Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Starting over?

  1. Nov 21, 2007 #1
    I have a rather unique situation and need some advice from people who are more familiar with engineering than my friends. :) I'll give you the questions first, and if you want to read the background info, you can continue on after that...

    I need to transfer. I'm a EE student stuck in a program that doesn't offer the options I need. I want to avoid being set back too much in my course work, and I need a school that is affordable for an independent student. Here's what I have so far:

    ~15 credits of Humanities/Social Science electives (can be 18 easily)
    Calc I/II/III, Diff Eq, Engineering Math
    Physics I/II
    Chem I
    Intro to Electrical Networks
    Technical Writing
    Intro. Programming in C
    Intro to Electronic Circuits*
    Electrical/Electronic Circuits Lab*
    Electromag. Principles*
    Signals & Systems I (Summer 2008)
    * Planned Spring 2008

    My GPA on completed courses is 4.0, but I'm not the mad genius that implies. :) Basically, my goal is to complete the degree as soon as possible, but still be able to study what interests me (more the CompE side of EE...or the hardware side of CompE). Any good schools I should consider? Any advice for dealing with the frustration of being set back and having to almost start over again? Any advice for being able to afford all of this? I need to pay for the apartment, basic costs of living, etc. I'm disqualified from many scholarships and the Pell Grant because of my previous bachelor's degree (don't get me started on that!). I'll leave it at that for now...this is getting to be a novel. :)

    Background info

    For those with nothing better to do.... :)

    I have a BA in Biblical Studies from an unaccredited school. That doesn't mean that it was a slacker college...most of my classes there have been more difficult than similar electives I've taken at the University or Community College. But it does mean that my credits won't transfer to many places. Not to worry...I didn't take too many courses that you would be able to transfer to engineering anyways. Possibly having to take English 101 again after 4 years of writing research papers kinda gets me going, but I'm still determined to get around that somehow. :)

    After graduation, I decided that it was time to pursue my true interest: Electrical Engineering. It's really what I've always wanted to do...I just lost direction somewhere along the way. So I started in the only local program that seemed logical, since it was comparatively cheap and let me work to pay my bills during the day and take classes at night.

    Unfortunately, after a couple years of work, I have come to find out that the program I'm in sucks. I desperately want to focus on the electronics side of EE (almost CompE, but without as much programming), but the school I'm in doesn't offer ANY courses that lean that way. I get to choose 4...yes...4 electives. The rest of the program is mapped out as required courses...in areas that I really don't care about. I want to design electronic circuits, not power stations.

    So after 2.5 years of work, I've decided I need to get out...if for no other reason than to stay sane and be able to pursue my interests. The problem is that due to the weird requirements, a lot of the credits I've taken don't transfer so nicely to other schools. Most places, I'm looking at 3 years or so, which is kinda hard to swallow after already putting in 2.5 (soon 3). But I've determined that I only get one chance to do this...and I'm going to do it right. I'll be 29 or 30 by the time I get out of this mess, but at least I'll finally be happy.

    Washington University in St. Louis seems to offer the best transfer for me, but the school is expensive and very tough to get into. Plus, they don't really focus on EE too much...something like 14 EE grads last year. But I'm still keeping the option open. Everywhere else has such a different program that I'll likely lose a lot of ground. I'm just trying to minimize that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2007 #2
    Here are some random thoughts:

    At this point, I would try to not worry about being left behind a few years or semesters, and just work through it. You will make lots of money after your B.S. in EE/CE... then you can get a job and have your company pay for your Masters, if you'd like.

    You have a lot of the core courses completed for an EE degree (you may have to take more CS/CE courses, as I only see one basic programming class). You may have to take a heavier course load if you want to do CE, as it requires classes such as Discrete Math, Data Structures and Operating Systems.

    You can attend a state-school that is ABET-accredited... it's fairly cheaper and I know employers still recruit at these schools. I go to a state-school and the major engineering companies come down here and recruit (IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, etc...). You just need to make sure it is accredited, otherwise you will have no chance.

    Your 4.0 GPA thus far in your EE courses is a BIG PLUS. You can start applying for internships or perhaps co-ops. A co-op is a program where you go to school and work for an engineering company at the same time. You may be required to put in 10 to 20 hours a week for work, so it's a nice little job for paying your expenses, but also gaining experience at the same time. But for a co-op, you need to be in a place where major companies are located.
  4. Nov 21, 2007 #3
    ^ I do plan on having to take more CS/CE classes...especially those that are hardware-focused. I'm sure I'll have to pick up a low-level language such as ASM, but it looks like several schools want you to take high-level languages as well (Java, especially).

    I also plan on doing an internship/co-op as soon as possible, although I feel that I don't have enough EE experience to do that yet. Going somewhere where those opportunities are available is a must for me.

    Does anyone have any experience with the program at UIUC? I know it's one of the top EE/CE programs in the country...but what are the internship opportunities like in such a small city?
  5. Nov 21, 2007 #4

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Even if you end up in a career involving hardware, you're going to be writing a lot of software, because the way the design process works is to simulate everything before physically building it. This is why all the CompE programs involve learning high-level languages like C and Java.

    ASM isn't a single language, but rather a category of languages. Each different architecture has a different assembly language, although there are some general principles which carry across different architectures.

    You'll also learn a "hardware description language" like VHDL or Verilog...these are used to design logic circuits.

    Most co-op programs are designed for people to enter them immediately after freshman year, so don't worry about a lack of experience. They don't expect you to know everything yet. I think you would have no problem getting hired as a co-op.
  6. Nov 21, 2007 #5

    I wouldn't necessarily say that...
    If he is wanting to do things like design hardware, he wouldn't be doing any type of software development in languages like Java/C++. He would be using VHDL/Verilog languages. <--- that is what you test to simulate hardware design, you don't use Java or C++ to simulate hardware designs.

    So if he's doing hardware, he would focus on VHDL/Verilog and some flavor of asm if he's doing embedded systems programming.

    Comp Eng are taught higher level languages so they have that option if they want to branch off into Software Engineering rather than embeded systems/hardware design.

    If he's EE and wants to focus on the computer engineering aspect he may have to take an intro level programming course in java/C++/C but thats about it.

    On the other hand if your Comp Eng, then yes you'll be taking alot more computer science courses as well as EE courses.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2007
  7. Nov 21, 2007 #6
    ^ That's the impression I was under. I didn't think that Java/C++ would be too important once I got into things, at least not on an advanced level. Not to say that I don't think it's important, but I assume it's probably more about teaching concept than anything.

    I plan on taking a few low level courses, as embedded systems/hardware design is exactly what I want to get into. I'm not doing CompE mostly because I don't want to be a heavy programmer (I prefer the more "physical" aspect of design work) and because an EE degree is more broad and gives me more options in the future.

    Ben, I was under the impression that co-ops are generally full-time work done in place of school, usually for 8 months or so. At least that's been my experience. Internships are part-time during the school summer (or possibly full-time over the summer). Maybe the definitions are different depending on who you talk to...
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2007
  8. Nov 21, 2007 #7
    I"ve heard both SlideMan.

    I'm in a "co-op" with IBM, its an 8 months co-op. They moved me down to NC Research Triangle Park (I live in PA). I took the Fall Semester off so I could work for them the Summer and Fall.

    I'll go back to school in spring, then back down here for the summer.

    Internships usually are shorter, like 3 months, co-ops are usually longer.
  9. Nov 25, 2007 #8
    Resume Structure


    I'm preparing my resume to apply for internships. I think my resume is not excellent, but there are a couple of unique things that can balance the not too good GPA [mine is below 2.75, but above 2.5]

    I have done many positions in diffirent organizations, and did include numbers and data of things I did execute to prove that I left every position with a significant touch.

    My Resume is one page, but even after prioritizing it seems a little bit too filled up; so my question is;

    Should I tend to include fewer organizations, and leave more space to tell my achievements in them.


    Should I tend to mention more organization, and compromise details.

    Its like a quantity over quality option, but as we may know, sometimes the quality IS in the quantity.

    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  10. Nov 25, 2007 #9
    The definition of co-op can vary from company to company. Most co-ops are long term positions, such as the one mr coffee has... you work for a few months full time. However, there are also some co-ops with my university and Lockheed Martin, where you work maybe 10-15 hours a week, while still going to school. Same with the IBM division located up here, 10-20 hours a week + school. It's meant to supplement what you learn in school.

    If your summer is free, you can still do an internship, even if it is not related to EE. I did an internship that is engineering related, but not EE related, this past summer. It was pretty neat and I saw how the other side of it worked. I didn't do something too technical, but it is definitely helping me find an internship for this upcoming summer.
  11. Nov 25, 2007 #10
    Good question. I have tons of e-board positions on my resume and virtually no details about what I have done in them. I'd rather have them see I'm involved in clubs X, Y, and Z, with leadership positions in each, rather than leaving out an organization as a whole. So, my campus activities section looks something like:

    * President, Club X, Start Date - Present
    * President, Club Y, Start Date - Present
    * Vice President, Club Z, Start Date - Present
    * Board Member, EE Department, Start Date - Present
    * Board Member, Engineering Advisory Board, Start Date - End Date

    etc, you get the point. It's assumed that you're doing the work necessary while running these organizations. Now, if you've helped win an award or something, you can have that listed. But let's say you've increased the student chapter's membership, that may not help you get a job really.

    Also, another reason I like to keep the details out of the campus activities is because I'd like something to talk about during the interview. In my first interview that I had with General Dynamics last year, they didn't even really ask me anything about my leadership positions. I feel as if those positions listed there is just beneficial in a sense where they call you in for an interview, then after that it's solely about your technical skills and abilities. But this time around, I will try to further detail and mention my involvement with these clubs. It should be something good to talk about.

    Hope this helps. If you want me to give you feedback on your resume, just send me a PM and I'll give you my e-mail.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  12. Nov 25, 2007 #11
    Thank user101! I shall PM you now. I will edit my current resume a little bit and then send it.

    By the way, I intend to post my post as a new thread. I hope I'm excused for posting it here.
  13. Nov 26, 2007 #12
    Ops, I really feel bad that putting my question here by mistake did kill the thread!

    If someone has any input to the original post, or related to it, then lets go back to the first track!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook