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Interesting story

  1. Oct 12, 2005 #1
    Well, I'm in high school. I want to be a physcist but arent physcist engineers? I want to be able to use calculus and mathematics to design individuls computer parts, especially the chip CPU for portable gaming systems. Like the PSP, a marvel of technology

    I'm a senior in high school. Today a guy from estrella colleage came and told us about his community college he is representing. He said they offer calculus and free tutoring which will be helpful to me. Now this is what is interesting..

    he said he wanted to be an engineer becaues thats where the big money is. He said he had college algebra level. From there he went into an engineering class. Immediately, he told me, it wasn't for him. He said it was very hard and it took ADVANCED CALCULUS to do. Is this true? It not only takes calculus but higher calculus? How high though? Tensors, vectors, gradients, ??

    My grandpa was an engineer and I hope to be one too.

    Some advice please/ I heard thta also it is very hard and you have to love your job immensly to survive being one
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2005 #2


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    Well first off all they should not have let him take the class because he does not have the prerequisites. His idea of advanced calc may just be some basic calc 1 stuff. I just started my second year of computer engineering, and almost all of my courses use algebra. Only a few times did we do some calculus. We didnt even use integration to find work in my physics class.

    If they were, then why would we need to have them both?

    I'm sure I'm taking these(in order):
    Calculus 1 & 2
    Linear Algebra
    Differential Equations

    I'll have to find out if I'll have to take any more.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2005
  4. Oct 12, 2005 #3


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    I took three semesters of calculus, one semester of differential equations, one semester of linear algebra, and about 1 semester of numerical methods broken up into several different computer classes in undergraduate.
  5. Oct 12, 2005 #4


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    Ok, there are different interpretations on the same word.

    I've seen the calculus class that would be required of a business major, if you talk to them, its like twice as bad as statistics and they will complain for a long time about that. Compared to calculus required to get through the eng/physics its about the first 4 weeks of the semester of the first of 3 classes! Same word, VERY different classes and levels of depth.

    There are 2yr schools, 4yr schools, and then 4yr schools that have higher standards. Be very careful about taking prerequisities at a different school, everyone may tell you credits transfer but it isn't so simple. I went from one 4yr state school to a 4yr state school in a neighboring state with the same accreditations and while the credits would transfer, the school of engineering would not allow them to transfer towards the degree program because they deemed the calculus to not be adequate. So my general credit number was ok, but to the eng dept I was nearly a freshmen and nearly had to start over by retaking calculus and phyisics. Talk to people who try to do a community college and apply the credits to a higher 4yr degree and it will be a fairly common story, talk to a business degree major and it won't. So its a question of who's standards are things measured by, and be very careful to listen to admissions or counselors who are not part of the eng dept.

    You need to look at the big picture, but also the end game. Name a company that you want to work for like AMD or Intel or Nvidia. What are the job requirements of the person who is working on the team that builds the chip? What school offers a degree program like that (RIT in NY used to claim this as a specialty in their brochures) and then what requirements and cost would it take to get there?

    You'll also want to examine the side-requirements that could assist in doing the job, like speaking a dialect or two of an asian langauge since so many manufacturing plants are located in that region. A friend's wife spent 4 years working at Seagate flying overseas maybe 40% of the time to quality control the manufacture of their platters before she was able to move up into a position on the design team.

    You're going to spend a ton of money on your education, don't take it lightly. Go to a coffee shop and you're likely to find a lot of college grads there. Nothing wrong with the job or the people, but not a great use of money or education.

    If you want big easy money, consider pharmacy since the supply/demand has driven the price up and the big wave of students filtering through the programs now is going to cash in - the price may come back down but its like the tech rush of the 90s. Another is bio-medicine, and there are a few select more fields.

    You'd be surprised how much money a plumber or other tradesperson can make in a large metro area. Don't let just the money be the reason, the road to engineering isn't easy enough to follow to keep that as a motivation. I got sidetracked into computer software and in retrospect can't think of many engineering positions I'd find as interesting as software other than industrial product design where there would always be something new.

    This is not your father's or grandfather's engineering anymore, its a vastly different job market and college program. Keep an open mind with a healthy amount of skepticism and research the details as best you can.
  6. Oct 13, 2005 #5
    Thanks for another great post of yours. More than engineering, I want to be a commercial pilot. What does this take? I know I have to get my private pilots license. But I heard not everyone can be a commercial pilot even after their private license, is this true? And are there any jobs open to me in being a pilot or co pilot in a small plane?

    Thank you
  7. Oct 13, 2005 #6


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    A co-pilot is a pilot, just a junior one. You don't need a private pilot's license, though it does help. You learn to fly in a flight school designed for aspiring commercial pilots. I'm not sure what the prerequisites are, but I expect you need a degree, though it may not matter what kind (in the military, it doesn't). It would definitely help for the degree to be in engineering, though, as pilots do need to learn some aerodynamics.

