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Should I Go for Dual Math/Engineering Degrees?

  1. Oct 22, 2012 #1
    In an earlier post (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=640804) I remarked on how I was wondering if I should double major in math and physics so I could would be well prepared for a Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics. I also expounded on a couple of (admittedly naive) physical conjectures I've been mulling over for awhile, to mixed reactions. :P

    However, there were many good points made by some of the posters on that thread. One of the best, in my opinion, concerned the ultimate 'employability' of someone whose Ph.D. was in theoretical physics, and suggested that I pick something more practical, like engineering.

    One of my main concerns with that approach, however, is that my B.S. would be in engineering, making it much harder for me to persue graduate studies in math and/or physics.

    No longer! Today, I found an in-state university with a dual-degree engineering program: Costal Carolina University (http://kingfish.coastal.edu/physics/dual_degree/index.html). CCU has teamed up with Clemson University (one of the, if not the, premiere engineering-centric universities in the Southeastern U.S.) In this program, I could get a math or physics B.S. at CSC and a B.S. (along with the opportunity for an accelerated M.S.) in any one of five engineering disciplines at Clemson. I, of course, would choose electrical engineering, because I have always had great fascination/aptitude for electrical and electronic things.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2012 #2


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    From reading the site, this is what I gathered. You're not really finishing a math degree, but basically taking the prereqs for most engineering degrees at a one university with the eventual intent to transfer to another university. So what it seems to me is that this is the course of events they expect:

    Pick Major -> third semester announce intent for dual program -> after 2nd year apply to transfer to Clemson -> go to Clemson switch major to respective engineering program.-> finish school with only engineering major.

    If that sounds good to you,then why not. It's a good way to save money knocking out prereqs that you know will transfer. If you're intent is to receive a solid knowledge of upper level mathematics classes, probably not going to happen though.
  4. Oct 22, 2012 #3
    Since you're only in college algebra as of now and still haven't taken a college level physics , you're still far from seeing real mathematics and engineering. I would recommend you finish all prereq's and choose a major in the end. A double major in your case may take quite a bit longer than usual. That is, maybe 1-1.5 years more. Fortunately, doing EE gets a lot of applied *real* math done along the way so the excess of time may be even.

    Personally, I'm an EE major considering double majoring in math. There's just too many interesting math courses even if most are not directly helpful to EE at all. (yolo)
  5. Oct 22, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the feedback! Wasn't expecting it so quickly.

    Anyway, it's actually a dual degree program. You don't switch majors--you carry both majors and get two separate B.S. degrees, one from each school. That's why it's so appealing to me.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
  6. Oct 22, 2012 #5
    I'm not really worried about how much longer it will take. I'll will have just turned 25 when I get my A.S., after all. :P

    Yeah, I was considering doing the physics B.S., but the simple fact for me is that, conceptually, physics comes naturally to me, even so-called unintuitive concepts. It's the math I've got a lot of work to do on. That's a major reason I'm thinking of doing the math B.S. instead. If I've got a solid math background, I can learn the physics through independent study.

    It would actually be the best of both worlds for me, because I like technical things as well, especially with electronics and the like. Plus, I'm developing an affinity for mathematics on its own merits. Also, if I didn't like engineering, I could always go for an M.M. in math and teach at the junior college level.

    Here's a clearer description of the program: http://www.coastal.edu/academics/science/departments/math/degrees/majors/engineering.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Oct 22, 2012 #6
    In my experience getting a mathematics degree and engineering degree will require a minimum of an extra semester to graduate. When I was a sophomore, I too had aspirations to get a BS in Aerospace Engineering and Mathematics. I had taken the initial classes and thought I would be Ok. A year later I learned that I would need a minimum of 8 extra classes to satisfy both degrees. Had I came into school with some AP credits I may have been able to knock it down to 5. I think it is doable if you feel that graduating a semester late is worth the cost and time. To me, my passion for aerospace engineering outweighed my desire to learn more mathematics.
  8. Oct 22, 2012 #7
    Well, it does say on the site that the program is a 3/2 year deal. Spend three years at CCU and two at Clemson (plus 1.5 more if I go for the accelerated M.S. as well). So I kinda know exactly what I would be getting myself into.
  9. Oct 23, 2012 #8
    @Aero. Very true. It really varies on how much credit you are going into the university that makes the difference. After all, coursework tends to follow a chain to prerequisites. I.e, calc 1, then 2, then 3, then whatever comes after depending on universities.

