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Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering

  1. Dec 3, 2014 #1
    Is it true that a typical Electrical Engineering major involves much more math than other engineering majors? And that a typical Physics major involves much, much more math than all engineering majors (including Electrical Engineering)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2014 #2


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    No, and No.

    You have been told a pack of lies; do not believe them.
  4. Dec 3, 2014 #3
    I did both EE and Physics and I would have to say yes to both questions. Might have been my school, but EE is light on the math compared to a physics degree IME. Mechanical and Aerospace can involve alot of theory (fluid dynamics, orbital mechanics); then again so can EE (electromagnetics, wavelets, etc). The rigour of an engineering degree isn't in the theory, it's in building stuff and making it work, in that sense a typical engineering degree is more difficult than a typical physics degree IMO.
  5. Dec 3, 2014 #4
    What is the truth?
  6. Dec 3, 2014 #5


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    The truth is that you can find as much mathematics as you want in any of these fields. They all lend themselves to mathematical treatment, and consequently, if you are mathematically inclined, you will find the math.

    There is a tendency to try to sway students into particular areas of study by suggesting that certain areas have more prestige than others (this is nonsense!). For those who enjoy math, telling them that there is more math in field X than there is in field Y is a way to try to turn them toward X and away from Y. This is an unfortunate manipulation of young people who do not know enough about any of these fields to make wise choices. This happened to me many years ago, and it cost me about 3 semesters of college before I got back to where I belonged.

    The same manipulation is done with the word "research" and again, it is unfortunate.

    The key thing is to recognize the difference between engineering and science. The word "science" comes from a Latin root that means "knowledge" and it is about the pursuit of new knowledge, things not previously known to mankind. In contrast, engineering is about creating new and useful systems and machines for mankind. Thus, the question to ask yourself is, "Do you want to pursue knowledge for its own sake, or do you want to develop useful things for people?"

    Many people have the false impression that with a physics degree they can just slide over and practice engineering. In actual fact, it does not work that way. The difference in education is real, so don't plan to study one thing but do the other in your later work life.
  7. Dec 3, 2014 #6
    There IS generally more math in 'pure' physics than there is in engineering. The areas of engineering where there is more theory (fluid dynamics, orbital mechanics, electromagnetics, etc) is borrowed from physics and math. It is not a false impression, depending on the skills of the physics major they can and DO cross over and practice engineering. I have several friends and acquaintances who have made the switch from math to electrical engineering, from physics to nuclear engineering, from physics to systems engineering, and so on and so forth. It in actual fact DOES work that way; you will not escape one if you do the other. Individual mileage varies.
  8. Dec 3, 2014 #7
    I believe you have misunderstood my question. I am not referring to a field, in and of itself, but the classes you take in university before you get your degree.
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