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How can electrical engineering be self-taught?

  1. Sep 7, 2013 #1
    Besides learning how to solve problems through textbooks, how can electrical engineering be self-taught for the labs? Do you buy the materials? What are the necessary materials that you must have?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2013 #2
    I'd probably say buy the materials. I'm no expert but I hear 'element 14' sells the required materials. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  4. Sep 8, 2013 #3
    If you are not going to school and you want to get into EE, get a low level job. I don't know what's your knowledge level, try get a technician or even an assembler position and study at the same time.

    I never have a degree in EE, I had an AA from Heald that I never even advertized as it is not very useful nor would I recommend. I studied everything on my own. I started as a field service technician for Norelco office dictator equipments. Job was just cleaning recorder heads, belts, motors etc. Then I studied the schematics, I studied text books at the same time. I even got fired because I rush through the job so I can stay in the car to study!!!! Then I landed onto a production tech in a satellite transmitter company. Then slowly move into engineering tech. Then got promoted to be a designer engineer. I had been an engineer and manager of EE for 30 years since. Other than I stayed home and studied 18 hours a day for 3 months after I got fired from the first job, I never stop working. I gained broad knowledge by keep switching companies of completely different technologies after I mastered one technology. I went from designing data acquisition( oscilloscope type), to linear integrated circuits, to ultra sound imaging medical equipments, mass spectrometers, RF military equipments. All just to gain knowledge. Use the job, maximize return of your time!!!!

    Point is try to use the job as an experimental ground to learn. Once you get your foot in, you are surrounded by people in this field and you learn from them. Just the fact you are in the environment, it rub off on you. You'll be surprised how much designs you can do with so little knowledge to start with. I did studied along the way, but nothing to get a degree. After I retired, I spent 8 years studying everything required for BS and way beyond now. But that's after I retired. I don't know the job situation now a days, it worked for me. You have to be hungry, you have to work hard, put in lots of hours, be aggressive to get result.

    I did do some experiment at home, you can buy breadboard like on ebay:http://www.ebay.com/itm/70pcs-Breadboard-Jumper-Cable-Wire-PCB-Protoboard-Test-Circuit-Board-400Points-/360667847168?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53f97a9a00 to build circuits. Get some experimental books and build the circuits. I went to a electronics surplus store and bought a used oscilloscope and function generator for cheap and use it at home.

    If you have more specific question, post back.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  5. Sep 8, 2013 #4
    My other post is getting too long. Another thing is to learn computer programming. It's a lot easier and you can do it at home with a PC. A lot of jobs are embedded processor and digital type that is a lot easier to do compare to analog. Use that to get your foot into the door. I started with one class of Fortran at the time, then got into designing simple digital and programmed some test software to start and move from there.
  6. Sep 8, 2013 #5
    But at MIT, do students use 2 textbooks (1 per semester) for 1 year for electrical engineering? Or 1 textbook for the whole year? And how can I find the names of those textbooks?
  7. Sep 8, 2013 #6


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  8. Sep 8, 2013 #7
    I thought you want lab and experiments, what are you asking? You want text book or you want experimental experience? What class are you talking about?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  9. Sep 9, 2013 #8
    I'm just curious about the textbooks, never mind. Also, what's a vocational school? Is that similar to college? Does it offer Bachelor's degree? In how many years? What are the tuitions and financial aid? What are the requirements?
  10. Sep 9, 2013 #9
    Regarding to text books, you have to be specific on what subject. Also even more important, what is your level of knowledge?

    Vocational school is like Heald College type that teaches you nothing but the main subject. They are usually not accredited.......that is you cannot transfer to a real college. I gone through Heald College to get an AA degree. I do not suggest that. It will get you in the door as a technician faster, but you are learning nothing towards a BSEE if you even want to enroll in a real degree. Vocational school tends to be heavy on hands on type rather than prepare you with the math and theory needed for you to advance in the future.

    They are usually 2 years, you have to call the school to find out the financial aid stuff. I really don't suggest this route being through Heald myself. It is good IF your goal is only become a technician.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
  11. Sep 9, 2013 #10
    So how can I get Bachelor's degree in Electrical engineering without going to college? Can you study for the PE exams?
  12. Sep 9, 2013 #11
    I have no idea, what is PE exam? Someone might be able to answer this, maybe there is an online school or something.
  13. Sep 10, 2013 #12
    PE=professional engineer

    My dad has been working as an EE for 20 years now, and is very well respected (he has standing offers for work at at least 5 companies, and has recently gotten a job shift to do something no one else has done). He dropped out of high school, and took a few classes at a JC, but never any real math/physics.

