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Physics vs. Electrical Engineering

  1. Apr 16, 2005 #1
    Physics vs. Electrical Engineering... :(

    ****This is a long post****

    I hate having to make this decision, but I think I have to. When I first wanted to get into physics (I love physics, it comes so naturally to me, and it's very interesting), I didn't know what I'd be getting myself into. 4 years for a bachelors, and then grad school is so far away it doesn't matter, but I figured it'd be another 4 years. When I found out it was ~7 years, it was like a kick to the groin. 7 of them. And now I think I'll have to spend 5 years on my bachelors instead of 4 because I'm transferring from a CC to a Uni, and there aren't like any physics classes at the CC.

    So anyway, I don't feel like spending 12 years in school, with very little free** time (I want to become an amateur fighter sometime in the future... =/). I mean, I'd finally be able to start my life at the age of 30???

    Sooooo that's where Electrical Engineering comes in. Last quarter we did electricity and magentism in my physics class, and even though it hurt my brain to understand all of it, I fell in love with those subjects. I put together a coil gun for the presentation in the class and I loved it. I think I have OCD, because I noticed I would start tinkering with the coil gun, and when I decided to take a break, four hours would have gone by and I didn't even notice. So that works out perfectly. :) But, is that what a real electrical engineer would do? I'm familiar with the very basics of what I'd need to know, but what exactly would I do for a living? How long would getting a higher degree (Masters?, or do you skip to PH.D like in physics?) take?

    Basically, I'm having trouble deciding between doing something I love but using up the best years of my life to do it, or go for 2nd place so I can have some fun...

    ** If Grad school isn't as bad as people make it out to be, and you DO get some free time, then I think I'll go for physics.

    Thanks to anybody who actually read through all of this post. :)

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2005 #2
    Ok, maybe people have trouble understanding all my garble, so I'll make a bulleted list to make things easier:

    • I love physics
    • Total school time will probably be ~12 years, and I don't like that.
    • Is there any free time in Grad school?
    • I also like electrical engineering
    • Have no idea what an electrical engineer would actually do for a living
    • How much does grad school help for an electrical engineer?

    There. :)

  4. Apr 17, 2005 #3


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    if you think physics hurts your brain, what do you think amateur fighting will do? go watch "raging bull" with jake lamotta. or recall mohammed ali lighting the olympic torch, compared to his younger self. he was the most alert, articulate, hard to hit fighter on the planet. you are going to get hit a lot more than he did. fun??
  5. Apr 17, 2005 #4
    Fighting is fun as hell. And for now I only do grappling (judo, wrestling, etc), so no head banging (at least not on purpose :p)

    In both cases, it makes my head hurt, but when I finally understand what's going on it's just the best feeling in the world (well... 2nd best ;)), and when I win, it's amazing. Not that that happens much. :(

    I just need to know how much free time I'd get in grad school. Would there be enough time to train a few times a week (like 6 hours a week)?

    And, what the hell does an electrical engineer do?

  6. Apr 17, 2005 #5
    I'm assuming your taking calc based physics II, the same class I'm taking this semester and not E&M, a separate class that will rot your brain and steal your soul according to most people I've talked to.

    If this is the case, nothing you did this semester has anything at all to do with what you will do as an electrical engineer. Most of the EE's I know are paper pushers. I know one who is actually a designer, but it's all CAD, he doesn't work directly with anything he designs. He freely admits he wouldn't be able to fix half the stuff that I can, I know how to build, trouble shoot, and fix stuff because I've made it my business to learn how to do it.

    I would say, if you want to be a physics major, you need to be beyond dedicated. You need the same kind of dedication that it takes to get into and survive medical school. It doesn't sound like you have that right now.

    The great thing about almost any engineering degree, it opens a LOT of doors for you.

