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To choose between physics engineering and electrical engineering

  1. Apr 8, 2006 #1
    Hello everyone!

    My problem is easy to explain but somewhat hard. I have to make an ultimate final decision between Physics Engineering and Electrical Engineering:confused: . I tend to be more physics inclined, but I am not sure. I know that ultimately is a conclusion that I by myself must be able to resolve:cry: , but I would definitely like to see some comments, any experiences that any of you might have with respect to. Any ideas I welcome. Thanks.:wink:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2006 #2
    I went through almost the same decision (physics vs. computer, and there's a lot of overlap between computer and electrical, especially in the earlier stages).

    I ended up choosing physics out of high school because I had a sort of "romanticized" notion of being the mad scientist and/or achieving fusion breakeven through sheer force of personal will and mathematical aptitude.

    However, I went to a University where Engineering Science (once known as Engineering Physics) itself branched off into physics and computer streams after second year, with the computer stream being essentially computer engineering (there was an electrical option too, very, very similar to computer option). I'm in third year now, and I'm doing the computer stream. I just ultimately decided I was happier doing computer work than straight physics work. I am very glad that I chose a program that let me refocus my learning to computers (I could have gone into Engineering Science intending to do computers and switched into physics, but I could not have gone into Computer Engineering and switched into physics without a lot of trouble).

    I haven't completed my undergraduate degree yet or anything, but my advice to you is figure out what you think is "coolest", and for all the related courses you've taken in the past, which assignments you least minded doing. A significant part of your life is going to be focussed on this, so you really shouldn't be overly concerned with tangents like the current state of the industry (you'll get hired at the end from either stream), although the current state of the industry might be what sparks your overall interest. Have you ever done something of your own free will, not an assignment or anything (or perhaps an assignment that you went far beyond the call of duty on) in one of those fields just because you thought it was interesting? There's your choice right there. Unless, of course, you've done it for both ;). Say for electrical, you might have played with breadboards and simple circuitry; for physics you might have built something or it might even just be casual reading.

    For my case, I played with LEGO mindstorms, figured out through reverse-engineering what those little BASIC snippets in our severely outdated elementary school textbooks did, wrote a few medium-complexity games in C from scratch in high school (a language which was taught in high school to a basic level, but I took to a near-professional understanding myself), did everything on computers, I practically think like a computer, wrote code that was used by a Nuclear Generating company in high school as a project that went a bit above the call of duty, LEGO mars rover competitions, my favourite classes were always named "Computers", etc. (I stop now not for lack of anecdotes)... vs. for physics, reading Asimov non-fiction and some stuff on chromodynamics and other weird stuff, with the math that was well beyond me at the time filtered away. On balance, I probably should have been able to figure it out.

    I personally chose physics because I had a great time in physics classes with by far the best teacher I have ever encountered, but ultimately physics was not in-and-of-itself as interesting to me, yet I had never encountered a concept in computers that was wholly uninteresting to me. Not once.* Note, I still find it very interesting -- why else would I lurk at physics forums? Not for the little computer section, I can tell you that.

    So I will give you no specific advice, just leave you with my experience and hope that this helps you.

    * Please don't test this. There's a difference between wholly uninteresting and minutely interesting, and a further difference between minutely interesting and worth my time.
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