    He's been doing RF for awhile and the reason why he can do it, and does it well, is that he truly cares and is passionate. He was into radios as a kid. First CB radios, which turned into ham radios, which turned into a career of working in RF for a living.

    He didn't really study from books, or learn any math/physics or anything (he has no idea what a limit is, or a derivative, and can't even graph y=mx+b. He knows extremely little math), he just played with radios...a LOT. He's worked with radios so much and for so long. Hours and hours. He was interviewed by a major cell phone company and wasn't expecting to get the job (he went in with absolutely no relevant work experience and a GED). They tried intimidating him, but he wasn't expecting to get he job, so he was totally calm. They liked that (along with his knowledge) so they hired him, and he has been working there since. Since then, he's won countless awards, has been told he's irreplaceable, and recently has been assigned to a newly created job basically solely created for him. He has no boss, no spending limit, no one checking in on him, authorization to hire/fire/buy/spend/whatever he wants. He's very good at what he does, simply because of all the countless hours he put into messing with radios. He started when he was 10 years old, now he's almost 50 and even to today he'll come home after working on radios all day to play with ham radios. He's just obsessed.

    Anyway, I don't know if this is irrelevant or not. But I thought it was a good story.
  14. Sep 10, 2013 #13
    What is your background? Why do you want to get a bachelor's without actually getting a bachelor's? I think that's something you need to answer if you want good advice.

    Incidentally, where I live, you CAN'T become a professional engineer without taking an engineering bachelor's degree from an accredited school. You can certainly work as an engineer without the degree if you can get hired (it happens all the time), but you can't call yourself a "professional engineer" without going to college first. Also, I think the cases of people who get hired as engineers without any sort of college-level education aren't very common. You'll notice both of the examples given in this thread were people who spent a lot of time and effort learning stuff on their own; they didn't get to skip out on all the work of learning to be an engineer, they just did it differently.
  15. Sep 10, 2013 #14
    Have you considered taking,say, one EE course, say, evenings? That will expose you to the learning environment, other students, and if an evening course, other people already working in the field.
  16. Sep 10, 2013 #15
    I think your story is very relevant. Yes, it is important to get an education and it helps you in your career. BUT good education does not guarantee you to be a good worker, that you can design. I've seen one guy that has a degree and absolutely cannot design even if his life depends on it. He desided to go back to school to get a PHD to teach. Good luck to the students he'll be teaching. I worked with two people, one from UC Berkeley and other from Stanford. If I were their manager, I would fired them. I think the key ingredient is PASSION.

    I never had a EE degree, been an EE and manager of EE for 30 years also. Well I did have a little bit over one class of calculus. I started out as a guitarist that want to have a perfect amplifier that can produce the optimal sound at any volume level as most amp only produce the best sound at full blast. I succeeded in doing it, but also along the way, I realize my true passion in life is electronics. I eventually quit music all together and concentrated on EE. I did studied along the way, but never pass the second year of BSEE because I did not have the calculus background.

    You'll be surprised how little design and creativity has to do with education. Even with the little formal education I had, I published two articles of my own ideas in the AIP, Review of Scientific Instruments and also own a patent on a detector for semiconductor metrolysis equipment. A lot of times, I design, then I listen to my body, even when everything looks right, if my body don't feel right, I kept looking. Most of the time I found the problem.

    All those years, I felt insecure because my engineers have more formal education than me. So after I retired, I decided to study back all the stuffs in the college. The more I studied, the more I see there is a big gap between education and achievement.

    I am very different from your father, I go for broad knowledge by changing jobs. From RF, IC design, analog, embedded processor, FPGA programming, power electronics, signal integrity high voltage power supply and circuits etc. In my early days, I even did programming.

    Actually I am writing a patent application in music electronics. I am writing on my own without a lawyer. That's the hard part as there are a lot of "technical" aspect of writing a patent I am stumbling on. I survived the Claims, looks like if I clean up the language, I can pass the examination of the claims by the USPTO. But I am hitting road blocks on writing the Specification as they have milestone that I am restricted on what I can change after that. I am fighting with the USPTO right in this few days. You know those big government bureaucracy of crossing every "T" and dot every "I"!!!
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  17. Sep 11, 2013 #16


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    It depends on what state you live in. Most states will not allow you to sit for the FE or the PE without an engineering degree from an ABET accredited program, while others will let you do so after some years of experience working under the direct supervision of a licensed engineer. You should contact your state's licensing board for more information.

