Just started in EE, and now thinking about changing majors...

<p>Hi. Well, I've just transferred from a community college this semester. I'm currently taking digital logic circuits and electric circuit analysis (with a lab), along with an intro to engineering class and a mechanics class. My first two tests in the circuit classes are next week, and I'm beginning to feel very anxious about my whole decision to major in this field.</p>

<p>Digital logic circuits isn't terribly difficult (we're basically just doing some boolean algebra and Karnaugh maps, which isn't too abstract at all, but some of the word problems can be a little complicated). Circuit analysis, though, is killing me. Every time I look at a fairly complex circuit, I break into a cold sweat because it feels like I'm trying to put together a puzzle with hundreds of pieces. I have absolutely ZERO interest in this stuff. I get so confused about simple concepts like the direction of the current and the voltage across different branches. It's nearly impossible for me to visualize. The labs are terrible as well. Last week, we had to build some circuits on a breadboard (with no prior instruction) and measure the current and voltage in various places. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and had to constantly ask the TA for help. I felt like an idiot because it seemed like no one else had any problems at all.</p>

<p>I have a feeling that it will only get worse from here if I can't even bare working with circuits. I also have to say that I'm by no means a math prodigy, and I know that EE is very math intensive in a lot of places. I had a perfect 4.0 GPA at my community college and aced every math class I took (Calculus I/II/III, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations), but I knew that a very high level of understanding wasn't necessary to do well on the tests. It basically just involved a lot of regurgitation. Only Linear Algebra gave me fits because my professor had an obsession with proofs. I'm fairly good at number crunching and following very specific procedures for solving problems, but I definitely lack the natural intuition that any good mathematician has. Looking at the content of classes I'll have to take in the future (like systems and signals), I have a suspicion that this will come back to hit me hard.</p>

<p>My choice to major in EE wasn't really driven by any fascination or previous experience with hardware at all. I just like computers and electronics, so I thought that maybe this would be the right field for me. I think I might have been gravely mistaken. Can anyone here share their experiences if they've been in a similar situation?</p>

<p>I have a very strong interest in programming and have several side projects I've made in C++ over the years (one particularly hefty one includes a server that transfers audio files to hundreds of clients to play back, which I found fun and challenging to make). I've seriously considered majoring in software engineering (a major my college offers that I could slide into pretty easily), but, of course, I'm concerned about the job prospects. I don't want to move to a huge city to find a job with a software development firm, I don't want my job to be outsourced, and I don't want to become a "code monkey" with numerous health problems. I think these are all legitimate concerns, but what does everyone else think?</p>

<p>The final option I'm considering is civil engineering. The mechanics class I'm taking is sort of like a conglomeration of statics and dynamics, which I find to be pretty easy stuff (at least when I compare it to circuits). These are classes I know that I'll have to take individually if I were to major in civil engineering. I also know that no one around here likes to compare the difficulty of engineering majors, but I think we can safely say that civil engineering (at the undergraduate level, anyway) is much less math intensive than electrical engineering. That's another plus for me. I can't truthfully say if I'll be interested in it, though, because I don't really know enough about it. I've heard that it's a very broad field and there are lots of different job opportunities. I'm definitely a visual learner, and this seems to be a subject that I could probably grasp pretty easily. Surely I can find an interest somewhere if I understand the subject well enough and there are so many specializations. Does anyone have some advice?</p>

<p>Sorry about this gigantic post, but I've had a lot on my mind in the past month. I would greatly appreciate any input.</p>

<p>You’re very confused about software engineering. If you like it, go for it. Whoever told you every job will be outsourced is uninformed. You won’t have health problems from typing on a computer. Most office jobs require the entire 8 hours a day typing on a computer anyways… so according to you every white collar worker has health problems.</p>

<p>Career-wise, you should do what you want, but software >> EE in practical terms for pay, opportunities, availability, resilience to outsourcing (maybe less so). Also, if “complex” circuits give you trouble, I don’t see you doing any better in software. If anything, software engineering is all about dealing with complexity. In other words, switching from EE to software because you aren’t good at understanding abstract and complex machines is a bad approach. Civil might be a better fit, although it will very hard… Possibly just not so complex.</p>

<p>I believe there are more software jobs than hardware, but I don’t think there’s really that big of a discrepancy in pay. It will all depend on the individual and you should do what you want.</p>

<p>Some people who find circuit analysis dry/boring/hard/etc may enjoy the more “linear”, step by step process of programming or maybe digital logic design. Look into computer engineering or software engineering and give it a go.</p>

<p>Just got my first test back in circuit analysis… made a D (63). This wasn’t a shock to me at all, but I’m still very frustrated because I’ve NEVER done this poorly in any class I’ve ever taken. The test was conceptually pretty easy because it only covered DC resistive circuits (Ohm’s Law, KCL, KVL, nodal and mesh analysis, etc.), but it was VERY, VERY HARD to finish in 50 minutes. I only had enough time to rush through the test without checking any of my answers. I spent days upon days trying to understand and practice this material, but apparently, nothing I did helped at all. The only explanation I have is that some people are just good at this stuff and others aren’t. A lot of it is probably also motivated by interest, which, as I’ve said, I totally lack. At this point, I think I just need to start planning an exit strategy. I know EE classes only get harder, so I really don’t think it’s a viable option for me anymore. This sucks because my self-confidence has really taken a major blow, but all that I can do now is finish out the semester and hope to put it behind me.</p>

<p>About software engineering:</p>

<p>skbryan, I have a feeling that what I said rubbed you the wrong way or something. I didn’t mean to do that. I don’t think I’m “very confused” about software engineering. I’ve researched this topic a lot and read plenty of information from people in the field, so I think my expectations are fairly realistic. The truth is that people can write software anywhere in the world and transfer their finished products instantaneously thanks to the Internet. This means it’s very easy to be outsourced compared to other engineering disciplines. Outsourcing a road or bridge design, for example, may be a little more difficult. Maybe you or aegrisomnia can explain why exactly it has “more resilience” to outsourcing, though. A different perspective never hurts.</p>

<p>Also, aegrisomnia, I think JamesMadison was correct in describing programming as more “linear” for some people. I personally don’t find it nearly as abstract as anything I’m doing in my classes now. I know CS can get pretty abstract, but I’m not going for that.</p>

<p>Another qualm I have about software engineering: it’s not a very mature field, and it has less “prestige” than other disciplines. There has been some debate as to whether it’s even real engineering.</p>

<p>All of these things are working against my interest in pursuing a career centered around programming.</p>

<p>Civil engineering is on the top of my list of alternatives, but I still need to do some more research.</p>

<p>It seems like you’re pretty confused about CS and software engineering. Programming really isn’t a linear process at all. Sequential algorithms can be surprisingly complex… let alone parallel and distributed topics. You cannot meaningfully compare writing a simple 20-line MATLAB script to analyzing a circuit; analyzing programs is significantly harder than writing your own. In fact, some kinds of analysis cannot be (algorithmically) done on programs.</p>

<p>I think that mostly other engineers tend to emphasize the difference between software and “engineering”. Same for prestige. If you look at earnings potential and job opportunities, and the impacts of different industries, software compares pretty favorably with most traditional engineering disciplines. If an engineer here or there wants to sneer at you every now and then, take it in stride all the way to the bank.</p>

<p>Jobs in the manufacturing sector are much more prone to outsourcing in the mid to long term than service-sector jobs. Software is a service, not a manufactured good. Check the BLS OOH for authoritative information… a lot of what you read online or hear from people in day to day life simply isn’t accurate.</p>

<p>I think that it’s probably a good idea for you to err on the side of civil engineering. It sounds like you have a better handle on what that will be like and what to expect career-wise… to hope that you’ll find CS easy since it doesn’t address complexity is a recipe for disaster, and assuming it’s a bad field to get into is probably a self-fulfilling prophecy.</p>



<p>Work-related injuries from computer overuse are a legitimate concern. If you are not careful, you could develop eyestrain, repetitive stress injuries, etc. It is important to have ergonomically sound work setups, breaks from work, etc.</p>

<p>Yeah, I hated that first EE class test score too. You can figure it out, it might just take two attempts. The problem is the lack of interest. For that reason alone I would switch to comp sci. The field is quite broad. You could go the website, app programmer, database designer route, or you could get into networking, firmware design (logic programming) and on and on. I found the skill set between Comp Sci and EE did not overlap that much. For some the idea of tracing current flow is easy, and for others the idea of tracing program logic is easy. Choose the one you like and are interested in. Then if you wish to program in the hardware fields (board level programming of chips), fill in your electives with a few of the digital EE classes. I’ve worked with Comp Sci people programing amazing automated test systems who had no other engineering skills, and with amazing Comp Sci people who pretty much were EE’s with a love of programing logic. </p>

<p>If you can stick out the EE course to the end, and go back to the prof for help NOW, in order to make a serious attempt at catching up, and in the end it just doesn’t feel right, switch. Lotsa people switch. Lotsa people switch more than once. Relax. </p>

<p>As to others switching, I’ll provide one example of many, many. A civil engineer, switched into the physics program, then took the MCAT’s senior year and went to Med school. (dude spent his entire sr year in the library and blew away the exam, went to one of the finest schools). </p>

<p>Find out what you love, and go do it. Best of luck.</p>

<p>If you want an over view of civil engineering look at the Wikipedia civil engineering page and on bls.gov engineers. I am a civil engineering major and I love it so far. It is less math intensive than EE but you still use allot of math. Whether or not you use it allot in your job will depend on the area you go into. If you like statics you may enjoy the structural side of civil engineering. Most programs your junior year of you take a class or two in each area of civil then your senior year you can pick an emphasis. The main ones are structures, fluids, construction, transportation, materials, Geo-technical, and environmental.</p>

<p>A friend of mine did a work study in the transfer office of one of the engineering schools. Students came into jr year with 3.6-4.0 gpas from their community colleges. The first semester grades ranged from 0.0 to 2.5 (one semester - I know a kid who transferred into Cornell and got a 4.0). The transition can be brutally hard and is not all that unusual that you feel overwhelmed. </p>

<p>The subject matter you are studying is not all that complex once you understand it. You need somebody with some patience to help you get to that point. Try the professor or the TAs first. If that doesn’t work, find someone who has either taken the course or is breezing through it to go over the test with you. Cover it step-by-step, one decision point at a time. Remember to generously bribe the person that helped because you will probably need him again.</p>

<p>Like other programs, engineering is best learned through cooperation and support. Don’t be afraid to seek help before you get too far behind. Sometimes the most successful students are the best remoras.</p>