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E&M, RF/Microwaves: How important after EE undergrad?

  1. Jun 23, 2015 #1

    Apologies for the squished title. Basically, I'm wondering how important E&M and RF/microwaves will be once I obtain my BSEE and search for my first job. I did some research on the forum already and people said that these skills are 'in demand,' and I just wanted more clarification on this.

    My current EE program gives students the option to branch off and study other topics in greater depth. Our required core courses do not expose me to much RF/microwave at all, so I wanted to know if the optional RF/microwave 3-course series is worth adding to my educational plan (the series is titled, '
    RF and Microwaves in Wireless Communication').

    Secondly, only the first half of the intro electromagnetics sequence is required - completing the second half is optional. Is it worth it to complete the sequence (second half's course description: 'Plane wave propagation in lossy media, reflections, guided waves, simple modulated waves and dispersion, and basic antennas.').

    Some information that may be helpful:

    - Interests lie in astronautics, robotics, and semiconductors (it is a broad range because I do not know exactly what I'd like to do after I graduate - I'm hoping I can figure this out after getting some internships and more classes under my belt).
    - I'd like to eventually get my master's in EE.

    Thank you for reading!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2015 #2
    The fields you are thinking of studying range from nice-to-have for a course of this sort, to absolutely essential.

    Personally, I think these studies are really good to have. You can work in a lot of places with a background of this sort. But essential? Maybe not if you're doing robotics...
  4. Jun 23, 2015 #3
    Thank you! I'll keep this in mind for robotics. Now I'm thinking of just adding the RF courses. If I do, I'll need to get rid of VLSI design and IC fabrication courses that I planned to take. Do you think it's a good swap?

    Also, I think it was your posts that I found while I was digging through the forums for information on RF. Thanks for sharing your input!
  5. Jun 23, 2015 #4
    Electrical engineering is a very broad field. In fact, I would say that electrical engineering is a whole bunch of fields. There are those who study semiconductor physics (doping diodes), those who design antennas, those who design FPGAs, and those who design and build power supplies.

    I was an EE major. After working two jobs in three years after graduating college, I landed a job as a research antenna engineer. Meanwhile, I went to graduate school and got my master's in EE with a concentration in electromagnetics.

    I would have never got that job if I hadn't taken electromagnetics in my undergraduate course work.

    Also, since everything is getting smaller and faster, RF considerations need to be considered.

    Whatever you do, focus your discipline. Sad to say, many (if not most) electrical engineering graduates rarely really use their degrees in their jobs. If you want to use your degree, then become an expert in some EE field, and then find a job where you are doing cutting edge design, research, laboratory work, etc. If you find yourself in a job where you are not using your degree, and if you stay there long, you may never really use your degree again. This isn't necessarily the end of the world, but it is nice when engineers actually get to use their degrees in their work.
  6. Jun 23, 2015 #5
    Hello! What a very detailed and informative post. Yeah, that's why I'm scrambling to decide what area I want to specialize in. I just have so many interests across the board, and so little internship experience with any of the topics I'm interested in. It's kind of why I wanted to learn a bit of the most essential topics, so that in the event that I DO find what I'm truly interested in, I have some knowledge that will help me when I choose to further my studies in grad school. I don't want to be the "jack of all trades," but I feel that since I don't have an specialization narrowed down yet, it's my second best option for now. If you have any further comments on that, I am definitely open to hearing your input. Thanks so much!
  7. Jun 23, 2015 #6
    Newsflash: even an MSEE is a "Jack of all trades."

    I've said this before and it bears repeating: Engineering is a practical field. Schools teach theory. Until you actually start practicing your profession, you don't even know HALF of what Engineering is all about.

    So my recommendation is to study all you can. The more you know, the more you can apply. Nobody graduates, and then waltzes in to a company where they are tasked with designing the next big thing. For that, you need practical, hands-on experience to add to the theory you learned in school.

    Take a course outside your comfort zone. You never know, it may come in handy or it may never get used. I took an optional course in fluid dynamics that became very useful, and I also took a course in semiconductor physics that I thought was interesting, though I have yet to apply it to anything I have worked on.

    You won't know until you actually are tasked with applying something which courses "mattered." So don't try to guess up front. If something interests you, take the course.
  8. Jun 23, 2015 #7
    Ah - I did not know that. I was always under the impression that as you progressed into grad school, you begin to focus on a concentration/specialization. It seems like it is much different for EE's, so that is definitely good to know.

    To be honest, E&M is definitely the most difficult topic I've studied so far, which is why I was considering taking additional courses (and related courses like RF) to strengthen my understanding of it. Though if I took those courses, I would need to give up the IC fabrication courses, which I was drawn to a bit more. Well, I'll keep all of your advice in mind as I make my decision. Thanks a ton.
  9. Jun 23, 2015 #8
    I am annoyed that so many gauge "difficulty" according to how much math a subject has in it. No, it's not your fault. It is the academic way they teach this math that grates on my engineering mindset. To me, it seems to be an insult to the creative people who came up with this stuff. Mathematics are one of the most important tools an engineer uses. The tools are conceptual. The math classes spend ridiculous time trying to explain how to derive this stuff, when what most people really want to know is what the concepts are and how to apply them.

    It is like trying to teach people how to drive a car by explaining the design of carburetors. Mumble Grumble Spit...
  10. Jun 23, 2015 #9
    I see what you mean. That is definitely one of the more common complaints among many of my classmates. My calc professor was a former MechE, and tried his hardest to include more applications-based problems in our course. In practically all of my other math courses, we spent a lot more time focusing on derivations/theory/proofs. It is interesting, but it isn't everyone's strength, and as you stated earlier, engineering focuses more on the practical than the theoretical.

    I suppose I am just going to have to suck it up and improve upon my math as best as I can. You and many other people seem to truly enjoy this topic, so I am definitely looking forward to exploring this in greater depth!
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