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Programs Physics Major, EE Minor

  1. Jul 21, 2017 #1
    I've been struggling for a long time, trying to decide between Physics and Electrical Engineering. My practical side says I should major in EE, but I'm not sure anymore. I was browsing the catalog of my university the other day and noticed they'd added an option to minor in EE. This was never an option before.

    I've already taken a Circuits Class, an Electronics Class, a Circuits/Electronics lab, Engineering Math, and the EE version of E&M. Of these classes, my favorite was by far the E&M course. Circuits are okay but not very exciting. My Electronics class was also okay. I think the field has some potential to interest me, but I didn't care for the way the class was taught.

    I've also taken Calculus-based intro level Mechanics and E&M. My grades have all been As in these classes, except for the lab class, in which I got a B (didn't prepare adequately for the midterm and got a D on it).

    For the minor, I only have to take two more classes. I was thinking Digital Logic and Signals and Systems. This would give me a basic grounding in pretty much every major EE field except Power Systems, which doesn't sound at all like what I want to do anyways.

    What I really want to do is major in Physics and minor in EE. My last year of just Engineering courses was okay, but I've really missed Physics. I also feel like it's a better fit for me intellectually. I'm much more of a theory person than a practical applications person, but I'm worried that I'll limit my job prospects if I go with Physics. On the other hand, a lot of the typical EE jobs don't sound that interesting to me. I want something more advanced and theoretical, which probably means grad school. It's likely that I would do my grad school in EE rather than physics or that I'd find a more applied field in physics. It's not that I don't like applications. I just feel like physics might give me the opportunity to find more interesting applications.

    Further complicating matters is the fact that I'm a non-traditional student. I'm currently 27, and I will be 29 by the time I graduate. I worry that I'll be too old to go the grad school route, especially since it would likely be a PhD. On the other hand, I have no plans of starting a family any time soon, so I have more financial freedom than a lot of non-traditional students. But I'm not sure I want to be 34 or 35 and still in school (though being a professor is always something that has appealed to me. Unfortunately, that's very hard these days.)

    So now I'm wondering if the EE minor would give me enough background in the field that I could get a job in EE if I decide I don't want to go the grad school route. Or should I simply finish my EE major and study Physics on my own time?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2017 #2


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    Physics is really vast. From strings to semiconductors, its all physics. You can major in solid state physics with enough experimental classes and at the end you'll be able to get jobs that have elements from both physics and (electrical) engineering and its really up to you which part you want to emphasize more.
  4. Jul 23, 2017 #3
    Fwiw, you don't need a minor in EE to get into grad school for EE. 1/3 of the EE graduate students in my school were physics majors. As long as you take an electronics course a lot of schools will let you come in for a masters and for your first year let you take undergrad courses. Get some Solid State or Condensed Matter research experience and you'll be surprised how many schools will want you after you apply.
  5. Jul 23, 2017 #4
    At this point, I only need two more classes for the minor, so it's probably worth it to get those courses in. My biggest concern is money. Since I got a previous degree in Economics (which I ended up hating), I couldn't get any financial aid for my current degree (apart from loans). That has me feeling the pressure to make good money as soon as possible, and it makes me doubtful about pursuing a masters because most masters do not receive funding.
  6. Jul 23, 2017 #5
    Lol, where did you hear that most masters don't receive funding? The opposite is true. If you don't get an offer for tuition waiving and a stipend it's basically just the school politely denying you. There's very few Engineering grads at my school without a stipend and no tuition.
  7. Jul 23, 2017 #6
    The schools I'm looking at give financial assistance for the PhD, but not for the masters, and there's no way I could afford the tuition.
  8. Jul 23, 2017 #7
    Find a school that will pay you? Or are you stuck at your location?
  9. Jul 23, 2017 #8
    Yeah, I am stuck. I have to be nearby so that I can take care of my aging parents. That makes me think that maybe I should just focus on finishing my EE degree and study physics and other topics on my own time. Intellectually, I keep coming back to the idea of majoring in physics, but I don't know if that's a desire to actually go into the field or if it's just intellectual curiosity. Ultimately, I can probably find something within EE that will be intellectually stimulating. I can still have the option of pursuing grad school, but I'd like to know I have the credentials to get a good career even if I don't go that route.
  10. Jul 23, 2017 #9
    Dang that bites dude. Physics does still give you a lot of skills to get a job in industry, assuming you have some supplementary stuff. Namely programming and electronics, both things you've probably become quite familiar with. Given your situation, I'd argue EE is better suited to your needs overall, but if you decided to stay with Physics (and maybe take more EE classes than the minor requires), you're basically in the same boat regardless. Especially if you can get in on some research with EE, Physics, or CS professors.
  11. Jul 23, 2017 #10
    Finish physics, finish your minor while at the same time start doing research with the EE professors and/or get an internship in electrical engineering are probably your best options.
  12. Jul 24, 2017 #11
    Actually, I'm currently an EE major. What I'm considering now is dropping that to a minor and pursuing the physics major instead.

    It's a tough decision. I know I can get through the rest of the EE curriculum, but I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy. It also seems like most of the job opportunities involve aspects of EE I don't care for as much. But then there's the issue of job opportunities in physics, and I don't want to sabotage my career.
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