    @Falsevacuum. At my univ, it is also a dual degree. But doing the degree requires extra coursework outside of either EE and math from me. Fortunately, there is an option to just do the major coursework in math and not get the second degree here. That way, I graduate on time and learn what I want to.
  10. Oct 23, 2012 #9
    From what I can tell, the program I'm looking to get into is a bit more streamlined than that. Of course, I have a friend who's an undergraduate engineering student at Clemson. I'm gonna shoot him an email, asking if he knows anyone who's actually gone through this 'dual education' program.

    An aside: my grammar was horrendous last night! *facepalm*
  11. Oct 23, 2012 #10
    Wow that sounds awesome! With a dual degree like that I would be shocked if you did not find work. Good luck
  12. Oct 23, 2012 #11


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    I would take a proofs-based math course before committing to the double major. Many people find their fascination with mathematics ends after the standard calculus sequence.

    You might also try working through a book like Spivak. If you don't enjoy proving theorems, you're going to have a difficult time finishing a degree in mathematics. Don't write anything in stone yet; it's likely going to change as you progress through your studies. Best wishes.
  13. Oct 23, 2012 #12
    Unless of course, the OP is going for an applied math program. Either way, there will be proofs involved every so often. I believe all such programs require 1-3 proof based courses anyways.
  14. Oct 23, 2012 #13
    I'm an EE major right now and I planned my first year to be a double physics and EE major. After taking some more EE classes I quickly found out the workload associated with them. The EE classes aren't too difficult in terms of concepts but are very time-consuming with projects, labs, and homework. Also, unless I took 18-20 credits a semester I would have to add another year to complete a double major, so that's a no go for me. The thing I absolutely despise about engineering classes is the lack of theory, it feels like the same problem over and over without ever discussing the concepts. I would highly recommend taking an engineering class, a physics, a math early on to see how much you like them.

    If I could start over I would double major in CS and physics. The CS department at my school is much more open ended in terms of electives. I would be able to count 5-6 physics class towards a CS major as opposed to my EE major counting 2-3... CS also seems to have a nice blend of theory and application. Good luck on your decisions.

    Klungo: lol @ yolo
  15. Oct 23, 2012 #14
    The OP has already started working out of Spivak a bit. ;-) I actually have all of his major books, right on up through his Comprehensive Introduction to Differential Geometry. I also have dabbled a bit into Apostol. I absolutely can't stand books like Stewart, however. His expositional style just grates me the wrong way. As far as standard 'modern' treatments go, I like Thomas the best.

    Besides geometrical visualization, doing proofs is the *only* thing about math that I like. I've never liked algebraic manipulation for it's own sake. That's one of the big reasons I thought I didn't like math when I was younger. . . Well, that and I get bored listening to lectures about algebraic manipulation for it's own sake.

    I actually did a proof recently, based off of a problem in one of my other books (I've got a lot of ebooks). Now, to be honest, the result I was proving was on the trivial side, but it was still something that doesn't even get covered in the tech school/community college curriculum. At least where I'm from, it doesn't. I typed it up (to practice with LaTeX more than anything) and took it to my instructor to see what he thought--turns out I was right.

    There is one thing about the way mathematicians do proofs that aggravates me, however--they're so dogmatic about "covering their tracks", i.e. they want the proof to look like that's the way it came out of there head to begin with. Why can't they show their blind alleys and such? It would prove (pun intended) most instructive to people like me who want to figure out both how and *why* things work as they do, as long as halfway decent explanations were interspersed of the process they used to get to the final result.
  16. Oct 24, 2012 #15


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    Well, you seem to be in a good place, then. If you can keep the motivation, you'll do well.

    Filling-in-the-blanks will help build mathematical maturity. Consider such opportunities implicit homework problems. :wink:
  17. Oct 24, 2012 #16


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    On a side note, last time I was in Afghanistan, I worked through all the problems in the 4th edition of Spivak (not much to do on a hill...) so if you ever want some help, feel free to ask, I still got the journals.
  18. Oct 24, 2012 #17
    How much difference is there between the 4th and 3rd editions, 'cause the 3rd is the one I have.

    Also, thanks for the offer! :-)
  19. Oct 24, 2012 #18


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    As far as I can tell. not much. Mostly error corrections and an updated reference.
  20. Oct 24, 2012 #19
    I completely agree. This sole reason was why my first analysis teacher assigned a couple problems in each problem set that he absolutely knew we would not be able to solve with our current level of knowledge. He wanted us to learn how to deal with deadends and then at least uncover possible ways to arrive at a proof. I remember him saying for every thing that he accomplished as a professional mathematician would never be heard of because it was usually the wrong way of doing things, and after doing things wrong enough he eventually discovered the right ways of doing it. Find a good teacher and you'll get that side of math. It's also nice to see incredibly smart people admit their failures.
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