    Here is a link that should help: NCEES list of state licensing boards.
  18. Sep 11, 2013 #17
    I am in Silicon Valley, never heard of PE and never had one. Nobody cares about PE.
  19. Sep 11, 2013 #18


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    I'm in Silicon Valley too. It is almost impossible to get a PE in a company here if you are working on products. This is because you must work under a PE for your required experience, and no one here has a PE.

    For electrical engineering the only people with PEs are people who do wiring and power for construction or consulting firms.

    I took the EIT (engineer-in-training) test and passed, but I'll never get a PE because I have never had a supervisor with a PE.

    To add on to what everyone has said, I come from the opposite side of the fence (I have a Ph.D. in EE). I think that what really matters at the end of the day is how good you are. It is much more difficult to get the needed skills on your own, but yungman's experience shows it is quite possible. It is much harder to get your foot in the door without the academic degree, though. You'll always be hustling.

    If I were to do it all over again I would do it exactly the same. If you know you want to be an EE it will be much easier if you get the degree.
  20. Sep 11, 2013 #19
    Wow. That's a shock. Looks like it's a flaw in the requirements in order to become a PE.
  21. Sep 11, 2013 #20


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    No, it isn't. It just means a PE electrical engineer is different from a non-PE and it works both ways; someone who works for a construction engineering firm and gets a PE will not be qualified to be a chip designer. The PE is for specific jobs. It isn't a label that says you are qualified for any EE job.
  22. Sep 11, 2013 #21
    I wasn't implying that.

    A PE with an EE degree is qualified for an EE job and a PE with a Civil degree is qualified for a Civil job, right?

    The issue is that there aren't any people that have both an EE degree and a PE license in Silicon Valley which to me sounds like a flaw because the entire point of the PE is a proof of competency.
  23. Sep 11, 2013 #22
    A PE is not a proof of competency. Its license for liability. If you are very competent and are in a field with low liability you dont need one (like in the semiconductor industry). If you are doing something with liability to the public then you do need one.
  24. Sep 11, 2013 #23
    So essentially, the P.ENG. is useless to Electrical Engineers or more specifically, Computer Engineers.
  25. Sep 11, 2013 #24


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    Not necessarily. As Russ said, it depends on the job.

    Here's a comparison from the NSPE:

  26. Sep 11, 2013 #25
    Yes, I belong to the late 70s and early 80s where electronics were like in the wild west days. Now because of the economy, every joe blow has a degree. But the problem is degree does not increase one's intelligence and IQ did not increase in the last 30 years. You just see more incapable engineers with a degree. As a manager of EE, I gave test to engineer candidates only from the Electronic Principle By Malvino.....that was used in Heald College.....a trade school. You'll be surprised how many so called degreed engineer flunk pitifully. Just a simple opamp with summing junction that create an offset and with gain. If you break down the circuit, they all become very simple.

    I remember we had a project of a weapon camera that had line noise problem. few engineers work on it for a year and then got drop on my lap. Turn out it was a few of the small Linear Tech switching regulators that oscillating. The circuit were copied from the application notes and single everyone oscillate. Those product engineers did not tame the close loop feedback. It's shameful that they supposed to be the expert that produced the reference circuit and they did not know what they are doing. It's just simple closed loop feedback that can easily use Bode Plot to match the poles and zeros.

    Now that I spent 8 years after retiring, studied all the math, electromagnetics, various microwave theories, I can comfortably say that education and creativity/design is not that closely relate. I don't think I am that much better a designer. I can explain my designs a lot better with all the theories, but not much better. There are a lot of inspiration involve in designing and creativity that you cannot learn in school. A theoretician don't imply creativity. Ideas just comes.....when you are in bed, doing something else. You then use theory to verify the idea. IT'S NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Like the biggest discovery of the Benzene ring in chemistry. The person dream of a snake biting it's own tail and goes around and around. Then came the theory and model to proof that it's a ring....and the rest is history.

    The hard part is getting the foot in the door. Once you get in, it's all fare game.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
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