    Here's the thing, I used to compete in martial arts, with out trying to brag, I was good, but I was nowhere near great. I'm also good at pool at billiards, again, good, but not great. As time went by, it became clear to me that I needed to direct my energies towards one goal. I could chase the pipe dream of a pro athlete, maybe you make it, odds are, you won't. Or, I could choose more of a sure thing, electrical engineer. EE almost guarantees a comfortable life style for me.

    You need to make a decision, if you really want to fight, you need to focus your efforts in that direction, you don't stand a chance if your not dedicated to it. If your only looking at it as a hobby, then you need to ignore it for now and concentrate on physics or engineering.

    When I decided to go back to school, I stopped playing pool 5 nights a week, I stopped training in MA 3 nights a week. Yes I know that's 8 days in a week, but you can do 2 things on Sunday if you plan it right :rofl:. I now only play on 1 pool league and train 1 night per week.
  7. Apr 17, 2005 #6
    Wow, you're 0/3 buddy.

    I'm not taking calc-based physics. We don't do any calculus yet. We did E&M last quarter, but without calculus. It was titled: Physics 202: Electricity and Magnetism.

    I'm not trying to be a pro athlete. I just want enough time so I can train regularly, and maybe compete every now and then. I love training & fighting, and I do it to unwind. No way would I be able to hang at the pro level. And most pro fighters make like $300 a fight or something, so they need a job anyway.

    I don't even know where dedication fits the equation. I have no idea what I want to do right now, so how can I be dedicated to it?

    My entire problem is that I'd have to ignore training (the only real hobby that I have) in order to get my degree. For 7+ years? I don't think my brain would handle that. I love physics, but if it means not having any fun for 7+ years and destroying any social skills I have, then screw it.

    Are you in grad school or undergrad? Because I can still make it 3 nights a week to MA (Yes, I have a part time job too), and I have a 3.74GPA (for now :p)

  8. Apr 17, 2005 #7
    Are you taking a second semester introductory physics course that focuses on Electricity & Magnetism? Or are you taking an upper-level phyics E&M course? They are not the same class. If you've done no calculus yet in a real E&M course, you're just not paying attention. In an E&M class (the upper level physics class), there will be A LOT of calculus.
  9. Apr 17, 2005 #8
    Give up the ameteur fighter thing...let me be honest with you here. Pretty much every successful fighter was decided on doing that by the time they got to thinking about what to do in college. Most started knowing around age 9 or 10. Yes, there are exceptions, but don't bank on being an exception.
  10. Apr 17, 2005 #9
    At this point, since you are undecided as to what to do, my advice would be to not close any doors. If you do an undergraduate in physics, you can still get an Masters in EE. Plus, if you find that physics is your cup of tea, you can go on to get that PhD in physics. On the other hand, if you do your undergraduate in EE, you will in all likelihood have closed the door on a future degree in physics.

    One additional note: if you do decide to major in physics, you will most likeley have to take some technical electives. I don't know how your University works, but my physics department let me take technical electives from the EE department. If that is the case for you, I would try to take some EE courses to see if you like that sort of thing.

    To sum up:
    1) Don't close any doors before you have to
    2) Take the time you have to explore your interests
  11. Apr 17, 2005 #10
    I don't see any problem with the training, myself. It sounds like it's a purely recreational hobby.

    Poop-Loops, as I mentioned in another thread, the amount of free time you have in grad school is dependent completely on your advisor, as well as other factors. After your first year or two of classes, I think it's reasonable to spend 40-60 hours a week on your research. If you spend much less than that, then your advisor will probably be pretty unhappy, and you will also graduate much more slowly. However, there are advisors out there who are taskmasters and want more than 40-60 hours a week. It's just like having a boss in real life - some are easy-going, and some are not.

    So after you take away those 40-60 hours, then how you spend the rest of your time is completely dependent on you. Maybe you'll have to teach - that could add another 10-20 hours a week of work. Maybe you'll have a girlfriend, or wife and kids. That will take up your time. How much sleep do you need? How much partying will you do? How efficiently do you work? Etc. Etc. Every person's situation will be unique. There's no simple answer as to whether you'll have time in grad school to pursue your particular interests and hobbies.

    Also - if you really ambitious about an academic career, then you should be spending more than 40-60 hours a week on your research, simply reading and learning on your own in your spare time. Keep in mind that in academics, just as in almost any other career, the more singleminded focus you have on your work, the farther you'll get and the better you'll do. The system does not reward work-life balance. No one's going to promote you because of your hobbies (unless it's golf).
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2005
  12. Apr 17, 2005 #11
    IF you do Electricial Engineering you will have a easier and more profitable career than with the poverty associaited with physics. IF you dont like being poor and dont love physics enough to living in dispear, poverty and at time doubting why you are hear and are you wasting you life than physics is not for you and please goto Engineering. I sometimes wish I went into EE I made the decision to go into Physics and always thinking I stayed in engineering.
  13. Apr 17, 2005 #12
    Wow, thanks for the replies.

    I'd say it's an introductory course into E&M. Only calculus involved was in finding electric flux through gauss's law, and surprise! It was always the integral of dA. :rolleyes: So I don't count that as calculus. Also same thing for Ampere's law. And I don't pay attention either way. :p

    I don't want to be some olympic fighter or anything. Just train hard, and every now and then compete. I don't even have to compete. As long as I get some training & sparring in, I'll be fine. ;)

    You see, I didn't know you could get a BS in physics and then switch to engineering. This makes it a lot easier for me. :)

    Finally someone who understands. I don't plan on making myself famous or making any money from this. I just like doing it. 40-60 hours bare minimum is a LOT of time... but... since it's something I like doing, it barely counts as "work", right right?? :) :(

    I don't plan to make a lot of money in physics. Is it really that hard to find a job, though?

  14. Apr 17, 2005 #13
    I had to make the decision this semester and I decided to go EE. Main reason is EE can take a lot of physics classes too! At my univ, EE includes plasma and nuclear fusion, photonics, and electromagnetic fields/waves. Also EE can find jobs easier and probably higher pay too. I think for grad school, you can get into physics if you change your mind. So I would recommend EE if you want both hands-on (engineering) and theoretical work.
  15. Apr 17, 2005 #14
    Yeah, I'm real big on hands on (please, no jokes :p) stuff. I LOVE to tinker and play around (really, no jokes) with gadgets and stuff. I spent a good 20 or so hours total trying to get my coil gun to work, and I loved every minute of it. Except when I forgot to discharge the capacitors and got shocked. :(

  16. Apr 18, 2005 #15
    ^hmmm, then i think EE would be a viable choice as well.

    Personally, i play guitar and would hope to expand in that field as well. But i only intend to do that, perhaps after i get my Phd.
  17. Apr 18, 2005 #16
    What's the average length of time to get a masters in EE (after you already have a bachelors in physics)? The way my CC is set up, getting an AS in physics is real easy. So, I'll get an AS in EE and pick up a physics AS along the way. I might have to take a class or two over the summer, but no biggy.

  18. Apr 18, 2005 #17
    How much more would it take to get a double major?

    Where do you train, poop-loops? I work 24 hours a week, am an EE student, plus I train about 3 nights a week(BJJ and MMA). It is doable.

    Don't ditch your training. If you plan to compete, though, it will be tough.
  19. Apr 18, 2005 #18
    I train BJJ at http://lotusclubjiujitsu.com/ under Washington, Auburn. I work from 15-25 hours a week usually. Depending on homework and work work I can train twice, maybe three times a week. I really don't want to quit training. Ever since I got intermediate in TKD, all I've been thinking about is martial arts.

    Well, if you can do it, I can do it. ;)

  20. Apr 18, 2005 #19
    Your social life is gonna take a hit, though.

    Something to think about.
  21. Apr 18, 2005 #20
    Might be a good idea to read some of the previous posts carefully before commenting. As he said - it's recreational.

    (This was in response to someone else's deleted post which I didn't quote).
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2005
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