EE + Physics Minor or double major?

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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm going to be transferring to Virginia Tech from a community college in New York soon for Electrical Engineering, I have always had a strong aptitude for physics particularly E&M. I'm starting to think that I might want to end up going to graduate school for physics.

My question is would a degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Physics give me the required knowledge to do well in a physics graduate program or even get into one?

What advantages would I have with a double major?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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You could get into physics graduate school(probably), but I don't think you would have the preparation required. A minor in physics usually doesnt usually include the core physics major requirements, such as classical mechanics, quantum, and E&M.

A double major in EE and Physics seems like a great combo. I know a few people doing it, and it seems like endless options after you graduate.
 
  • #3
Awesome thanks for the motivation! What areas of physics research do you think could use an EE & physics double major the most?
I am mostly interested in the experimental side.
 
  • #4
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It really depends on the program requirements. Check the website for the requirements for EE and physics majors and minors and see if it's even possible. At my school the engineering curriculum is so strict it would literally take 7 years to double major in EE and physics. Also at my school for a minor in physics you need to take some very basic physics courses that overlap with engineering courses, and you'd really just be wasting your time and money. I suggest speaking with some sort of guidance counselor telling him/her exactly what your interests are and what you want to do afterwards, they'll suggest something that is more in-line with your school.
 
  • #5
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I agree with MECHster. At my school you can only have 2 "open" classes that go to the EE degree. You can fill these classes with anything.

I'm an EE major and love physics but I really don't think a minor would do much for me. I mean the EE program alone is insanely busy and throwing a minor on would probably add a semester or two. On the other hand, the Master's and PhD programs at my school in EE require you to take classes outside of EE in a different areas. For me, it makes more sense to focus on EE and maybe try to get a Master's and then take some physics classes then.
 
  • #6
jasonRF
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I'm going to be transferring to Virginia Tech from a community college in New York soon for Electrical Engineering, I have always had a strong aptitude for physics particularly E&M. I'm starting to think that I might want to end up going to graduate school for physics.

My question is would a degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Physics give me the required knowledge to do well in a physics graduate program or even get into one?

What advantages would I have with a double major?

I don't know what Virginia Tech requires for these majors, but it is unlikely to be easy to do an EE major and get enough physics (and math!) to really prepare you. You need to talk to someone in the physics department as soon as you get to campus and ask for guidance.

You will need to decide what you really want to do. If you are interested in learning a lot of physics in a particular field (especially E&M or solid state physics) and then applying it to practical problems (designing state of the art antennas, designing better transistors or materials for transistors, etc), you can do that in EE grad school. Some EE grad schools have plasma physics for grad specialization (that is what I did), which is along the same lines. I got a job in industry as an engineer, and the EE background is very useful and I never use my plasma physics. HOwever, if you want to do more fundamental science, then the earlier you switch to physics the better, I would think.

By the way, if you do a physics major and you want to "cover the bases" in case you just want to get a job afterward, nothing is stopping you from taking a few courses to give you the main tools EEs have the many physicists lack (at least in my experience interviewing/hiring both physics and EE grads). Any physicist who takes signals and systems from EE, and the EE departments probability and random processes class (if offered, otherwise just take probability theory from math), is not in too bad a shape to do many kinds of EE work in the future. I am happy to recommend hiring such folks to do engineering work, the problem is most physicists do not take such subjects.

Best of luck,

jaosn
 
  • #7
Hmm.. very interesting... I never really gave much thought into EE graduate school.. I guess I always thought it was just for teaching and that sort of thing. I just E-mailed my EE guidance counsellor (happens to be my aunt) about the dual major. I will see what she says about that. I'm defiantly going to look into this much more though.
 
  • #8
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You will need to decide what you really want to do. If you are interested in learning a lot of physics in a particular field (especially E&M or solid state physics) and then applying it to practical problems (designing state of the art antennas, designing better transistors or materials for transistors, etc), you can do that in EE grad school. Some EE grad schools have plasma physics for grad specialization (that is what I did), which is along the same lines. I got a job in industry as an engineer, and the EE background is very useful and I never use my plasma physics. HOwever, if you want to do more fundamental science, then the earlier you switch to physics the better, I would think.
Hey jasonRF, I'm an EE major. Would doing any extra physics classes be of any benefit to an EE? Seeing that you did something physics-y in EE grad school, did you ever take extra physics classes? I'm interested in industry and also understand that what I'll be doing for a job probably won't involve much physics.
 
  • #9
I am not so much interested in industry. Would there be many jobs outside of industry with an ee degree?
Also, same as the guy above. What are some good physics course to take that would help the most.
 
Last edited:
  • #10
jasonRF
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I would say that extra physics classes can be useful, but they do come at a cost (fewer engineering/math courses). Whether it makes sense for you should be something you need to think about and discuss with your advisor. Few EE jobs require any physics that you aren't already required to learn anyway. If you need them in EE grad school there is nothing wrong with taking such courses then.

In general I picked courses out of interest, which made school more enjoyable and easier to get motivated about but might not be the optimal route to go when planning for a career :smile: So if you decide to take extra physics, if I were you I'd take what sounded like fun (it would be an elective after all!). In terms of utility, it depends. If you work on solid state devices, then quantum mechanics, solid state physics, and thermal/statistical physics are "useful." Analytical mechanics will teach you about calculus of variations which can be a useful tool, and will also give you experience with rotation matrices which are used a lot in graphics, robotics, systems on aircraft/spacecraft, etc.; mechanics (and statistical physics) is certainly useful for plasma physics. Quantum mechanics is fun and will give you some understanding about how things work on the atomic level; it will also give you a notional understanding of functional analysis which is a nice way to organize your thoughts when solving linear pdes (like those found in E&M).

good luck,

jason
 
  • #11
I'm glad to hear Quantum Mechanics is useful, as I was planning on taking it for fun :)
Anyway thanks for all the great advise..
 

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