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Optical engineering

  1. Mar 22, 2014 #1
    I have been looking at a few universities I plan on attending and I have noticed some offer an "optical engineering" major. This was a bit intriguing, and reading descriptions and some of the classes that these majors take interested me a bit.

    Who here has experience in actual optical engineering? Which field would you say it is most like? (At UAH for example it is in the EE department and a few EE classes). Is the job market good for optical engineers?

    I've been having trouble finding some information about it, a quick search on here yielded no substantial results, BLS has no data on "optical engineering". Or perhaps is this just a subfield of computer or electrical engineering or something? Also, University of Rochester offers both a degree in Optical Engineering and Optics. How would the career outlook for both of these be, and what are the general differences of the two?
     
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  3. Mar 22, 2014 #2

    wukunlin

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    I think optical engineering is some what open to interpretation to the universities that put together the major. We'll have to look at the specific school you are considering.

    My major is Optoelectronics and in some universities they will regard it as "Optical Engineering." Still I need to see the course planner of the school you are looking for me to know if we are on the same page.
     
  4. Mar 22, 2014 #3
  5. Mar 22, 2014 #4

    wukunlin

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    They actually look pretty similar to what I did:
    http://www.science.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/subjects-and-specialisations/subjects-and-specialisations-at-undergraduate-level/optoelectronics.html [Broken]

    From what I see, optical engineering is more to do with optical communication systems so you will get to learn things like signal processing, fibre optic properties and other waveguides. Typically they will first teach you the more common electrical counter parts (signals through coaxial cables, antennas etc) and they move on to the optics, hence they are commonly as a specialization within electrical engineering departments.

    The optics degrees seem to focus on EM wave propagation in free space. My guess is that it is more to do with visible light and things like illumination, beam shaping, and maybe imaging.

    As for jobs, well, imo with most STEM degrees it mainly comes down to how to present yourself. I actually just handed in my MSc thesis last month, so I am still in a giving-myself-a-break state. Some of my friends (they started working after their bachelor's degree) got graduate positions in a local medical instrument company (they need people who can design devices with optical components). Some others got research position for the military. I know a guy who's a few years above got a position as a "civil engineer" but I didn't ask him what exactly he does...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Mar 22, 2014 #5
    That sounds fairly interesting. I'm really debating on whether or not I was to pursue physics or a more "pratical" field in terms of job employment but this seems to be the best of both worlds probably.
     
  7. Mar 22, 2014 #6

    wukunlin

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    I typically tell new student to do whatever they enjoy but learn how to sell themselves when they graduate. Do something like an internship during summer break is always good if heading away from academia is a possibility
     
  8. Mar 24, 2014 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    My PhD is from UAH (Physics, with emphasis on Optics- there was no distinct program at the time). The job market can be good, most of the jobs are defense related (remote sensing) and telecommunications. I am happy with my UAH experience.
     
  9. Mar 24, 2014 #8

    Drakkith

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  10. Apr 1, 2014 #9
    I'd like to bump this thread to see if anyone else has something to say about optic!
     
  11. Apr 2, 2014 #10
    Every time I read about feats of optical engineering, it seems they're reinventing many of the same things we have been doing at the radio and microwave spectrum, but they call it something else.

    Maxwell's laws still apply. A solid degree in Electrical Engineering with a few minor courses in materials and nanotechnology ought to serve you quite well.
     
  12. Apr 2, 2014 #11

    Drakkith

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    In many cases that's true. The frequency of the optical spectrum makes it extremely difficult to do things that simple electronics can do in the RF spectrum.
     
  13. Apr 2, 2014 #12
    That has always been the case with RF research. New materials solve that problem. In the case of optics, we're talking about engineered materials, dielectrics (though they may not call them that), molecular films, and semiconductors.

    Like I said, this is a reincarnation of RF engineering, but for research funding purposes they have to put their own spin on things. I don't begrudge them getting funded, so I really don't mind what they're doing --as long as it doesn't get used to confound and confuse the very engineers who need to use it.
     
  14. Apr 17, 2014 #13
    The University of Washington allows one to pursue optics within the electrical engineering department. EE students are required to take three fundamental courses and beyond that they simply need to satisfy at least one of about a dozen different concentrations (power electronics, controls, embedded, analog, etc). Right now the department is in the process of implementing an optics/photonics concentration which will be an available path beginning next fall. Students in this concentration will be required to take basic optics and EM, fiber optics, semiconductor devices, semiconductor optoelectronics, an optics capstone, and perhaps a course on semiconductor manufacturing.

    I really enjoyed learning about physics so I was happy to pursue this direction; these courses are all basically physics courses and you get plenty of exposure to quantum mechanics. It also provides a nice foundation if you wish to pursue optics in graduate school where there is a lot of interesting research.

    In this field I can happily rely on my knowledge of physics rather than program all day (about 90% of the jobs advertised to EE students here are strictly software).
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
  15. Apr 18, 2014 #14

    Dr Transport

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    I think that Rose-Hulman is the best optical engineering department in the country. I have had interactions with the top 5, UAH, Rochester, Arizona, CREOL and Rose-Hulman.

    http://www.rose-hulman.edu/academics/academic-departments/physics-optical-engineering.aspx

    I too got my PhD from UAH, good school, but not great, the graduate optical engineering program doesn't require a quantum mechanical course in optical properties of solids, as my adviser said, "they teach nothing but smoke and mirrors".
     
  16. Apr 18, 2014 #15

    berkeman

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