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

How can i know if i am good enough for EE?

  1. Apr 8, 2012 #1
    I just started EE in college and my teachers and my colleagues seems to think that some people have like a special power, a "special habitability" to understand math, physics and so on. My college is well renowned and i got into with certain facility, people always said to me that i was intelligent too but i never really cared about that. I always thought they where saying without truly knowing how much discipline and passion i have, and actually i never felt more "capable" than anyone - i struggle sometimes to understand a concept, i also work very hard to learn all this things and i am really interested in that so i spend most of my days thinking about those things. But now in college this atmosphere of teachers and others students saying that we are all capable doesnt exist anymore. Now they all look like if they where 100% sure that they where superior and that most of the people in the university, in others courses, wouldnt be able to study EE, because is something "really hard, and you need to be gifted to pursue" . I dont know what is gifted, maybe because i am not, for me math and physics uses the same abilities that everyone have and can be developed to a higher level. I cant see how someone wouldnt be able to pursue this career but they are SO ****ING SURE that i am wrong, that most of the people arent capable, that i dont know what to think anymore. I dont feel passionated about EE anymore, i feel depressed, i am in doubt, i dont want to do something that is made for "special" people, i am an ordinary man and i am starting to be afraid that i am not capable, that i am not like they are. I got into EE without knowing nothing about electronics or programming or whatever, i just thought it would be interesting and fun. Now i am starting to consider changing my course to Civil Engineering or architecture (i always loved constructions). I really appreciate if you read all this, and i want to know your opinion, i want you to share your experience if you have been through something similar. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I would say what matters is the grades you are getting, not what other people tell you about how hard the course is. Everybody will have trouble understanding some things in any degree course (though some people prefer telling lies about that rather than admitting the truth).

    But if you spend too much time worrying if you are "good enough", it may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy - so don't do that!
  4. Apr 8, 2012 #3
    First, what do you care other people's opinion whether it takes special gift to be in EE or not? You are there to study EE, not to argue the validity of how they few and their opinions on who can qualify. There are a lot of reason to quit EE, but your's not one of them.

    Why don't you spend more time asking yourself whether this is what you want to do in your career. Also what is your grade in Calculus and Physics? What college are you in as I don't know your definition of good college, because it makes a difference. If you study hard and you are in some normal state U and get B and C after the first two years, that you know you might not be as gifted in the subject. But if you get A in a prestige college, then you proven you are gifted. It the result that matter, not the definition that you seem to be stuck in. If you get A in a normal state U or Junior college, jury is still out.

    Just because you are gifted, you still need to study hard. Very very few can get good grades without studying hard, gifted or not gifted.

    As for my opinion....just my opinion, a lot of people are not born for math and science, but that does not mean they have low intelligence, just not in math and science. When you are a kid, you use IQ test, and other test score to find out how intelligent you are. When you grown up, it's the result that count. How well you are doing in your career, how far can you go up the career ladder, how much you achieved in life. It is result that matter and that's the only way it counts. AND I am not talking about making money only, it's achievement. That can be measurement of gifted.
    I seem many so called "intelligent" people as a kid going nowhere, getting stuck in life and end up a "nobody". That is not very gifted or intelligent in my book. Too many people think they are too good for their job and keep waiting for a big break.........until 50 years old and still waiting for that big break!!! Some that are never that gifted, worked hard and earn an honest living, use good common sense, knowing how to save and end up living a well to do life. They are quite gifted in my book!!!

    Why worry about what people's opinion on this? Ask only whether you can make it your career and be happy with it. Sometimes, you can't even tell until you get into it. I graduated as Chemistry major and hate it, never spend a day in it. I went with my heart and learn electronics. I made a career out of it and I am still studying after a full career and still have the passion. That's what matter.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012
  5. Apr 8, 2012 #4

    jim hardy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    i dont know what would motivate somebody to discourage you.

    Surround yourself with people who are more positive.

    There exist unfortunate souls who compensate for their own lack if self esteem by trying to rob others of theirs. Eric Hoffer said it well -
    Birds of a feather flock together. Find yourself some other "haves" to hang out with.

    That bit of self-examination makes me suspect that you are a little bit introverted.
    That is an excellent trait for a EE to have.
    In circuit analysis it is helpful to imagine yourself inside the wires of a circuit floating along with the charges. We introverts have a natural talent for that sort of total immersion in thought.
    So what you might think of as a weakness is in fact a great strength.

    so leave them in your dust .
  6. Apr 8, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I agree with Jim.

    I do see these kinds of people - it has nothing to do with what ee consists of, it's just some peoples twisted perception, they have to feel superior, but they are not.

    Do it to enjoy it.. it's really interesting as you said before.
  7. Apr 8, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I got into EE without knowing nothing about electronics or programming or whatever, i just thought it would be interesting and fun. Now i am starting to consider changing my course to Civil Engineering or architecture (i always loved constructions).

