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Phd in Electrical Engineering?

  1. Nov 10, 2013 #1
    I'm a senior in high school and intend on double majoring in EE and mathematics starting in the fall of 2014. After undergraduate, I plan on either doing a master's and then a Phd or just going straight for a Phd after this. My main goal is to go into research in EE. Are there a lot of jobs for Research Electrical Engineers out there? Or should I just try and stick with a master's?
     
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  3. Nov 10, 2013 #2
    You are a long way off from having to make that decision, I think your time would be better served spending your undergraduate career figuring out what areas of EE are most interesting to you and learning as much about that area as possible. For all you know, you may not even want to be an EE after your first year. I initially started as a mechanical engineer with the hope of working in the automobile industry designing cars, I switched my major to nuclear engineering because I realized I was more interested in energy. So its no need to be planning graduate school or careers when you haven't even started undergraduate
     
  4. Nov 10, 2013 #3
    I understand. I just really like to plan ahead. Thanks for the input!
     
  5. Nov 10, 2013 #4
    I would like it if someone else were to shed some light on this forum topic because I feel like many of us younger students could relate to the planning ahead a little to far. Some of us already know where we want to go for grad school which is a little too hopeful of the future.
     
  6. Nov 10, 2013 #5

    ZapperZ

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    In a rather indirect way, a lot of people have responded to something similar if you look at this poll:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=667559

    If you try to plan way too far ahead, there's a very good chance that you probably will NOT end up where you envisioned. It is almost like weather forecasting. You can get a fairly good weather forecast for the next day. But the further you try to forecast, the more uncertain it becomes, and the less accurate your forecast will be. It is difficult to make graduate school/PhD decision when one is still in high school. There's a lot of stuff that can happen in between those two.

    Remember, life happens while you're making plans.

    BTW, one of the fields that PhD's in electrical engineering go into (if they do the appropriate specialization) is in accelerator physics.

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=410271

    Zz.
     
  7. Nov 10, 2013 #6
    That poll scares me.
     
  8. Nov 11, 2013 #7

    ZapperZ

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    It is the reality, and it forces you to open the blinders that you may have on.

    I've talked to many new college Freshmen who seem to think that they know exactly what they want to be, and then blindly ignored other things along the way that could actually improved their "employability", be in their chosen field, or in other fields. How the heck can one be so certain that far in advanced?

    And it isn't just a matter of time either. It is also a matter of "have you made the most informed decision considering that you haven't seen much yet?" kind of situation.

    It was why I decided to do that poll on here.

    Zz.
     
  9. Nov 11, 2013 #8
    It's just kind of scary to not know where I might be in 5 or 10 years.
     
  10. Nov 11, 2013 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    That's life, I'm afraid. None of us know that - this is a universal, whether you get a PhD or go down some other path.
     
  11. Nov 11, 2013 #10

    D H

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    Welcome to the adult world. Your life has been planned for you up until now. Now you're nearly an adult. What you do is *partially* up to you.

    The tighter you set your goals the less likely you are to achieve them. We regularly get young adults about to enter college who post that they are going to get a PhD in field X and become a leading researcher at the top university, worldwide, in that field. They would be happy with nothing less. There are so many things wrong with this point of view.

    One is that young people have a glamorized and unrealistic view of what researchers do. The reality is very different. What if you find, three years into a PhD program, that now that you know the reality of working in field X, you want nothing to do with it? This happens a lot more often than you would think. Question your motives. Look into the unglamorous as well as glamorous side of your supposed dream job. Every job has an unglamorous side, and the glamor that drew you to that field might not exist.

    Another problem is that the odds are so incredibly against this outcome. It is a recipe for an unhappy life. The odds are against someone with a PhD in a technical field getting a job at a university, period. Academia produces a lot more PhDs than are needed in academia itself. The remainder might get a job related to their research in government or industry. Sometimes. Others get jobs that are only peripherally related to their field of study. Don't enter a PhD program without a backup plan. That doesn't mean a PhD is worthless. It's worth quite a bit, both in monetary terms and in terms of better chances for an interesting job.

    Yet another problem is that field X might well be of lesser importance (and might not even exist) by the time the person gets a PhD. The world has completely changed since I graduated from college. There are technologies that came into existence after I left college and yet no longer exist today. The pace of change is even faster now than it was when I left school. Don't box yourself in. To be successful you need to find a balance between being an expert in some field and yet be able to jump from one field to another to another.
     
  12. Nov 11, 2013 #11

    donpacino

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    I am going to comment on the question of do you need a phd. I just got my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. My concentrations were computer engineering and controls engineering. I got into a leadership program. I am now getting my masters degree and working on R&D for a large defense company. You do not need a phd to get into research. Keep in mind my work is a little more industry/production based than what you physics majors would consider research.
     
  13. Nov 11, 2013 #12
    Thanks for the responses everybody. They've been helpful. If anyone has more advice for me, I would love to hear it. I guess I just need to worry about undergrad now and wait until the time comes to worry about grad.
     
  14. Nov 12, 2013 #13

    analogdesign

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    With all due respect Don, I suspect you are doing very little research and a lot of "advanced development", as in little R, big D.

    I work for a National Lab and even though I'm a researcher most of my work is in advanced development as well. There is very, very, very little pure research in EE outside of Universities. There is some but it is exceedingly rare. I've tried to write research-oriented grant proposals and I could practically hear the program officers laughing as they rejected them. My currently funded grant is advanced development. It will be publishable but that's not the same thing.

    When I worked in a "research group" at a large semiconductor manufacturer I was doing about 100% advanced r&D. It's the way the world has gone, like it or not. Even a lot of university research in academia is advanced development these days.
     
  15. Nov 12, 2013 #14

    analogdesign

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    To the OP: You really have no idea what you want yet, so a Ph.D. in EE may be just the ticket for your career goals or it may not. Don't worry about it yet and focus on doing as well as you can in undergrad to keep your options open.

    I'm a Ph.D. EE and I love my job. I jump out of bed every morning to get to work. It's amazing. I wish you the best and hope you can get as good a situation as I have someday. It's amazing to work on something interesting, fun, and that really matters. I think there is a lot of that in EE research/advanced development.
     
  16. Nov 13, 2013 #15
    If I might ask, what do you do as an EE Phd? I think I may not really be sure what an EE Phd does.
     
  17. Nov 13, 2013 #16

    ZapperZ

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    ... which sounds rather strange since you're asking if you should do a Masters/PhD in EE. I would probably start with asking this question first.

    It highly depends on the area of specialization. Earlier in the thread, I gave a link to jobs in accelerator physics. EE PhDs that specialize in RF fields, and design of RF structures and cavities can find jobs in accelerator physics, especially in designing accelerating structures, waveguides, RF power supplies, etc. A lot of the needed skills and expertise are normally beyond the standard undergraduate EE curriculum. Thus, the need for graduate degrees.

    Zz.
     
  18. Nov 13, 2013 #17
    I know how that sounds haha, but I had a general idea of what an EE PhD would do. I just wanted a more specific description.
     
  19. Nov 13, 2013 #18
    There is not really a general description because there really isn't any such thing as a general EE, there's loads of specalizations within the field.
     
  20. Nov 13, 2013 #19

    analogdesign

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    This is a good point. In general, I would say the day-to-day work of an EE Ph.D. isn't necessarily that much different from that of an MS engineer (unless you're a professor of course). My specialization is in Integrated Circuit Design and there are a lot of Ph.Ds in industry and academia in this area. Basically the Ph.D. lets you go really deep into a problem early on in your career. For me, that has helped me by giving me much more breadth than a lot of MS engineers. It's tough in industry to acquire breadth because it is much more efficient for the company if you focus on what you already know (they don't want to pay you to learn something new). However if you already have breadth, the companies like that because you can be more effective working on the higher level problems (like chip architecture and interfaces between analog and digital or digital and software) rather than focused block design).

    I'm only speaking about IC Design, of course, different areas are different, but that's my perspective.

    I feel like I'm a much better engineer personally because I got a Ph.D. For me the lost money was worth it. However, good MS-level engineers get to do essentially the same job I do, so it really depends. In a few years you'll have the experience you need to make that decision so for now just focus on doing your best.
     
  21. Nov 13, 2013 #20

    donpacino

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    You hit the nail on the head. I should have said r&D.

    I should have clarified what I meant for the OP. In my work I am given an open ended task to develop a solution for a problem. Many engineers are highly constrained by time and budget and are simply implementing a known solution. I have some liberty in the time and budget category, and work with problems that have unknown solutions
     
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