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Questions from an Aspiring EE

  1. Jan 13, 2012 #1
    What To Expect in EE

    Hey guys and gals.

    I'm brand new to the forum and I thought I'd post a beginners question. (If this is the wrong place please let me know)

    Basically I love physics and engineering, which is why I was enrolled in Engineering Physics for my first two semesters. What I slowly learned is that EP is geared toward Grad School, which isn't a goal of mine right now. So I switched to EE, because I love electricity and electronics. Basically what I have to ask is, does EE incorporate a lot of physics? I think I'd really enjoy it if it does.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. Jan 13, 2012 #3
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    You switched before researching?
    Yes, EE can involve a lot of physics, but it can also involve very little physics (programming); it is a broad field.

    At the risk of sounding rude, I think you will have an interesting stay in EE if you make a lot of major decisions prior to researching them...
  5. Jan 13, 2012 #4
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    Yes and no. If you go into digital hardware design, you don't need much physics, but if you are going to the analog and RF, then there are more physics............say math.

    But you should study more physics anyway. Subject like Electrodynamics is very important for RF design. Of cause, mechanics are not as useful for EE.
  6. Jan 13, 2012 #5
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    I have done my research. I know EE is what I want to do, I was just wondering about Physics content because it isn't clear from my University's flowchart.
  7. Jan 13, 2012 #6
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    Oh I see. Well I think I'm more inclined to analog anyways. I never was much for programming. Thanks for the reply!
  8. Jan 13, 2012 #7
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    Yes, it is all based on physics and mathematics as they relate to applications our human minds can think up (application of the physics and math).

    If you graduate from EE, you can find jobs that are purely in physics, especially in R&D companies or at universities.

    Then you can go to the other side of the subject and become a field applications engineer or marketing person or business manager, all with the same degree, which I'm guessing you don't have much interest in at the moment.

    In my short time as an EE, I have done the normal EE stuff(design electronics) and also worked on hydroacoustics physics problems and now I'm learning and using a lot of radiological physics. My new job has actually been more about radiation physics than electronics so far.

    So as an EE you are always trying to learn and understand old,current, and new physics concepts and its a never ending battle to keep up with the technology and applications. Your interests should direct where your career goes, and so if your interests are in physics, you will go in that direction as an EE.
  9. Jan 13, 2012 #8
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    That sounds really cool. That's more along the lines of something I'd like to do! Thanks for an insightful response!
  10. Jan 13, 2012 #9
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    I would not say mechanics are not useful for a lot of reasons. Electronics are in lots of mechanics devices like cars and robotics, then you have control theory that employs electrical engineering ideas onto mechanical systems and models. Then we have MEMS technology emerging that is very much mechanics and electronics combined: consider acceleromters, electrets, and just about all other sensors that convert mechanical energy into electrical signals.

    Besides this, you see in the deeper sense the ties between units of mechanics and electrodynamics and realize they are all related, and so it is always useful to have another persepective on the problems you're looking at. For example, the KVL equation derived from Maxwell's equations agrees with the same principles of thermodynamics and other closed mechanical systems of conservation of energy. Another example is in electric motors, you know that your current and voltage product are equal to the RPMs and torque product of the motor, related by some efficiency factor.
  11. Jan 13, 2012 #10
    Also, and I've spoken with an adviser about this and they didn't offer much advice, my school offers an accelerated M.S in EE for just one extra year. Do you think this would increase employability enough to make it worthwhile?
  12. Jan 13, 2012 #11
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    I said not as useful, not useless. But in real life, they do have mechanical engineer to do those. Those you mentioned you really learn from the basic requirement of physics for EE.
    There are very very few jobs that require EE that know mechanical engineering. I worked for many companies in the last 30 years including very small company that everything goes. People don't cross over, mostly just require familiar with mechanical assembly.
    Of cause anything you studied is useful, just question of cost effectiveness. There are so many fields in EE that it is impossible to study them all, it would be more useful to spend the time studying more fields in EE rather than something that you really don't use. For example, you do analog, it would be a real plus to learn FPGA programming or embedded design. You'd open yourself up to much more opportunity for jobs. You have to pick your battle. This is real life.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  13. Jan 13, 2012 #12

    jim hardy

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    2018 Award

    most people think power side of EE is boring.

    if you enjoy machinery, consider it.

    i worked in a power plant alongside scores of mechanical engineers and got to use the Thermo, Statics , Dynamics, and Fluid Flow that i had wondered why we EE's had to take.
    My two most often referred to reference books were my Physics book (the brown cover Sears and Zemansky) and Mark's Mechanical Engineer's Handbook. (Get a 1940's edition of latter .)

    Where else can you get paid to tinker with a million-horsepower steam engine?

    old jim
  14. Jan 17, 2012 #13
    Re: What To Expect in EE

    You're right, but my point to him was that if he goes for an EE, he can still find a job and career that uses physics, including mechanics, heavily if he wants to go that path. Of course he could go the more traditional path and stick to strictly EE, but he has the option as an EE to branch out into mechanics or other physics very easily.
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