How beneficial is a minor in Electrical Engineering?

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Hi, I’m a freshman Physics major in the US and I am concerned about the job opportunities directly out of undergrad. Because of this, short of switching my major to an engineering field, I was wondering if a minor in EE would substantially assist me. I know it would not be an ABET accredited BSEE, but could it open some opportunities in grey areas like optical engineering or semiconductor processing? Also, maybe it could make it easier if I wanted to go for a MSEE in the future. So, would a minor in EE be a significant benefit, or should I more seriously consider engineering? (I should mention that my department does have an Engineering Physics program, but it mostly only covers the basics of physics and EE—though it does have a decent amount of ME—and doesn’t really go deep into any of them. The highest-level physics is classical mechanics—though I would get thermo and E&M from engineering classes—and I could probably take more EE classes with a minor. So, I feel like if I were to go in that direction, I should just go into a more traditional engineering discipline.) Any and all advice is appreciated!
 

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  • #2
FactChecker
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An established interest in subjects like feedback and control can help in many fields. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and other important developing technologies will be big in the future. If you are interested in jobs in those areas, then you should certainly start taking the relevant classes. But if your goal is just a superficial attempt to get a job, then you might end up in a job that you are not interested in.
 
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Vanadium 50
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If the reason you are going to college is because you think a good job is the reward for finishing (it's not, but many people do think this way), why on earth do you want to major in physics over EE?
 
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A physics undergrad degree is certainly a tough enough accomplishment to prove a person's raw technical ability. But if a job right out of undergrad is the goal, then one should be aware that skills like computer programming and statistics can be very beneficial in a job hunt. They can be learned before hand or on the job. Just don't be surprised by that.
 
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Vanadium 50
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I'm saying that if his goal is primarily employment, and he wants to study EE, why not be an EE major? Why mess with - and pay for - a degree that doesn't meet your goals?

AS for the purpose of college, I would say it is to become educated.

Oh, and I would ask you not to ascribe motives to my comments,.
 
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  • #6
berkeman
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I was wondering if a minor in EE would substantially assist me.
I agree with @Vanadium 50 -- My first love in undergrad was physics, but I switched to EE by my junior year for financial/job security reasons. That said, if you do get your physics degree with an EE minor, be sure to get some job experience (or internships) that is EE-related. That is the primary thing I look for when interviewing candidates that have recently graduated. Just having the classes under your belt doesn't show me much when I'm considering interviewing you for a job. Best of luck with your decision and enjoy your time at school. :smile:
 
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But if your goal is just a superficial attempt to get a job, then you might end up in a job that you are not interested in.
That's what I'm trying to avoid--a desperate search in my senior year to get a programming job when I realize that's one of my only tangible, marketable skills. I am currently worried if I go and learn about these fields that once I go to apply for internships/jobs they'll see "Physics B.S." and throw my application in the garbage, especially when comparing me with people who are majoring in EE.

But if a job right out of undergrad is the goal, then one should be aware that skills like computer programming and statistics can be very beneficial in a job hunt. They can be learned before hand or on the job. Just don't be surprised by that.
I'm surprised that employers would be willing to let someone learn things on the job. From the stories I've heard, it sounds like most employers want someone who already knows everything they need for the position. But I have already been trying to steer my current major plan toward things that I think I would enjoy and could be considered practical (eg. I hope to take computational physics in the future).

AS for the purpose of college, I would say it is to become educated.
That's why I'm currently a physics major. I'm just trying to figure out a plan where I can hopefully continue doing things I find interesting after college (or at least maximize my chances of that).

I agree with V50. My first love in undergrad was physics, but I switched to EE by my junior year for financial/job security reasons. That said, if you do get your physics degree with an EE minor, be sure to get some job experience (or internships) that is EE-related. That is the primary thing I look for when interviewing candidates that are recently graduated. Just having the classes under your belt doesn't show me much when I'm considering interviewing you for a job. Best of luck with your decision and enjoy your time at school. :smile:
Sounds like I'm in a somewhat similar boat. Though, if I waited until my junior year to switch, I would probably have to go another one or two semesters, which I probably can't afford. But, yes, gaining experience will have to be a major goal of mine since an education without experience means very little. I just hope that pursuing a physics degree will not close too many doors when it comes time to apply for internships.

Thanks for responding!:biggrin:
 
  • #8
berkeman
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I am currently worried if I go and learn about these fields that once I go to apply for internships/jobs they'll see "Physics B.S." and throw my application in the garbage
That would not be my reaction. I actually like physics majors -- shows that you are bright! As long as you have some of the EE things I'm looking for, your resume will make it to the next level in the process here where I work.
I'm surprised that employers would be willing to let someone learn things on the job. From the stories I've heard, it sounds like most employers want someone who already knows everything they need for the position.
It depends on the position we are hiring for. If we are interviewing for a very experienced R&D position, then yes, we are looking for some specific skills and a certain temperament (works well with others, thinks well on their feet, has a history of goal-oriented achievement, etc.). But we also occasionally target recent graduates for entry-level positions, and for that we just want to see that you did well in school, have some limited work experience in EE, are very bright and motivated to learn and grow in your skills, etc. :smile:
 
  • #9
verty
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I think EE is a very complex field and a minor wouldn't really break the surface (correct me if I'm wrong).
 