    I think you have answered your own question.
    If you haven't done any electronics or programming by the time you got to University, then you probably don't really have an interest in it and you will be way behind others who have been doing these things for years.

    The courses in EE really only give you some of the tools you need for problem solving in a job.
    The basics are taken for granted, but can you invent new things every day of your working life?
  8. Apr 9, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    V=IR my friend. It's not that complicated.

    I didn't know jack squat about anything electrical before I started. I blew up or burned anything I wired prior to college. Now I am at a fairly high level. Why? Because I got educated from a decent 4 year college.

    Civil, mechanical and architecture are no cake walk either. And believe it or not, all the electrical I do is put on construction electrical drawings for guys to wire up on construction sites.

    If you are going to stick with EE which I recommend........maybe give this a quick read. It's the basics of EE that I wrote up a few weeks ago. Perhaps you are a bit weak in these areas.

    Give this a quick read starting at post #30.

  9. Apr 9, 2012 #8
    I don't agree with the idea that you should have played with electronics and programming before you get into university courses. That depends more on what opportunities and exposure from others that you got to these subjects, rather than what your own ability and interests are.

    I never had built a circuit, and I had only done very simple programs on my TI-83 calculator before I started my EE courses. I was only enrolled because I liked math and science, and I thought it would be cool to learn how things work. Over time, I learned to love what I was learning, and now I am really interested in everything to do with EE. You said that the subject interests you a lot, and I think that is why you should stick with it. You also said you can work very hard to learn the concepts, and that is the other component you need to get through an EE program.

    As far as your other concern, its just something you have to accept and look past. Students and professors have egos, and I think I had never seen more arrogant people than my fellow EE classmates (they would wear shirts around campus saying they study EE cause everything else is too easy). I did not make friends with any of them, and I just kept to myself in the front of the class. Some of my professors were very humble, and I think their high expectations and standards can be confused with elitism. Only one of my professors actively sought to fail students to prove that they did not have the mental ability to succeed, which resulted in half of the class switching majors in our junior year, and he was punished and almost got fired (I think tenure saved him).

    Some EE students will be gifted and brilliant people. Many are just hard workers with enough aptitude for math and science to get through it because they are interested in it. They may just think they are superior to make themselves feel better. The truth is that physics and pure math, and many other subjects for that matter, have just as rigorous and difficult math and abstract concepts to learn. I consider physics more difficult, intellectually, than EE, and most of the math that EE uses is also used in physics. EE just happens to have a better job market.

    EE is known for having very rigorous standards and large weekly study/work loads, and this is where the perception of superiority started I think. Some of it is warranted, in that someone who studied EE is well prepared for many intellectual challenges, but that's about as far as you can take it. You should probably discuss this with one of your professors, but I think you need to stick with EE if it makes you happy when you learn about it, reglardless of what anyone else says or thinks or what perceptions people have of the people in the field.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  10. Apr 9, 2012 #9

    jim hardy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    your first two years are mostly math and physics and mechanics anyway. You dont have to specialize before junior year.

    There's a secret - EE is easier than Mechanical.
    I pity ME's, all their stuff is nonlinear. Just look at their version of ohm's law :

  11. Apr 9, 2012 #10
    Haha, that is true. Also, they have multiple versions of Ohm's law, such as heat transfer.
  12. Apr 9, 2012 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You may be correct in your assesment....but then again maybe not.

    Perhaps the professor was of this opinion....."you will either learn this material....or you will fail".

    I had one of these teachers.....and I simply grabbed the bull by the horns and learned the material so well just to spite him. Roughly 20 hours plus a week studying for his one class.

    This turned out to be the biggest blessing as I learned the most from this class....and more importantly am still friends with him and he is my best reference material to date. I can ask him any question in EE....and he always knows the answer with a mathematical backup. No hunches, no theories....just facts.
  13. Apr 9, 2012 #12
    When I said actively sought to fail students, I meant it. He would take points off for forgetting to number one page in a 20 page lab report. He would do the same for forgetting to underline the word "FIG." in captions to figures. Most people had negative grades, as in below 0% because all the point deductions added up. He did this, in my mind, purely based on his idealist view that EEs must be perfect and challenged. This was all in additon to the actual difficulty of his labs.
  14. Apr 9, 2012 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You are probably right that many people, given the right amount of motivation and perseverance, could grasp the types of concepts that you are learning in EE. Motivation and interest definitely seem to be limiting factors more so than intelligence. On the other hand, there definitely exist people whose cognitive abilities are simply up not up to the task. Does one have to be of above average intelligence to major in EE or other engineering programs? Perhaps -- I do not really know the answer.

