Many of my peers in my program, Computer Engineering, are of the opinion that what you do in school is a “head-fake”, that you take all this intense math and science essentially to prove that you can accomplish difficult tasks quickly. A “real job” doesn’t actually use any of that junk except for a few select classes.
I suppose I understand that sentiment, but my issue is that after something like 20 years of math, Stockholm Syndrome has kicked in and I really enjoy it. I will miss it. I just finished one of the hardest classes at my University with an A because Fourier Transform just makes sense to me. Learning how to operate some software program is not the same as learning how to build a differential amplifier. Not all learning is equal. I have had two fantastic Co-Op (internship) rotations with some big name companies working on great projects, but the most intense math I used was division and that makes me sad. While my peers cannot wait to graduate and start their lives, it feels like it is the end of mine.
It seems that industry, for every 1 person actually producing something, there are 20 people doing documentation, management, talking to the customer, supply chain, etc etc. (edit: and I do not mean that in a derogatory manner, I am actually getting an MBA as well at the moment. I just mean that the one person who uses their academic knowledge is followed by a slew of people who do not use it).
So, the obvious answer is to go through a PhD and enter Academia but I do not think that is the right path for me considering I have no desire to teach and I also really enjoy making the money I do now. Putting my fiscal life on hold for another 4-5 years seems like quite a lot as I am already in debt.
My question then, is, how do I use what I learned in school while in industry? Or should I leave industry and pursue academia? Should I still go for a PhD but do industry research? How can I continue to learn while I am working in industry?
Apologies if this question is unclear, it’s very nebulous and if this gets removed or -1 I understand.