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Topic: Advice on my major (Read 2140 times) previous topic - next topic


So this isn't strictly arduino related but this is the best place I can think of to ask this question.

I'm getting to that point where I have to start deciding what I want to major in, being a junior in high school. I've known for a while now that I want to go into some sort of electrical degree but I'm not sure which one. I've heard that electrical engineering will be almost exclusively hardware, computer science is exclusively software, and computer engineering is a mix of the two. I like hardware and building stuff but I also really like programing it all to work (I've also learned a lot about processing this summer). Based on that I think that computer engineering would be the best for me.

So I guess my question is what degrees to you all have? And what have you been doing professionally with it? Also based on what I say here, what do you think would be the best route for me? Obviously if its just a hobby and your degree is unrelated to electronics and computers this doesn't really apply.

I really like doing work with LEDs, of all my projects those have been by far the most satisfying and long lasting. I get a big thrill out of building the system and then programing it all to do really cool effects with beat detection and stuff like that. So my dream job would be like doing lighting for clubs and things like that, but I know that that is almost always dmx with store bought par-cans, blinders, etc. I'm not a huge fan of just setting up a system like that with store bought stuff. So I suppose the way to go for me would be designing and programming lights and effects that work with dmx and would be sold to djs or other people with dmx systems.


First choose the college/university, then choose the program. Colleges/universities vary a lot by how hands-on their programs are, and it is quite possible to get a 4-year degree in electrical engineering without ever once using a soldering iron. If you really like the hands-on aspect of electrical engineering (compared to the more theoretical part like electromagnetics, signal processing, etc.) then make sure you find an EE/CE program that is oriented in this way.

Once you find the right institution, talk to the advisors there about the right program (EE vs. CE). Also (strongly) consider blended programs like EE+CE (who says you only have to get 1 degree?), or EE with a CE minor (or vice versa), or my personal suggestion: EE undergraduate degree with a CE master's degree follow-on (or vice versa). Don't be in a hurry to graduate. Time spent in a (good) college/university that is a good fit for you is time well spent and should not be rushed. Neither should you rush the college/university selection process. Finding the right institution is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make.

The Flexible MIDI Shield: MIDI IN/OUT, stacking headers, your choice of I/O pins


what do you think would be the best route for me?

Follow your heart / interests,

That said, the more different disciplines you master, the more you understand how things interact, the more you can do. The best is in the mix (mechatronics?), you should do electronics to the level you can read a datasheet and have an idea how to connect it and controll it. Do software to understand how to handle communication protocols, datatypes including array's queues stacks and lists. Learn some basic physics to understand how sensors work and how to translate their digital/analog signal to something meaningful.

my opinion,
Rob Tillaart

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(Please do not PM for private consultancy)


Thanks for that, it was helpful. Like you said I could blend the degrees, which I was considering. I live in so-california and I'd like to stay in the area because its awesome here, and also where you go to college greatly effects where you settle down afterward. My dad works at SDSU and is actually the chair of construction engineering so he's a great resource. I've always wanted to go there because I love it but I do know that its on the more theoretical side of things in general, though I don't have specifics on the various computer/electrical engineering departments.

Of course we also have a number of polytechnics around us but they're not as close as SDSU. So I guess I just need to start getting specifics on various departments. And I'm definitely not in a rush to finish college, I'd rather get the best possible degree.

And Rob you posted while I was typing but thanks to you also. I feel like I have a huge heads up after doing all of the work in electronics and programing that I have over the past year(s? I can't remember exactly how long its been) because I already have at least a basic knowledge of just about all of those things and how they interact. Obviously not to the same level as the people with degrees but its a start at least, one thing I know is that I'm going to destroy AP Physics this year, especially the electronics section.


also where you go to college greatly effects where you settle down afterward

Sorry...don't agree  :)   EE/CE are so well represented throughout the country that you can choose to live just about anywhere. Now, most graduates of a college do stick around, but that is because of inertia not so much a conscious choice (I think).

Many students choose a college because it is a) close, or b) cheap. Those are probably the worst 2 criteria upon which to base your choice. Finances being what they are, I understand that for many students close+cheap is a requirement, otherwise college is just not affordable.

It is also a good idea to LEAVE HOME!!  :)  College is not just about getting a degree, it is about growing up. Tough to do while living at/near home.

one thing I know is that I'm going to destroy AP Physics this year, especially the electronics section

Heh...some of my worst grades in college were for courses which I already "knew" from playing with electronics. Be warned: how hobbyists learn electronics on their own can be very different from how it is taught in college. Go in with your eyes and mind open. Or as the saying goes, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing"  ;)

The Gadget Shield: accelerometer, RGB LED, IR transmit/receive, speaker, microphone, light sensor, potentiometer, pushbuttons


Just be sure your up on your math skills. As I understand it the calculus requirements are one of the biggest wash-out hurdles for the EE major, and most other engineering degress.



Yeah I've known how important that would be towards my degree, whatever I choose, and I've made sure to learn the most I can. Math is my best subject (and always has been) and I'm taking the highest level possible. This year I'm taking pre-calc honors and next year I plan to take calc BC which is widely regarded at our school as one (if the most) of the hardest classes. But I'm excited, I've wanted to be in calculus for a while now. So I think in that regard I'm set


I went the EE route.  There was sufficient room in my electives to pick up programming courses.  It worked for me I was employed by Control Data Corporation, Cray Research and Silicon Graphics over the years.


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