  • #10
Grinkle
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I am concerned about the job opportunities directly out of undergrad.
To best address this concern, major in EE. If you like physics, take whatever physics electives you can fit in.
 
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  • #11
symbolipoint
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Looky-Here --
You have described enough justification to earn your degree in electrical engineering. Include whatever Physics you are able, for "education" purposes. At least, you would to have studied in school to be more obviously employable.
That's what I'm trying to avoid--a desperate search in my senior year to get a programming job when I realize that's one of my only tangible, marketable skills. I am currently worried if I go and learn about these fields that once I go to apply for internships/jobs they'll see "Physics B.S." and throw my application in the garbage, especially when comparing me with people who are majoring in EE.


I'm surprised that employers would be willing to let someone learn things on the job. From the stories I've heard, it sounds like most employers want someone who already knows everything they need for the position. But I have already been trying to steer my current major plan toward things that I think I would enjoy and could be considered practical (eg. I hope to take computational physics in the future).


That's why I'm currently a physics major. I'm just trying to figure out a plan where I can hopefully continue doing things I find interesting after college (or at least maximize my chances of that).


Sounds like I'm in a somewhat similar boat. Though, if I waited until my junior year to switch, I would probably have to go another one or two semesters, which I probably can't afford. But, yes, gaining experience will have to be a major goal of mine since an education without experience means very little. I just hope that pursuing a physics degree will not close too many doors when it comes time to apply for internships.

Thanks for responding!:biggrin:
To best address this concern, major in EE. If you like physics, take whatever physics electives you can fit in.
 
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  • #12
verty
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Looky-Here --
You have described enough justification to earn your degree in electrical engineering...
I want to mention that we can't tell how much you like electrical engineering. There is no way to know if it's something you would choose if not for physics. Definitely do a lot of thinking about what career you want because you really should have an interest that drives you to want to succeed in that subject or field.

It's all academic at the end of the day because you will inevitably do the job you train for, because it's natural to want to be paid a lot and that's what qualifications enable one to do. So do you best but have an interest so when you finally get to do that job, it's worthwhile.
 
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  • #13
ZapperZ
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@QCDsoup :

1. Does your school offer a major either in engineering physics, or something of that nature?

2. Doing a minor in EE is not a bad idea, especially if you intend to go on to graduate school and major in the more "practical" aspect of physics. With a strong EE background, you are definitely setting yourself up nicely to go into Device Physics, Accelerator Physics, and even Material Science. I also know of many grad students in experimental high energy physics who work on the electronics for the various particle detectors.

Having extra knowledge seldom hurts, especially when it compliments the main major area.

Zz.
 
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  • #14
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If the reason you are going to college is because you think a good job is the reward for finishing (it's not, but many people do think this way), why on earth do you want to major in physics over EE?
I would favor trying a hedge over fully committing to a path that is unlikely to lead to a success. It's better than the average approach if not the best approach.
 
  • #15
Astronuc
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Hi, I’m a freshman Physics major in the US and I am concerned about the job opportunities directly out of undergrad.
Rather than think about a 'job' at this point, think about what does one wish to do professionally.

Consider ZapperZ's post, and consider that engineering is more or less applied physics. Engineering physics programs are tailored to blend physics and engineering. Both physics and electrical engineering are broad disciplines with many specialties.

One should become a student member of AIP, APS and IEEE, even if simply to get information on careers and learn more about what's going on in the field. Fees are modest for students.
https://www.aip.org/career-resources
https://www.aps.org/membership/student.cfm
https://www.computer.org/web/membership/membership-categories

Society membership is a plus on one's resumé.

If one were interested in detectors for example, one needs to understand how the detector interacts with whatever is to be detected and now that is converted into a useful signal, processed (including discrimination), analyzed and then stored/transmitted. Lots of physics and EE in each step.

Or one might be in power systems and their control.

Many physics majors I knew in my undergrad program went into other areas, e.g., EE or other engineering fields, upon graduation. Others stayed in physics through MS or PhD.
 
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Thanks for all the responses, I was not expecting so many. To answer the question about engineering physics: yes, my department has one but I am hesitant to take it because it seems like a ME degree with a select few EE and physics courses replacing some others. While ME is very interesting (and if it was the direction I wanted to go in, this Eng. Physics seems like a great option), I’m more interested in stuff like EE. There doesn’t seem to be much flexibility in the degree, either.

So, what I gather from you folks is that it would probably be a good idea to switch to EE, but staying in physics would not be too bad as long as I have a plan (and possibly get a master’s degree in an engineering field). Either way, I should probably do research to determine what kind of career I would like. Given that I only have general ideas of what I find interesting (Optics? Semiconductor devices? Fields? Other buzzwords?) I have a lot of research to do. Though, I imagine it would probably be easier to test out different specialties in an EE degree (it's essentially in the requirements). Regardless, I have my work cut out for me.

Thanks for all the help!
 
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