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Should I become an electrical engineer?

  1. Aug 9, 2013 #1
    Good evening to the PF members!
    I am -once again for those who remember my thread a couple months ago- confused about what to study after high school. I applied for electrical engineering, because even though my passion is physics, seeing the bad economical situation worsening, I decided I should go into something more "applied" like engineering.
    However, people are telling me all the time that I should've become a doctor, that they are the only profession with which you get a job easily. Well, I saw their courses, and they didn't excite me, and neither does the prospect of me working in a hospital. So I suppose I should rule that out.
    But nowdays, I learn about many electrical engineers in my country that make a living from things that they didn't study, for example, one guy makes applications for the apple store (no idea what it's called), and another EEer has a job as a truck driver (!).
    The point I'm trying to make, is does an EE diploma offer many job opportunities? Because if that's not the case, I'm feeling silly I didn't go into physics. :P

    My "interests" are mainly physics and chemistry, I'm not that big a fan of maths, but I manage them.
    If you're still reading this, you are very patient, cogratulations! :biggrin:
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2013 #2
    Don't become a doctor if you're not going to enjoy it. Seriously. If you like science, dislike medicine, and care a fair bit about having good career prospects, then engineering seems like a no-brainer to me. You're probably not going to be successful in medicine if you hate it.

    An engineering degree (I'm assuming when you say "diploma" you mean something equivalent to a 4-year degree) will definitely be good in terms of career opportunities. At least where I live, most of the people who get an engineering degree and then end up doing something unrelated to engineering did that because they wanted to, not because they had trouble finding a job.

    If you're concerned about job opportunities, one good thing is to get as much work experience as you can before you graduate. Try to get summer jobs at engineering companies. Even if you're just doing boring stuff for not very much pay, it's still looks better on a resume than being a waiter or working at a grocery store. If your school has an internship or co-op program (where you take a couple semesters off to work as a "baby engineer") definitely do it. If you do that kind of stuff and keep your marks up, you shouldn't have much trouble finding an engineering job you're interested in. Obviously it's not guaranteed, but I sincerely doubt that a medical degree is any more of a guaranteed job offer.

    Just another note, I'm not sure why you say that developing apps for the apple store isn't engineering. It's probably more like software engineering, but app development is certainly within the realm of electrical/computer/software engineering (which are often lumped together because they're definitely related). Remember that not all apps are silly little games for people to play when they're bored. Off the top of my head, take a look at these guys (http://www.calgaryscientific.com/). They make biomedical imaging software for iPad. If that doesn't count as "engineering", I don't know what does...

    You have to understand that "electrical engineer" can mean a HUGE range of things. I'm an electrical engineering intern right now, and I'm doing a quite a lot of physics (electromagnetics specifically) because that's what I like to do. Some people are doing control systems, others are designing circuits, and others are writing software. When you're in engineering school, you're learning particular topics for sure, but even more important is the fact that you're learning how to problem-solve. That lets you do a wide range of things that you may or may not have learned in school. It all depends on what you're interested in and decide to pursue.
  4. Aug 10, 2013 #3


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    If your interests truly lie in the sciences, I'd say majoring in EE just because you're worried about getting a job would be a mistake. It takes a certain type of person to be an engineer, and if you're not that type, which most people aren't, you will probably find you don't have a very satisfying career after a short time. I majored in electrical engineering, and I noted about 5 years after we had graduated, most of my peers had moved on from their engineering jobs. There was only a small minority who really loved doing engineering work. This, of course, is totally anecdotal, but it's an observation I thought you might find interesting while you mull over your future.

    That said, like thegreenlaser has noted, engineering covers a wide variety of jobs, so it's quite possible you'll find a career you do like. At the least, you can probably find a job that pays well that you can do for a few years while you figure out what you really want to do.

    The reason I think you should think again about majoring in EE is simply because engineering, by its nature, is fairly limited from a science perspective. It's science-based for sure, but engineering focuses on building things. In our everyday experience, things like quantum mechanics and relativity don't really matter from a practical standpoint, so they largely don't matter in engineering. If you're interested in those kinds of topics, just be aware as an EE major, you'll see them fairly superficially while you'll learn things like linear systems analysis and control systems, which can be interesting in their own right, but which you might find kinda uninteresting. It just seems like a waste of an opportunity to study subjects you're really interested in just because you're worried about getting a job after you graduate.
  5. Aug 14, 2013 #4
    If you really want to do physics, then do physics. The point of majoring in a hard science is to prove you have technical chops for an employer. Sure, they probably hire mostly engineers, but if you have the skills and want to work at a place, I'm sure they could use you if you had a physics degree. There's no reason the work I'm doing right now at my job couldn't be done by a physics guy instead of an EE guy.

    I'm an EE, and I kind of wish I did physics instead (sort of hard to tell). I'm definitely more interested in the theory behind the systems and stuff, and it's relating back to pure physics. I took some extra math and physics courses for that as a result, but it's not the same.

    If you want to major in physics, then do that. If you also want a job, then try to minor in like computer science, EE, or ME, math, or all 4.

    If I could do school over again, I'd probably major in physics and get those 4 minors. Not recommending this, but I think it's a fantastic balance between theory and practical chops (most of which you will get on the job anyway, even as an engineering major...).

    EDIT: Also, if you want to prove you to an employee you have technical chops regardless of what your resume says, Try to actually build something like *free software* so that a potential employer can download it and try and it's just 100% undeniable proof of your ability. Or build a physical thing like a quadcopter and youtube it so they can watch it go. You probably won't feel like you have time to do this and you'll probably be right, but keep in mind it is, along with routinely high grades in your (non gen-ed) classes, something to shoot for. I guarantee you they'd hire a physics major with proven ability from prior projects over an engineering major without them any day.

    Also, programming is something engineers have to do all the time whether they think they will or not. Even more fantastic is that the math prerequisites are next to none, so you can start learning today! Go have a blast!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
  6. Aug 14, 2013 #5
    That's not the way Greek unis work, there are no majors or minors (no idea what these are), you just get into a school, usually, there is a "direction" which you can take, for example, the EE course in the uni I'm going to go has energy, electronics&computers, communications, these three "directions", which give you different knowledge, but the way things work here, is messed up. I could choose the energy direction, but still have the same "working rights" that the communication person does, meaning I could get hired somewhere like a cellphone company let's say!
    Also, it's really f---ed up, but my mathematician informed me, and by searching it, turns out he's right, that getting a MSc in another field here doesn't give you any additional "working rights", so let's say, a physicist doing an MSc in computer science isn't considered qualified to work someplace an informatian would etc.
    So it feels like this decision is very tough, I was almost certain I'd head into physics, because there are so many types of studies you can do afterwards, like teaching, or computer science, or eletronics etc etc, but knowing that info about working rights, it feels like going for physics is... restrictive... ?

    EDIT: didn't see all the comments, I only got to see the last one from my e-mail notification, first
    Actually, here all engineering courses are 5 years, but the last year consists mostly of writing a report (not sure of the word in english, but they say you write a small book basically) about some topic of your studies, so the lessons are mostly 4 years.

    And yes, that would be another problem, we really don't get much information about the different professions. Anyway, I had the chance to find and talk to an EE professor, he said that he does use physics a lot, but the difference is the approach, that the formulas that engineers just use without bothering about their "proof", the physicists have to proove them before they use them, or something along these lines!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
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