What is EE grad school like?

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I'm trying to decide between the undergrad physics and EE route. My main interests are obviously mathematics and physics.

By the way I'm from Quebec and we have a required 2 year of "Cegep" we must take before applying to a university, I think it's the equivalent of colleges everywhere else but I'm not sure.

I know physics interest me a lot, but I know I wouldn't want to become a theoretical physicist. So far I've taken the college level Mechanical, E&M, and I'm currently taking the waves and modern physics course. As for maths, I completed Calculus I and II, linear algebra, statistics, and I'm currently taking Calculus III.

Obviously physics and EE both have their pros and cons. I know I want to get a Master's degree, possibly a PhD but I'm not sure about that since it's a long way off.

If I choose physics, I'd like to choose computational physics as my specialization in the final year, and get a masters in a related field. Would this be valuable in industry?? My main fear about physics is the unability to find a job with the degree.

As for EE, I was wondering what grad school is like. What is the research like? Would a guy like me with a strong love for maths find his place in grad school?? Am I better off with physics if I expect mathematics to be a strong part of my job?? What are the math-heavy fields at the EE graduate level?
 

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  • #2
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EE grad school is just plain hard. No way to sugar coat it. Advanced degreed, especially the Ph.D., are not taken lightly. You will spend many hours studying, researching, writing, etc. Don't begin it unless you are willing to put the rest of your life on hold. If you study grad EE while working full time, you will have little time for anything else.

But the improvement in your skills makes it all worth it. Also, EE school is a good indicator as to a person's natual talent to do EE. One who can survive a rigorous program has shown they belong in EE. So it sorts out those who are cut out to do EE, & it prepares them by imparting knowledge. If you plan to do R & D in the EE field, then a grad degree is a must.

Claude
 
  • #3
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EE grad school is just plain hard. No way to sugar coat it. Advanced degreed, especially the Ph.D., are not taken lightly. You will spend many hours studying, researching, writing, etc. Don't begin it unless you are willing to put the rest of your life on hold. If you study grad EE while working full time, you will have little time for anything else.

But the improvement in your skills makes it all worth it. Also, EE school is a good indicator as to a person's natual talent to do EE. One who can survive a rigorous program has shown they belong in EE. So it sorts out those who are cut out to do EE, & it prepares them by imparting knowledge. If you plan to do R & D in the EE field, then a grad degree is a must.

Claude

2 questions. First of all, what makes EE so hard like you describe it?? Is it the combination of maths and physics needed to succeed? If I *LOVE* maths and physics (which means I study my *** off and try to learn a lot of stuff in these 2 areas), am I pretty much guaranteed success in EE? I'm a straight A student so far, in courses such as Calculus I, II, III, E&M physics, waves physics, etc. What worries me is that I never really worked with electronics. Assuming I'm good at math and physics, and I keep working hard, I shouldn't have problems getting my bachelor's in EE right?

Also, does EE grad school allow one to find jobs where the individual is challenged everyday?? I love mathematics and modelling, stuff like that.

I'm torn between 2 choices: taking physics undergrad and then getting a master's degree in something more applied (and thus useful for industry; I have no plan to try and land a position in academia).

Or, going the EE route and taking something more theorical/involving lots of maths at the graduate level. Something hard.

Would these 2 options, at the graduate school level, pretty much allow me to work on similar stuff? If so, I guess I'm better of going EE because it will be more useful in industry.
 
  • #4
I have not specifically taken EE grad school classes, but I've been in grad school in controls engineering and taken undergrad EE classes. I can tell you that you will not want for more math in EE, believe me. If you need a little more in undergrad you can always take physics electives.

If you want to be more on the theoretical side in grad school you can do that - some grad schools are very open on exactly what you want to study.

Undergrad in EE will prepare you better for grad school in EE than physics will, so I'd recommend that.
 
  • #5
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2 questions. First of all, what makes EE so hard like you describe it?? Is it the combination of maths and physics needed to succeed? If I *LOVE* maths and physics (which means I study my *** off and try to learn a lot of stuff in these 2 areas), am I pretty much guaranteed success in EE? I'm a straight A student so far, in courses such as Calculus I, II, III, E&M physics, waves physics, etc. What worries me is that I never really worked with electronics. Assuming I'm good at math and physics, and I keep working hard, I shouldn't have problems getting my bachelor's in EE right?

Also, does EE grad school allow one to find jobs where the individual is challenged everyday?? I love mathematics and modelling, stuff like that.

I'm torn between 2 choices: taking physics undergrad and then getting a master's degree in something more applied (and thus useful for industry; I have no plan to try and land a position in academia).

Or, going the EE route and taking something more theorical/involving lots of maths at the graduate level. Something hard.

Would these 2 options, at the graduate school level, pretty much allow me to work on similar stuff? If so, I guess I'm better of going EE because it will be more useful in industry.

What makes EE grad school hard is the expectations on the student. Some of the material is a rehash of undergrad, but partial credit is not given nearly as much, & the homework & exams are more demanding. I took a class in power in spring 2010 semester. Much of it I'd already seen in undergrad, but the homework kept me up hours on end, night after night. The exams were tough, & the grading was demanding, not generous w/ partial credit.

If you examined the text used in a class, it may seem like "I've been there & done that". It can't be too hard. Well, 2 schools teaching the same subject can differ like night & day regarding expectations & grading. Likewise for grad vs. undergrad. Also, you are in a class w/ very bright students. They make it hard for you. You have to match the best & brightest.

It's like major & minor league baseball. I attend minor league baseball often. Same ball, same bases, same diamond, same pitching mound, same outfield, same fences, same rules. But a minor leaguer is playing against players not major league caliber. When said minor leaguer tries to make it in the majors, though it's the same game, same rules, same field, he is up against much tougher competition.

As far as being challenged every day, there are such jobs, but only 15% to 25% of an EE job involves solving tough math or theory problems. The balance of the work involves studying customer requirements, researching component availability, multiple sourcing, cost studies, documentation, etc. It's all fascinating work, but I advise any persons considering an EE career as follows. I lost a job in 1991 because I did great at the aspects of the job that I personally enjoyed, but tended to delay or omit the portion of work I didn't find challenging.

Keeping really good schematics, bills of material, drawings, purchased part prints & specs, etc., is every bit as important as innovating some new clever circuit topology or solving a hairy math equation. You have to offer the whole package. I've met too many tech people from technician to technologist to project engr to Ph.D. researcher, who tend to focus all their energy of the "fun stuff". & just neglect the chore type work, which happens to be every bit as important.

The reason I'm saying this is to let you know that no profession is exactly what you enjoy. I play music, drums, vocals, & guitar. The group practice, individual practice, studying, scales, rudiments, etc. are not always fun, but they are needed to develop & maintain the chops. Likewise, bills of material, part specs/prints, schematics, test reports, customer requirements, field applications, troubleshooting, etc. are so important that anyone who neglects them will be out of a job.

The fun stuff is less than half of the package, like I said, maybe 15 to 25 percent. But some level of math & theory ability is needed. I strongly recommend at least an MSEE for electronic r&d. Eventually a Ph.D.-EE would help immensely. To start with, a BSEE will give you a great background for MSEE. A Ph.D. is very tough because a qualifier exam is required. It covers the EE undergrad curriculum.

EE Ph.D. students w/ BSEE tend to fare better than those whose BS was not EE. Only 2 chances to take the qualifier are given. Many don't make it & are dismissed from the Ph.D. program. I passed on my 2nd try. I have 1 course & the dissertation left on my EE Ph.D.

I hope this helps.

Claude
 
  • #6
MATLABdude
Science Advisor
1,657
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What's EE grad school (in Canada) like? Your mileage varies greatly (in terms of what your research is like, the work expected, not so much).

There are people here who work in more physics-y stuff, more biology / biochemistry type stuff, more micro/nanofabrication type stuff, more math-y type stuff (communications), and people who do more computer science / AI type stuff. And yes, people who work in more 'traditional EE' research fields, such as power, control systems, and robotics / system design. The EE departments are usually quite large and diverse at Canadian universities (at least for the bigger ones, i.e. those with >30k students).
 
  • #7
142
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controls and signal processing stuff was mostly math. you should be able to get a general course outline from whatever program you're looking at.
 

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