Electrical engineering is the engineering discipline that focuses on the relationship between electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering is further subdivided into fields such as power, energy, telecommunications, control, electronics, signal processing, instrumentation, computers, optics, and phonetics.
In this article, we will go over the overall difficulty students face in acquiring an electrical engineering degree and whether it is a worthwhile decision or not.
Is Electrical Engineering Hard?
Electrical engineering is hard. Electrical engineering is not easy because you have to study intensive math classes, advanced technical courses, multiple lab sessions, and a wide range of topics. Electrical engineering is known to be the second most difficult engineering degree after mechanical engineering.
Challenging Quantitative Courses
Electrical engineering is one of the hardest degrees offered by colleges today.
The first two years of most engineering programs are quite similar; you will have to take a number of math, science, and engineering courses which will help you develop a strong understanding of the basics and enable you to take the more advanced technical courses directly related to your major.
These fundamental classes are widely known as “weed out” courses. Calculus II, calculus III, linear algebra, and discrete math are some of the hardest courses in your entire engineering program. By enrolling students in these courses early on, colleges help students get a true and fair idea of the rigour and complexity of their degree.
Many students drop out of these courses because they lack the discipline to study consistently and regularly. Several bright students manage to do well in high school by studying the night before the test. In college studying last minute will not be sufficient to pass the courses; especially not in STEM degrees.
Here is a list of the courses you can expect to take during the first two years:
- General Chemistry
- Introduction to Electrical Engineering
- Calculus I
- Calculus II
- Engineering Statics
- Electrical Engineering Fundamentals
- Calculus III
- Applied Differential Equations
- Engineering Materials
- Electricity and Magnetism
- A few of general education courses and electives
If you can survive the first two years, graduating with an engineering degree will not be much more difficult. As you can see for yourself the courses in the first two years are very similar for the various engineering disciplines.
At the time of starting college, many students who have an inclination towards engineering are uncertain about the different engineering disciples. This is perfectly alright. Most colleges will let you transfer to a different engineering discipline in the first or second year.
In fact, several colleges do not even ask you to select an engineering discipline until the end of your first year. However, if you were to change your engineering discipline in your third or fourth year then all your courses may not transfer and you could end up spending an extra year or two in college.
Advanced Technical Courses
Once you have managed to clear all the quantitative courses you will then proceed to take more advanced technical courses specific to your major. This typically happens during the junior and senior years of college.
These courses are more applied and practical in nature. In the third year, you can expect to study numerical methods in electrical engineering, electronics I, mathematical models in electrical engineering, engineering economy, linear systems, and thermodynamics.
These courses are not particularly difficult, but definitely more in-depth and specific. There is a wide pool of options when it comes to selecting your electives for electrical engineering. If you are finding the overall degree difficult you can make it easier by taking simple electives.
However, if you are up for the challenge then definitely go for the harder electives.
Employers care about your electives more than any other course in your degree. Employers prefer graduates who have taken certain courses as this will mean they can start working with minimal training. Hence you should take into account the overall demand and industries you want to work in when selecting your electives.
The fourth-year will include several courses requiring you to submit projects instead of homework and assignments. The senior year is considered easy by those who are good with applying their skills and knowledge but hard by those students who are good with theoretical courses.
Extending Your Critical Thinking and Problem- Solving Skills
The level of critical analysis, problem-solving, and abstract thinking required in an electrical engineering degree may surprise you.
In other engineering disciplines, you can physically feel or concretely see what you studying, designing, and implementing. However, in electrical engineering, you will have to use your imagination to understand what is going on. This is because many of the processes in electrical engineering are not tangible/visible.
Electrical engineering is perhaps the most math-oriented engineering discipline. Unlike high school math which is mostly computational; college-level math is very proof-heavy. Many of the advanced technical courses require a great deal of critical thinking and complex mathematics.
Furthermore, you will need to become really good with circuit diagrams and programming as your progress through your degree. You will need to improve your problem-solving and critical thinking skills as drawing circuit diagrams and programming are all about finding solutions to problems.
Is Electrical Engineering Stressful?
Electrical engineering is definitely stressful. Electrical engineering is one of the toughest undergraduate degrees. A career in electrical engineering is also very stressful because you will have strict deadlines, pressure to learn new things, and challenging projects.
As electrical engineering is such a difficult degree most students really struggle with it. Tough courses, thinking of dropping out/switching degrees, and the pressure of maintaining a high GPA make electrical engineering a stressful major.
College is not the end of the struggle for an electrical engineer. Electrical engineering is a high-pressure field where the slightest of mistakes can prove to be fatal. Long work hours and the stress of getting everything right can really get to you.
Is there a lot of Math in Electrical Engineering?
There is a lot of math in electrical engineering. The general consensus suggests that electrical engineering is the most math-heavy engineering discipline. Most of the math in electrical engineering is abstract and difficult to apply. You need to be really good with math or willing to work hard at your math skills.
Math is an integral part of STEM degrees more so for engineering majors. You need to be proficient in basic mathematics since the math courses in college expect you to have a good understanding of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.
The math in college is very abstract and proof-heavy. Even students who manage to ace their high school math lectures struggle with college-level math. This is not to discourage you from applying but rather to provide you with a realistic expectation of the effort and hard work you will have to put in.
Is Being An Electrical Engineer Worth It?
Being an electrical engineer is absolutely worth it. Electrical engineering is expected to grow at a rate of 7% between the years 2020 and 2030. Electrical engineers are some of the highest-paid professionals and earn significantly more than average.
As an electrical engineer, you can expect to be compensated handsomely for working in a high-pressure environment and difficult field. Electrical engineers will be provided with benefits such as high salaries, health and dental insurance, vacation pay, gym memberships, funds for self-improvement, and company stock.
Electrical engineering is an excellent field to major in. It has great all-around benefits. However, you should be prepared to put in a lot of effort, study difficult subject material, and work in a stressful environment.
Electrical engineering is definitely a hard major but you can manage the difficulty by studying regularly and consistently. You should select your major for college after careful consideration as this is one of the most important decisions in your life.