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Engineering Grad School Questions (Non Eng. Undergrad)

  1. Jun 10, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm a third year applied mathematics major. After finishing my undergrad, I hope to transition to an engineering oriented grad program. Preferably it would be in electrical engineering, but honestly I love all engineering.

    1) What schools should I look into?

    2) With a good GPA and Honors specification, what schools would accept me?

    3) I would probably have to take remedial courses, but that's okay. Have any of you transitioned into an engineering program from a non-engineering undergrad?

    3a)What advice do you have for me?

    I ask these questions because right now I'm on the edge of transferring to an actual engineering school and simply getting my undergrad in electrical engineering. Doing so would run me a hefty bill, though, so I'd rather finish at my current university and move a master's in some engineering program.

    I really, really need any advice you guys can offer.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2014 #2
    Take this with a grain of salt.
    An applied math undergrad degree would be pretty good for electrical engineering, especially RF (radio-frequency) focused programs, since they apparently use a lot of it. But a good question is: How many engineering classes have you taken in each specialization of engineering? It's easy to say you love engineering after one course (I did the same about Forensics, Psychology, Physics, etc.. wanted to do all of them as careers, finally picking something like: simulation of physical processes, combo of programming, physics, engineering) :)

    A master's in some engineering program might not only run you a smaller bill, but look better - it's a Master's degree! I don't know many schools with electrical engineering Master's degree programs, but that's just because I haven't looked into it.

    Have you considered trying for a Ph.D in EE? Some people DO get those.
  4. Jun 11, 2014 #3
    I have considered it, yes -- it's just not at the forefront of my mind yet because I would have to complete my master's first!

    As to how many engineering classes I've taken, that's the problem! My school literally doesn't offer engineering classes. The best I could do in my undergrad is take additional physics courses (On top of Phys. 1 and 2) from a nearby college.

    And I suppose you're right, I don't know that I love engineering. I CAN say that I'm very interested in most fields of engineering -- applying scientific theory to real world situations is what gets me going!

    How hard is it to get into a Ph.D program in EE?
  5. Jun 11, 2014 #4
    Hi there Eternus,
    Yeah, getting a master's first would be a good idea because a Ph. D program might not take you from an Applied Math minor with no engineering classes. However, with no engineering classes, I'm not sure you'd be able to get into a Master's program - the amount of remedial courses needed to understand the graduate courses might make your stay for an MS be 3 years, just a guess.

    Here's some other comments I find with Google on CollegeConfidential: "Usually Industrial Engineering, Systems Engineering and Software Engineering will allow math majors into graduate engineering programs without too much hassle. The other engineering fields (for the most part) will make you take remedial engineering courses."

    "A BS in Mathematics that applies to a math-intensive subfield (e.g. Operations Research, Control Theory, etc.) will be much more attractive than a BS in Mathematics that applies for a general field (e.g. Electrical Engineering or Industrial Engineering)."

    "- Princeton and Cornell actually have Master of Engineering programs (Princeton also give the thesis-required M.S. Engineering) that are solely dedicated to Operations Research.

    - Oklahoma State U (I know, why I am throwing them in same paragraph with Cornell/Princeton) has a M.S. in Control Systems Engineering.

    - Stanford has a M.S. in Mathematical Engineering.

    - Columbia's M.S. in Management Systems Engineering program is made up of mostly operations research courses.

    - Just about any graduate "Engineering Management" program will accept math majors

    Also, any graduate program in Computational Engineering will probably take math majors who have an emphasis in computational or discrete mathematics.....basically courses in:

    - Combinatorics
    - Graph Theory
    - Numerical Analysis
    - Optimization/Operations Research
    - Advanced Linear Algebra where the course has some vector studies"

    And signal processing is another math-intense subset of electrical engineering.
  6. Jun 11, 2014 #5


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    I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering.

    An applied math major would be a good candidate once you took some of the remedial courses. The harder problem is what's your story? If you don't really know what specific area you want to go into you'll never get into a Ph.D. program because you research is very specialized.

    Maybe an MS is a good idea so you can figure out what area you like. They are pretty much all math-based, not just RF and DSP.
  7. Jun 11, 2014 #6
    So it's not uncommon for math majors to go into electrical engineering? That's my biggest concern. I'm on the verge of transferring to an engineering school to start an electrical engineering undergraduate degree, but I don't want to give up the scholarships at my current university.

    One of the local engineering schools basically told me that I would have to take three years of remedial courses due to the lack of flexibility in course scheduling, and I'm afraid that will be the case elsewhere. Since then I've been frantically emailing universities, but I haven't had much feedback yet.

    I agree, I'm not sure exactly which field I would like to specialize in, and an MS would probably help.

    I would appreciate any further feedback you have.
  8. Jun 12, 2014 #7


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    I wouldn't say it is uncommon, but most engineering graduate students have engineering undergraduate backgrounds.

    The fact is you will be lacking a lot of core skills and knowledge if you have an applied math degree. You will likely have a lot of potential but you will not yet be ready for graduate-level engineering courses. Besides specialized knowledge, engineering is in some sense a specific way to approach problems that is distinct from the approach taken in math, physics, and chemistry. It takes some time to learn this approach and way of thinking.

    That said, three years of remedial courses sounds excessive. It really depends on the school. I went to a University of California campus and the department made a plan for each student. In the one case where I have specific knowledge, a fellow grad student with a BS in physics had to take about six core undergraduate courses. Hardly three years! If I recall correctly this student got an MS in two years even with the remedial courses.
  9. Jun 12, 2014 #8


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    Engineering is basically all math which you obviously have mastered. In engineering, you just need to be able to set up the math problem. And you need to learn how to be a problem solver. You will learn both.

    And yes, I believe you will need to take a bunch of remedial classes.....being proficient in solving circuits and a bunch of other things does not come overnight. You are trying to be a "master" of electrical engineering......to become a "basic" of electrical engineering will take several years in my opinion.

    But being proficient in math is certainly step 1 of becoming an engineer.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014
  10. Jun 12, 2014 #9
    Alright, to anyone who has suffered patiently with my questions so far, let me pose another one:

    Based on what has been said up to this point, do you think I should transfer to an engineering school to get an electrical engineering undergrad? Or should I stay at my current school, get an undergrad in applied mathematics, and then apply for an MSEE program?

    (I'll be starting my junior year this fall; If I were to transfer, it would take me 3 years to complete the undergrad in EE.)
  11. Jun 12, 2014 #10


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    If you want to become an engineer, I think it would be best to transfer as soon as you can.

    As analogdesign said, it's not "just" about knowing the math, but learning the real-world problem solving thought processes, by practice and experience. Knowing all all the relevant theory about complex numbers and complex roots of unity is one thing. Figuring out what is wrong with a 3-phase electrical circuit given an incomplete set of test measurements (and when some of the measurements might themselves be incorrect!) is something else. The same applies to DSP, chip design, or any other sub-branch of EE.
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