    One thing is for sure: the degree to which your fellow EE majors regard themselves as superior to people studying other disciplines is grossly exaggerated. Maybe an arts degree doesn't involve as large a workload, but your classmates are in no position to evaluate its level of difficulty, having never tried it. It could be that some things are equally difficult conceptually, and they certainly require one to make use of a different skill set than in engineering. You appear to have been blessed with greater *emotional maturity* and *perspective* than your classmates in this regard. Engineers on my campus had the reputation of being arrogant and supercilious, as well as wild drunken partiers. You have the chance to break that stereotype in your interactions with "artsies" and others.

    Maintain the sense of humility that you have, and the realization that you have to work hard in order to succeed. This will serve you well, and prevent complacency. Don't compare yourself to others either. Just focus on doing your absolute best.

    EDIT: and don't buy into this delusion that you have somehow landed into a program that is only for the *elite* and that everyone else must be exceptionally good (ie better than you). You have the motivation. You have the work ethic. You have the interest. You'll do fine. It's easy to think of others as being "great" and yourself as being "just normal". This is a trick of the mind. Everyone is just normal in that sense. Very few have superhuman abilities.

    Besides, it's not like you're majoring in physics or anything. :tongue:
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  15. Apr 9, 2012 #14
    Few questions I forgot to ask: Why is it so important for you not to be special? Why do you feel uncomfortable on the notion that you might be special? Why do you feel so strongly about this that you rather give up something you like just to proof that you are ordinary?

    That's sound more psychological issue that we can help you. Forgive me for being blunt.

    You live for yourself, you do what your passion is and let the chips fall. You listen to everyone else, why don't you listen to yourself. Are you having doubt whether you like EE? To me, that's the first question that matters.
  16. Apr 9, 2012 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I agree with all the comments above..........

    Keep this in mind as well.....

    There are generally two different types of EE's that graduate from college.

    The first one actually learned something and knows what he is doing. This one studied an unbelievable amount of time in college and really embraced the subject. This one learns at work and goes on to have a prolific career.

    The second one got a paper degree and pretty much doesn't know his azz from a hole in the ground. This one studied as little as possible and just barely slid by in each class. This one is delivering pizzas within 6 months.

    Which one do you want to be?
  17. Apr 9, 2012 #16
    That's what I was referring to a lot of people get by in the typical state U and community colleges. You have to fail the class. That's why I am harsh on those type of schools. Some people actually think they learn something getting by in those schools. that's the problem of the public school sell out for political correctness, that they cannot make it too hard so students fail!!! The ODE class I enrolled in a community college had 4 equal weight exam and count only 3 best ones.....so you allow to fail one!!! Then 1 out of 15 question is "Who is the first president of United State?".......Believe me, I can't make this up. I can assure you a lot of the A student don't know much in ODE, I know because I was with them and listen to their questions. The questions were so easy, people are getting perfect score!! How can you get 100 in the exam?!!!

    Then I communicate with San Jose State on two different classes, EM and PDE and I studied according to their syllabus. Both are upper division class, they use Ulaby for EM and Asmar for PDE. Both are the easiest of all the text books. Then they still have problem cover the intended chapters, skip out the hardest part. Ulaby is a good book....for introduction of EM.....like a pre EM book. You don't learn EM from that one. I had to study Cheng's and Griffiths over again. In the PDE class, they skip all 3D PDE sections!!! Can you imagine that? SJSU is not supposed to be that bad, what happened? I hired two from SJSU, one graduated in BSEE, one was a MSEE candidate........it was a sad decision on my part.

    The kicker is I looked at the MSEE program of SJSU, they don't require any more EM study!!!! So any MSEE from SJSU only armed with the knowledge of Ulaby's book. I know they don't teach anymore as I even have their exams to look at. The book was only intended for a one semester class, they use it for a full year class and still not complete it. Also, no more extra math requirement. So even a MSEE from SJSU only have three calculus and ODE!!!!
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  18. Apr 9, 2012 #17


    User Avatar

    And, just to make it even more fun, that's the simple version, which doesn't account for viscosity or compressibility.

    (Isn't fluid mechanics great?)
  19. Apr 15, 2012 #18
    But i also didn't developed any other skill that i could improve in college either. I dont know anything about construction (so i shouldn't be a civil engineer in your view), mechanical things, law, drawing and so on.
  20. Apr 16, 2012 #19
    You do not need to have done electronics or programming before starting to study EE. You do not need to know anything about construction before starting to study civil engineering. Many people do not even realize they are interested in engineering until they are 20, 25, 30, or older.

    However, I believe *at some point* you do need to devote time outside school/work to an activity relating to your field of study. It could be learning a programming language in your spare time, working on hobby electronics, or just reading trade magazines. Not only will that help keep you passionate about your field, it will get you in the habit of lifelong learning, which is essential for a good engineer.

    So if you haven't yet done anything EE-related as a hobby/in your spare time, that's ok. There's always plenty of time to develop an interest. However, if you *completely lack interest* in doing anything technical/EE related on your own, outside of the minimum required for work/school.... that would suggest to me that maybe it's not the right field for you.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook