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ASK AN EDUCATOR! “Math & Electrical Engineering?”

Seth asks:

I’m at the point in my life where I should consider a major in college. I’m 27 and have been enrolled in two different institutions; both of which I was put on academic probation and subsequently academic suspension. Before returning to college, in the Fall of 2010, my GPA fell in the 1.1 range. Now, after a few years of taking things slowly, I’ve raised my GPA to a 3.5 and am considering a degree in Electrical Engineering. What I worry most about, if I do decide the route of EE, is the math involved. I’ve never excelled at math, nor have I failed at it, I’m just curious about the amount and types of math that are involved/required to get a degree in Electrical Engineering. Is this a common concern or am I unrealistically worried about it all?

I am glad to hear you are working things out with you college career, it certainly can be a bear. Honestly, the math involved in a major like Electrical Engineering can be a concern to some, but if you have the drive and willingness to get help when you need it, it is certainly not an impossible task. If we look at Virginia Tech’s Electrical Engineering course catalog for 2011-2012 it looks like out of the 50 courses taken, 8 are directly math related.

First year:

  • Linear Algebra
  • Calculus I
  • Vector Geometry
  • Calculus II

Second year:

  • Differential Equations
  • Multivariable Calculus

Third Year:

  • Probability/Statistics for Engineers

Fourth Year:

  • Math Elective

In addition to the math specific courses, a good number of the major specific courses are math based. As Electrical Engineering is a field that is based on understanding the principles that govern electronic systems, devices and equipment, math is going to play a key role.

My advice to you is to take advantage of your school’s adviser, as they can really help steer you in the right direction. If they are anything as good as the one I had in my undergrad, who suggested Technology Education to me, then you will know you are making a good decision. And on that note, have you considered Technology Education?

I ask because my initial intent was to become an Electrical Engineer, but was uninterested in the math and low-level theory. The result was I graduated with a BS in Technology Education in addition to a teaching certificate. The advantage to having both is that I was not only hire-able in the education system, which happens to have a shortage of Tech. Ed. teachers, but I could also qualify for a number of jobs in industry. Especially in today’s economy, it’s good to have options 🙂

Which every path you choose I wish you the best and keep up the good work!

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“Ask an Educator” questions are answered by Adam Kemp, a high school teacher who has been teaching courses in Energy Systems, Systems Engineering, Robotics and Prototyping since 2005.


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