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Physics w/ Second Discipline?

  1. Jan 18, 2013 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm currently an undergraduate physics major with a physics concentration and electrical engineering (ECE) minor, but I'm considering switching to a second discipline concentration and ECE minor. I love both physics and ECE and almost have to fight myself to not just keep adding classes and semesters.

    I'm pretty sure at this point that I don't want a PhD or a career in academia, although that took a couple semesters to figure out. The reason why is largely due to the fact that I'm already 30, and I can't justify too many extra years of low income or else I'll never be able to retire. Instead I would like to pursue a masters in something along the lines of engineering physics, or possibly electrical engineering, and then find employment where the engineering is for physical applications. I intend to do this either directly after finishing my bachelors or part-time concurrent with a job, depending on opportunities that may present themselves, but at the same time I want to prepare myself as best as possible in the event that I don't do anything beyond the bachelors.

    I have a solid GPA, a solid resume, and a solid skill set. My prior work experience was in radio maintenance in the military for six years, followed by an engineering position at a large, reputable engineering company for three years. I also have a bachelors in business that I got part time during my military years. I'm not worried about finding a decent job or grad school when I'm done, but instead I want to optimize my degree plan so I have the best chance of finding a great job or grad school, while simultaneously justifying the trade-off for time spent.

    My questions are:

    a) Would you agree that if I'm not going to do a physics PhD, then going with the second discipline concentration is a good idea? It will result in my being able to complete the degree in at least one, if not two, less semesters than it would have if I'd stayed with the physics concentration; and it still gives me most all of the physics courses I'd need for engineering applications, or so I believe.

    b) I've looked through dozens of graduate schools in the engineering physics and electrical engineering departments, and it looks like I will be eligible to apply to most all of them with this plan; however, are there are parts of my plan that really scream "do it differently"? For example, would there be such massive benefit to a double major in ECE, that it would be worth the cost of 2-3 additional semesters to do it now, versus taking (likely fewer) catch-up courses after admission to grad school? Or is majoring with a second discipline concentration, which saves me a semester or two, going to look bad to grad schools?

    c) If I choose to not increase or decrease the number of semesters, and I went with the second discipline concentration and ECE minor, I'd actually have room to add a math minor as well, would that be worth it? Would extra ECE classes above and beyond the minor be worth it if I had room? Which would be better?

    BTW, all of my tuition/books/housing is paid for by the GI Bill if that makes any difference to your answers, though it's not enough to cover all of my expenses.

    Thanks for the help everyone!
  2. jcsd
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