Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Electrical Engineering or Mech in the long run?

  1. Jan 26, 2010 #1
    I'm stuck between Electrical Engineering and Mechanical.

    Mechanical does seem cooler as it seems to be more of a dynamic field, however, what would the job prospects be like for an Electrical engineer? It seems more and more high school students are playing around with circuitry... wouldn't this lower the pay for EE's in the future?

    Basically, who do you think has better job prospects in the future?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 26, 2010 #2
    Well, There are 3 electrical engineers at my company and 3 mechanical engineers. so using my very broad statistics, your prospects are equal
  4. Jan 26, 2010 #3
    EE is so much more than the basic circuits a high school kid does in high school that no competent company will ever hire a high school graduate for a job that requires an EE. The circuitry stuff branches off into analog and digital, there's a whole branch for communications (which itself tends to get subdivided), DSP (digital signal processing), and there's the theoretical physics heavy stuff in semi-conductors/super-conductors, and optics, all sorts of cool robotics stuff, and yeah it's a really diverse field.

    If you want to do mechanical, go for it. Don't let job prospects be your deciding factor, 'cause that never ends well.
  5. Jan 26, 2010 #4
    They both sound equally appealing, that's why I was trying to break it down into future prospects.
    Mechanical Engineering with an option in Mechatronics sounds great, however, building systems for a robot also sounds quite cool too.

    I think the other thing that's bothering me a bit is that EE is what students go into when they can't get into Mech (at least at my school).
  6. Jan 26, 2010 #5
    just do what is more interesting to you.
  7. Jan 26, 2010 #6
    That could be true for all I know but as a general statement that isn't true. One is not "easier" than the other or "less prestigous" or anything like that. EE can certainly involve complex simulations of fields in waveguides for example, trust me your average high school slacker is not going to have an easier time in EE than ME.
  8. Jan 26, 2010 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


    The above link will tell you all you need to know. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  9. Jan 26, 2010 #8
    Why don't you go into both?

    I am currently studying at University of Strathclyde (Glasgow) in a course called Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Our timetable is worse than a regular EE or Mech degree, but the course is really interesting as we get to study both subjects.
  10. Jan 26, 2010 #9
    At my school, most of the EEs would rather rebuild the robot then work on the power system. But as majors go, *shrugs* the big difference is that ME's the lighter course load and has more girls. Both are equally hard in their own uniquely tortuous ways, and really are just crazy spin offs of mechanics and E&M respectively.

    Even before that, EE has a pile of math you've gotta learn. And it keeps changing, unlike ME where it's mostly just calculus, diffEQ, and vector calc. The classes actually use all that required math (calc, diffEQ, vector calc, linear algebra) and there are still another two/three classes in functional analysis. And then there's the practical stuff, which is its own ball of fun.
  11. Jan 26, 2010 #10
    No one can predict the future. Both areas will undergo cycles, but on average your prospects are probably equal in each area. The bottom line is that, if you are talented and if you work hard, you will have no worries about finding a good job.

    If you are the type of engineer more inspired by the core fundamentals of the engineering craft, and the challenges of doing difficult cutting edge design-work or research, then there are more similarities than differences in the two fields. The same vector calculus is used in electromagnetic theory and in fluid dynamics. Finite element analysis is also used in both of these areas. Dynamic system analysis using Newton's Law's or Circuit equations are essentially the same. The power of linear theory, Laplace & Fourier analysis are equally useful in both areas. The concepts of feedback and control are also equally useful in both electrical and mechanical systems. .... etc. etc.

    As an electrical engineer I've had to learn all kinds of physics and mechanical engineering that are not the core areas of study in electrical engineering courses. Examples include thermodynamics, mechanical-system-dynamics, acoustics and fluid dynamics. Similarly, I know a mechanical engineer that has learned electromagnetism, control theory, circuit theory, solid-state theory of semiconductors, analog and digital circuit design and microcontroller system design.

    A good engineer knows the fundamentals and knows how to learn via self-teaching. Basically, the math is the same, the science itself is similar and offers direct parallels. After that engineering in both fields is about figuring things out, and using math, science, theory, experiment, creativity and intuition to design and build real working systems.

    If you are the type of engineer more inspired by a particular technology, whether it's fast cars or fast computers; spinning turbines, or spinning generators; flying planes or levitating trains, then it is more important to follow your passion.

    Keep in mind that no matter which area you get your degree in, you can still ride the fence and maintain equal skill and knowledge in both areas. Many areas require knowledge of both fields. Robotics, motor/generator systems and the up-and-coming field of renewable energy are some examples.

    My personal experience is that it is easier for an electrical engineer to learn mechanical engineering than vice versa. This has nothing to do with the difficulty of the subject matter, which is about equal in my view. Perhaps, people have more natural intuition about mechanical ideas than electrical ones because electricity is harder to observe with the senses. However, this is just a trend I've noticed and it won't necessarily apply to you.
  12. Jan 27, 2010 #11
    Thanks for all the awesome replies.

    EE is where I seem to be leading, although that link on the projected growth being 2% for EE's and 6% for Mech has me a bit worried.... but I guess only time will tell.

    Has anyone pursued an EE Masters? Is it worth it?
  13. Jan 27, 2010 #12
    From reading EE job descriptions, I've noticed that most employers prefer an applicant with a MS or PhD, so I'd say its worth it. My personal opinion is that as an engineer, you won't get very far in your career if you stop with a BS. Although I'm sure that there are very successful engineers out there that don't have an MS.
  14. Jan 27, 2010 #13
    Nowadays it is well worth it, especially if you can have the costs covered by doing a teaching/research assistantship, fellowship, or by your employer.

    In the old days, it was unnecessary and just delayed the important step of getting real-world experience, which is critical in engineering. But today, there are benefits for personal enrichment, real skill improvement, greater knowledge and separation from the entry level engineering pack.

    It's not that a talented BS engineer can't be successful, but there is the real risk of slow development by being assigned mundane, basic tasks. You get that Catch-22 effect. You can't be assigned difficult tasks because you don't have experience, but you can't get experience because you haven't been assigned difficult tasks.

    In my opinion, the question of MS vs. BS is a no-brainer. The harder question is MS vs. Ph.D. But you don't need that advice yet. I'll tell you one secret though. A true engineer at age 60 is basically the same whether he has a BS, MS or PhD. By then, he has done the equivalent of about 10 Ph.D dissertations.
  15. Jan 27, 2010 #14
    As elect_eng said, no one can predict the future but if you work hard and like what you are doing, you will be successful.

    But if you look at the past, Mechanical Engineers where in demand because of the automotive and the industrial revolution. Now with computer softwares, such as AutoCad, Catia, the demand for Mech Eng will decrease because the time to make a drawing or sketch will be reduced. Whereas if you look at the present, Electrical Engineers are more in demand because of electronics, wireless processing and such. And in the future, is it will be nano engineering. But thats still a couple of decades. I don't know where you gotten your stats from about growth in Elect/Mech Engineers but I believe as of right and in the next 30 years, Electrical Engineers will has a better job prospect.

    Well I don't know what school you went to, but for me Mechanical is where you go if you can't get into Mechatronics. And for Electrical, well it is always people's number first choice. Also in my university, the acceptance average for electrical is higher then mechanical. Furthermore, I believe Electrical Engineering is more difficult than Mechanical with respect to math and physics. Well, hope that helped.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook