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

Not Sure What I Should Major In

  1. Oct 8, 2011 #1
    I'm debating primarily between mathematics and EE/ME. Although my parents said that they'd support whatever I want to do I've been telling (especially my father) them that I want to go into engineering although I enjoy mathematics more at this point. I think that they believe I won't be able to get a good job with a math degree and I'm having these doubts myself. I want to graduate with an interesting job and not be forced to work in finance, or be a programming monkey. I like the jobs that engineers get, they seem to be working on very interesting projects but the major itself seems a little boring and non-rigorous. I'm very confused at this point an don't really know what to chose and was hoping some of you can help we work through this.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hey Kevin.

    I can't really give you sound advice on what you should choose, since I think some experience with things like first year courses will probably be more beneficial in making a decision than some anonymous guys opinion on the internet, but I did want to point out a few things about mathematics courses in particular.

    Apart from pure math, there are applied mathematics disciplines as well as statistics. In particular, statistics requires the same kind of skills that an engineer requires: they need to be good communicators, they need to be able to analyze physical problems, and provide decent analysis for these problems to clients, and they also have to communicate their results in a way that clients can understand and make use of.

    As hinted above, the work can be diverse like engineering: you might be involved in experimental design of the physical design itself, or you might be analyzing the data to see if there is some effect like for an example an interaction effect between treatments.

    I think that there are similarities between engineering and things like statistics or applied mathematics type jobs, but regardless of what you end up picking, there will be boring parts in any of these.

    It might take you a while before you really narrow down the area you want to work in, and you might even have to change or do another degree before that happens as well.

    My suggestion to you is that if you are strongly considering engineering as well as mathematics, then if you have this kind of program, you should enter an engineering program with a flexible first year. If the program is like mine, you will do first year mathematics which should give you the prerequisites for doing your A-level statistics courses in your second year and then getting a statistics major or applied math major if you change your mind. You'll have to do all the other math prerequisites like the rest of the Calc sequence and Linear algebra, but you should have the prerequisites for those from your first year engineering math courses.
  4. Oct 8, 2011 #3

    This thread might give you an idea of EE branches that are most mathematical. The only problem with most engineering programs is that you have a very full schedule and that usually doesn't leave much room for other classes. I'm knee deep in my first "engineering" semester and my hopes of getting a physics or math minor quickly disappeared. I would say check out your curriculum at your school to see if the engineering path gives any flexibility because my school gives you only 2 free electives to choose from. The applied math major gives like 8-10 free electives that still goes toward the applied math degree. That is the appealing part for me, but your school might be different.
  5. Oct 8, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Pick a field of interest and enjoyment. Picking an unfulfilling field of study can sometimes reduce the enthusiasm or drive to excel.

    In math, is one considering pure or applied math, or consider both. Is it EE or ME, or both, as in electromechanics (generators, motors, power electronics, . . . ), or mechatronincs? There is plenty of mathematics involved in modeling and simulation of components, networks, power grids, . . . . , as well as in control theory, signal analysis/processing, . . . .

    An important area now is computational physics and its application to various fields of engineering and science.
  6. Oct 12, 2011 #5
    Pure mathematics. Don't get a job to earn money, get a job to do what you love!
    You only live once!
  7. Oct 12, 2011 #6
    If you are worried about getting a good paying job, study engineering. That is more likely to give you a better job, but of course nothing is garuanteed.

    Once you have your engineering degree and a decent job you can study mathematics in your free time. There are so many resources on the internet, including this website, that studying on your own is easier than ever.

    My feeling is if you are not already sure you want to study mathematics then don't bother. It is simply not worth your time and your parents money if you don't really love the subject. And btw, university maths is nothing like the stuff in school, even calculus.

    You don't need to decide right away between EE and ME because the 1st year, maybe first 2 years, are pretty much the same for all engineering courses. You can even take a few rigorous maths courses in your engineering degree.

    (This comes from a man with a bachelors in maths so I know a little bit about what I say about maths degrees and jobs.)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook