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Physics/computer science/electrical engineering

  1. Jul 16, 2006 #1
    Hi guys! I was doing some thinking on what my degree plans are going to be and I stumbled across a plan that I like. Anyone have any comments? Thanks.

    Also I'm wondering about the BS - Physics and Computer Science. I am assuming it is just as respected as if I had gotten the plain BS-Physics?

    Current plan:
    Bachelor of Science - Computer Engineering and Computer Science
    Master of Science - Electrical Engineering
    Possibly minor in physics or math
    Take a graduate course in physics as elective

    Possible plan (double major):
    Bachelor of Science - Electrical Engineering
    Bachelor of Science - Physics and Computer Science
    Master of Science - Electrical Engineering
    No minors
    Take up to several grad physics courses

    Pros of going with possible plan:
    Option of applying to PhD in any of Physics, EE, or CS
    Opportunity for taking more grad classes in physics as undergrad
    Get to take more interesting courses in EE and Physics than currently able
    Already completed almost all requirements for computer science

    Extra units - about $6,000-$9,000 more in tuition out of pocket
    Less flexibility - Absolutely no open spots for free electives
    Heavier workload - more classes per semester
    Have to go through a few extra boring & dull intro classes instead of interesting challenging major classes.
    I have to pass a foreign language test at a 3rd semester level, or else take 3 semesters of foreign language. Taking the classes is entirely out of the question - I would have to pass the test.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2006 #2
    Maybe the CS people will protest, but I think EE is a better bet than CS. It is harder, yes, but it allows more flexiblity later. You can both program and design circuits. You can do both in one project if you are an EE. With CS, you are pretty well stuck with programming. In the job market we have these days, flexibility is a good thing. Frankly if I had to hire a programmer and one had an EE degree and one had a CS degree, I'd hire the EE, but then I work closer to the hardware than a lot of people.

    The down side is that EE is quite a bit harder.
  4. Jul 17, 2006 #3
    I have nearly all the computer science requirements done anyway, for both the computer engineering/computer science degree and the physics/computer science degree. So it's just a matter of choosing between electrical engineering+physics vs. computer engineering+whatever EE classes I need to prepare for MSEE.

    I guess the thing I'm interested in knowing, is if the BS Physics/Computer Science is worth getting. If it's not as good as a plain BS Physics then I don't know...
  5. Jul 17, 2006 #4
    I agree with interested_learner...I think Physics + EE gives you a LOT of flexibility, not even for the job but in academics too...you can do theoretical physics courses to keep up your interests and do EE for a practical touch...if you specialize in solid state physics and EE then you have a huge bonus over pure EE or pure solid state people (I think so, but I could be wrong...) because you know how things work and you know how to use them too.

    As for programming, I think EE people do a lot of applied programming too--you can't work on robotics, DSP kits, etc without knowing how to program...its just that EE people don't usually do programming just for the heck of it, it has some relevance in interfacing or hardware.

    EDIT: But you say you have already done CS-related stuff, so go for physics if you can and if you want to.
  6. Jul 17, 2006 #5
    Good decision, go for EE rather than CS as EE people can do all (programming,circuit designing,electric works in railway,electricity board,control system,instrumentation in industries etc).
  7. Jul 18, 2006 #6
    Prince, I think he's already in a CS program.

    Oh did I mention that Physics and CS have some overlapping mathematical courses in some places (Hilbert spaces, functional analysis, difference equations, etc.). If your real interest is in Physics then Physics-EE or Physics-CSE are both good for you :approve:
  8. Jul 18, 2006 #7


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    That's ridiculous... CS is much more than programming. It's a very customizable major. I've only taken four courses whose objectives were specifically programming (and two of those were optional for me). There's an upper level CS elective here in robotics where you work with a programmable chip in VHDL. And do not forget the mandatory CS computer architecture course, or courses depending on the student's interest.

    There is also a difference between knowing how to "program" and knowing sound software engineering practices, design patterns, and algorithm analysis which an EE doesn't learn much of. Writing a small tool is nothing like writing a complete software package of a few hundred thousand lines--not just a question of magnitude, the latter requires good software engineering skills to do right.

    Also if you're going to claim EE is harder, you should back that up, because I've taken a few rather challenging CS courses.

    Finally, CS allows you to do more than immediately get a commercial job. A great deal of it of it is theory. It's a science in addition to a trade.
  9. Jul 18, 2006 #8
    Unfortunately, without the math requirements and a few other hard science classes that are usually required for an engineering degree, a CS graduate is usually thought of as a code monkey rather then a possible project manager (CS+business major) or a software designer(CE major). Is it fair? Probably not, but reality isn't always fair. This comes straight from a good friend of mine who has worked for Ford as a programmer for 12 years and from a lot of CS majors that I know that are having or had a very hard time finding their first programming job.

    I couldn't agree more, as an EE major, I can do some programming in VB.net, C++, C, assembly, and Java, but I would never say that I could do it well. I can write simple programs to accomplish simple goals, but they will be crude and slow compared to what my CS friends could come up with. At the same time, if I go to Ford looking for a programming job with no experience, my EE major will put me over CS majors with no experience. This is straight from a hiring manager at Ford that I had dinner with at my buddies house.

    I honestly couldn't say how a challenging CS course compares to calc III, diff EQ, and Linear algebra, but no matter what the class was called, people outside the CS world will probably be more impressed by the sound of the classes that an engineering major has to take. As I understand it, may CS programs now require similar math equipments to engineering programs, but it will take a few years before that knowledge filters through to those that do the hiring.

    If you don't have a knack for something, your not going to be very good at it. I'm sure I could get a ME degree by putting in the same effort that I'm putting into my EE degree. But that doesn't mean I'm going to be any better at building things out of wood. Wood is not my friend, I just don't have the knack for woodworking. If you have a knack for programming (I don't) you will do well in a CS program, but I would agree with interested_learner that if you want to be a programmer, a CE or EE major will make it easier to get your foot in the door in today's market.

    Agreed, unfortunately many employers don't see how much a CS grad could offer in any other capacity then programming.
  10. Jul 18, 2006 #9


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    "Without the math requirements"? At my school EE requires less math than CS. CS majors here are required to take discrete math, algorithms, calculus III (which strangely EE majors are not required to take here), linear algebra, and at least one additional upper level (either 400s level or DiffEq's) math course. Theory of computation is another math course (in the CS dept) that is classified a "semi-required," and additional upper-level math courses such as Combinatorics and Graph Theory are taught within the department. The additional required upper-level technical electives can all be fulfilled by math courses. A math major with computing concentration here actually can take only a proper subset of the CS courses. Right now I am 5 technical courses away from a CS degree (3 of them math), but if I changed my major to math with computing concentration, this would be 3 technical courses.

    Also, the average CS major straight out of college who gets a job in his industry makes slightly more than the average EE major who does the same.
  11. Jul 18, 2006 #10


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    Most EE programs require more math classes than do most CS programs.

    At Virginia Tech, as an EE, I had to take Cal I-III, Vector Geometry, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and two semesters of Discrete Math.

    Salary.com lists the following base salaries for the San Jose, CA area:

    $60,931 Programmer I
    $65,215 Electrical Engineer I


    $50,746 Programmer I
    $54,314 Electrical Engineer I

    - Warren
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2006
  12. Jul 18, 2006 #11
    LOL, yea, I could waste all of my technical electives and get very close to a double major EE/math, but most CS and engineering majors would rather enjoy their last year at school:rofl: .

    I'm glad your program requires such a rigorous math component, 5 years ago, most CS programs didn't. Many today still don't. Programs like yours will start to turn the tide in how employers think about CS grads, but it won't happen overnight.

    If I sound bitter about CS it's because I have a lot of friends that graduated with CS degrees thinking they were going to be able to, if nothing else, easily walk into basic programming jobs after graduating only to find jobs of that nature asking for EE or CE grads or being shipped overseas. A couple are still working at low paying non programming jobs as they watch their once current skills fall more and more out of date. However, I attribute their failure more to a lack of networking and effort then their degrees. IOW, they would not have good jobs no matter what their degree was in.

    The bottom line for me is, I know a lot of CS grads looking for work, not as many EE's. I've talked to people that do the hiring at some large companies and they tell me they would rather hire an engineer and teach him/her how to program then hire a CS grad. This is local to my area, your mileage may vary.
  13. Jul 18, 2006 #12


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    Well, CS departments originally grew out of EE and math departments, so I would suspect it has always had a fair amount of math. Many of my professors, especially the tenured ones who graduated in the 1970s or before, have their original degrees in applied math.

    Electrical Engineer I may be a good job but it must be a bit harder to get than programmer so it doesn't impact the salary figures as much. [Edit: also, Programmer I states that it "may require an associate's degree and 0-3 years of experience" whereas EE I states that it requires a bachelor's and 0-2 years of experience. So a CS graduate with a bachelor's will probably be looking at a somewhat higher figure than the average Programmer I] http://www.studentsreview.com/salary_by_major.php3 for example shows the starting salary to be a bit higher for CS majors, though the final salary is a bit lower, and that is consistent with a couple other charts of that type which I have read. Overall, the salaries are very comparable, enough so that individual variation of skills and interests probably makes a lot more difference than grouping by major.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2006
  14. Jul 26, 2006 #13
    EE syllabus is mainly the application of mathematics in electrical & electronics,where as CS people need to study mathematics as separate papers,but their application is less when compares to EE.

    CS people deals with programming languages,EE people too can specialize in programming after the course,but CS people's can't specialize in Electrical & Electronics Field as firms do not prefer CS people for maintenance of their Electrical & Electronic gadgets & networks.
  15. Jul 26, 2006 #14
    EE majors at my school must either take a signal processing course which includes matlab programming (with no prior programming prerequisite), or a computer architecture course which includes assembly language programming (which has C programming or similar as prerequisite), as an absolute minimum requirement. so it cannot be avoided really.

    Also, if/when I do the BSEE I will try to take as many EE theory classes, such as linear systems, transform theory, random processes, and discrete mathematics (yes, EE's do need discrete math as well) just because they mesh with my interests best.

    While I could do electrophysics and laser laboratory to fulfill my remaining EE specialization requirements, and that would make most sense when double-majoring with physics, I'll just do the Digital System Design track classes, just because I was so far down that road that it's easiest to just wrap it up there and take the rest as free electives.
  16. Jul 26, 2006 #15
    I really enjoyed reading both arguments and both were compelling, yet i am going to stick with electrical. Still, this discussion i found to be very informative.
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