    Engineering requires math - so what math are you in (what year are you) and how are you doing? Are you on schedule to take calculus I in high school?
  8. Oct 13, 2005 #7
    I am at level Algegra I - Algebra II. No, I am in a senior year in high school and there is, unfortunately, no way I can take anymore math now. I have done all the required credits, and I am in a charter school with a 1 teacher for all my classes (yes, 1 teacher) who isn't qualified in teaching (he doesnt have to be a qualified teacher to teach in a charter school). Luckily, he does have some background on some math because he wanted to be a mathematician but didnt becaues imagionary numbers confused him. So he has helped me on factoring.

    Factoring is essenial for higher math and I have to take the AIMS math and I hae failed it simply becaues I dont know the material and I need a teacher to help me learn it
  9. Oct 13, 2005 #8
    When I did have a teacher in math, I got straight A's. And now even though I have forgot the basics, I was a math tutor once and got a B in that class . I also was very good in science and had 112 percent and had the highest grade in my class out of all 6 periods, (about 118 students). I also once had a 3.8 GPA and before that my grades were bad so I got picked as student in the month, got my name in the newspaper, as well as recognition, and a certification from the rotary club.

    However, I was never good at atoms and formulas with atoms. I had a C on that part.
  10. Oct 13, 2005 #9


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    Get to college... then you'll wonder how you thought you could build a PSP on your own.
  11. Oct 13, 2005 #10
    When I was in the charter school, Russ_walters, my grades dropped signiifcantly because 50% of your grade was based on your abssents. And I was absent often, I always had good grades in school, however the reason I went to an easier charter school was becaues I am a very slow learner (Algebra took me a LONG TIME to comprehend, how to balance the equations, but now I udnerstand it and am a master of it) and it took me 3 hours + to finish my homework. At the charter school I didnt have homework

    In the charter school because i was absent so much I actually had an A in economics, I had a B on it on my report card, but by the end of economics I had a D because I was absent so much. The teacher said I was a very good student and deserved a better grade but the absents brought it down significantly

    I never went below a 3.0 GPA, however.
  12. Oct 13, 2005 #11
    Peng, I honestly dont know what I want to do yet. I always thought it would great to learn physiscs and know as much as albert einstein did, but I also want to be a pilot and learn how to fly. Everytime I got on a plane I would always ask the pilot how it worked and i reckon i loved flyign more than anyone else there

    I didnt get to travel much. And before 9/11 they would let me go into the cockpit and showed me the gauge which you have to level the plane to the horizon line to keep it straight

    that was so cool
  13. Oct 13, 2005 #12
    I could join a flight club but they make you run miles a day

    and I am 215 lbs 5'8'' and overweight, i cant run period
  14. Oct 13, 2005 #13
    In retrospect, I have taken a SIGNIFICANT loss for the easy route. Afterall, I could've gone to another charter school called Superior school, which wouldve been better. They have homework and teachers that know how to teach. Sometimes I wish I went to that school instead, alas, I cant do much about it now
  15. Oct 19, 2005 #14

    Tom Mattson

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    10 char limit
  16. Oct 19, 2005 #15


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    I concur with Tom! :)
  17. Oct 19, 2005 #16


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    .... does the school district have an ego problem?
  18. Oct 20, 2005 #17


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    Ok I agree with you that physicists aren't engineers, but at least they have alot in common and it's not so difficult for an engineer to change his field in the future and study physics, and vice versa. For example you get your BS in EE and then study physics for your MS and PhD, am I right? (of course it's not easy at all, IMO)
  19. Oct 20, 2005 #18


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    Actually there are many Physicists holding engineering positions. So in that sense the distinction can be a bit blurry. BUT the course work for the 2 fields is completely different, what a student is expected to carry away is also very different. The way engineers and physicists approach problems can be very different. While it is common for a physicists can get a job as an engineer it is nearly unheard of to go the other way, engineers do not get jobs as a physicist.

    Sure an engineer can be accepted to grad school for a PhD program in physics. You may well find that you will have take quite a few undergrad physics courses before you could take the grad level courses. Also most engineers would have a lot of math to do to get up to speed.
  20. Oct 21, 2005 #19


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    Thanks. :smile: You've mentioned good points.
  21. Oct 21, 2005 #20

    Tom Mattson

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    They don't have all that much in common. I think that it would be easier for a physics graduate to get into engineering than it would be for an engineering graduate to get into physics.

    Yes, that's right. I am one of those people who got a BS in engineering and then went on to grad school in physics. I wouldn't advise anyone to do it. I was able to make up all of the missed physics, and some of the missed math. But I was still at a great disadvantage by not having enough math.
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