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EE vs ME -- Those with experience, please weigh in

  1. May 11, 2017 #1
    I am trying to decide between ME or EE major.

    I like both a lot. I really like classical mechanics, especially written by V. Arnold or Mardsen that applies analysis and topology to mechanics, I genuinely love it! I am also studying Statics and Dynamics by Hibbler for fun in free time and it is pretty cool.

    But I also love QM, antenna and electrodynamics, signal processing. I studied several texts on QM when I was finishing up my chem undergrad (I work as chemist now). I like advanced math and physics and just can't decide which one of the two suits best my math/physics itch.

    Which uses more calc/dfq/stats/LA? Which exact occupation would you say? I am hesitant of getting degree in physics or math because due to lower pay grade and less jobs (correct me if I am wrong). Would you recommend getting both?

    My generals, math, physics and chem courses will all transfer. (I got my undergrad in chem from an accredited univ) Also, the Beuro of Labor Stats predicts 0 percent job growth for EE and 5% for ME. Is it wise to still pursue EE?

    Be as wordy in your responses as you wish, I will enjoy reading your opinions. Thank you in advance!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2017 #2
    I'm not ME or EE so I can't comment on that, but I was curious to look over the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for my areas (for better or worst I based my education on self interest with no regard to the market). The 0% for EE combines electrical and non-computer electronics engineering, which separately is 1% and -1% growth, respectively. So you do have electrical engineering growth, which I think is the side you'd be interested in. The absolute number of positions is also large, as you said, so I think going EE isn't a terrible idea.

    I'm not really sure what sort of positions a physicist can go for but the math section reveals a bunch with larger growth than engineering. Sure mathematician has a tiny number of positions, but there are applied math stuff like operations researcher, statistician, and actuary that have a decent pool of positions and huge job growth compared to engineering. So I don't think it would be a bad idea to go for applied math either.
  4. May 12, 2017 #3
    Your interests suggest that you might find electromechanics to be an interesting area. This could be pursued either through ME or EE, although that the undergraduate level EE seems a bit more likely. At the graduate level, you could go either way.
  5. May 13, 2017 #4


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    There are interesting areas of EE that go far beyond usual circuit design. Statistical signal processing, communications systems engineering (including error coding, adaptive beamforming and MIMO, etc.), deep learning, and cryptography are intellectually challenging areas with room for creativity and lots of math. For that matter, you can get into these activities with a physics degree supplemented by a few foundational EE courses.
  6. May 15, 2017 #5
    Congratulations on getting to the point of needing to choose between engineering specialties. The main criteria should be what excites you more.... If you are at the top of your class I am sure you can find challenging work with either degree. But from my experience, EEs are much more likely to use their education and be in the main path of product design. A ME is much more likely to be in a adjunct task and be less challenged. Of course, I am a EE and for the projects I work on, many times the mechanical design how to package the electronics and how to cool them, much less interesting than what the electronics are doing...
  7. May 15, 2017 #6
    Everyone's experience may not be the same, but the EEs I've known in my career have tended to use their math and physics in their day to day jobs a lot more than the MEs.
  8. May 15, 2017 #7
    We tend to use that which we know. I've made an entire career using mathematical analysis applied to mechanical and electromechanical systems. This has brought me into contact with a number of both MEs and EEs. After they have been away from school for a few years, both of them tend to move toward management and away from technical work, thus using less and less mathematics. Once, while I was still an undergraduate student, I had occasion to talk with the head of the Texas Highway Department, the engineer in charge of the whole operation (he was probably a Civil engineer). I asked him how often he used calculus, and he simply laughed at me.

    In terms of working on electromechanical systems (motors, generators, relays, pulsed alternators, transformers, etc.), I have found that the EEs are pretty good at applying the standard textbook models for the electromagnetic components, but are rather poor at modeling the remainder of the system (usually a mechanical system). Here the MEs have the edge, provided they are well acquainted with Hamilton's Principle because this gives a tool for addressing mixed systems with facility.

    The long and short of it is, I think most of us tend to use that which we do well and enjoy. If you want to use mathematics, you will certainly find plenty of places to do so whatever the field. If you want to avoid mathematics, you will usually find a way to slough that off on someone else and thus avoid it.
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