my advice is the same that I have been giving you for awhile now. Just enter a university that has programs your interested in and take the general math/physics/chemistry/engineering courses and by the time you are done with those I can guarantee you will have deduced what you want to do for college.

    Good luck,
  15. Oct 24, 2010 #14
    Hello bro, apreciate your answer. Well there is no undecided engineering here xD. The thing is i hate doing electronics!!! and i dont imagine my self soldering circuits and stuff like that, not at all., but i like electromagnetism and EE sees a lot of EM. I like physics in general in find it very interesting, and most important i want to work with renewable energy, especially solar cells, also i dont find being a teacher that bad. And a guy told my that in physics you can center in applied physics, so i dont know dude XD.
  16. Oct 24, 2010 #15
    EE sees alot of MATH, not as much as actual physics as you might think, even as an EE I don't think I know that much about E&M at least not relative to a physicist. If you hate doing circuits and electronics don't do EE because you'll want to kill yourself. A good deal of your classes are going to involve circuits, putting together projects (via soldering or just playing with breadboards), and analyzing your electronics ON TOP of your work in lecture, homework, labs, and tests. If I were in your position I would do a physics degree and maybe take engineering classes on the side for experience in applications.
  17. Oct 25, 2010 #16
    Yeah defintly soldering is not for me, to much solders use lead and i am a freak when it come in using lead, mercury or things like that. Looks like Physics suits better, Thanks for the reply dude.
  18. Oct 25, 2010 #17
    Actually the only thing i hate about circuits is soldering and all that lead in power cords xD.
  19. Oct 28, 2010 #18
    Go with physics man. You will be exposed to electronics and technology in the labs you have to take, and sometimes the projects/homework you have to do. You can go anywhere with physics after undergraduate. It delves deeper into theory and mathematics, and still provides some hands on experience(although of course not as much as an engineer). It is certainly diverse, and covers mechanics, e&m, quantum, thermal, nuclear, theory in at least an intermediate level, so going into an applied technical field should not be as bad as say majoring in EE then going to work as a ME.
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