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How to self-study physics and electrical engineering without going to college?

How to self-study physics and electrical engineering without going to college? You can buy used textbooks and study it and when you're stucked, can you go to the nearest college and get tutored? For the experiments and hands on training, can you go to the nearest college and do the experiments? How much will they charge you if they require fees?


This has been done and it can be done! However most companies are looking for the credential.  Electronic/physics lab work can be conducted in one’s home/shop.  Armature radio operators do this on a regular basis.

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8 Answers

You will be required to get enrolled to pay for classes. You can self-study theoretical courses, but experiments are usually conducted alongside with general courses. Fees depend on the rank of the university offering classes. In any case, if you want to be hired as a professional, you will need to have a degree, an official documents stating that you have passed required classes. Moreover, students studying enjineering, are required to go through internship. I don't know how can you do this without attending the college? I am a self-studying person myself, but this is a really hard way to go.

In the former Soviet Union those who wanted to be physicists - theorists, could have passed Landau's exams in theoretical physics (Lev Davidovich Landau - Nobel Prize laureat in 1958 for his theory of superfluididty of Helium II). They had a chance to get hired for a job as theorists afterwards, even without completion of formal academic education. But as I know, this happened only with one person among his scholars.


As others have said, while wanting to educate yourself feels good, these fields are not ones that most people want to learn just for fun, and no employer is going to take self-learning seriously, no matter how good you are. You need the piece of paper.
If you genuinely are just looking for academic interest, or want to learn a little before starting college, then Coursera or iTunes U will give you some idea of the content areas--perhaps that's all you need, a push before choosing a major or getting the courage to start a new degree?  This is interesting and SAFE.  But I want to reiterate; don't do experiments at home.  You could really hurt yourself.  Stick to theory, and then enroll in college to do the hands-on stuff in a lab with proper safety equipment and protocols.

You can check out

You can also check out other MOOCs like Coursera, or Kahn Academy.

Also, if you are looking for free study materials in Physics, check out

All the current responses are OK.  The important point is; what is your goal?


William (Bill) L

You want to learn how to become an electrical engineer:

Physics is an integral part of all engineering degrees including electrical engineering, unless you mean that you want to be an electrical tech.

If you are willing to buy the text books AND attend the classes my personal suggestion is that you attend the college, otherwise your time and energy toward a career in the industry will always be looked-down upon.

If you want to learn the subjects for some kind of hobby or you are very intelligent I would suggest that you do it online by torrenting an e-textbook, downloading lectures for free off of itunes-University, and/or watching tutorials on youtube (Ultimate Physics Tutor)

If you wish to pick up a bit of information without attending courses, there are a few text books designed to be a complete resource for novices in these fields. 

As others have stated, performing unsupervised experiments is not advised but there may be clubs and associations in your area capable of giving you hands on experience, such as a ham radio club that dabbles in building radio transmitters and receivers or an astronomy club that builds telescopes and controlling equipment.  As with any hobby involving electricity, flames, reactive materials, or dangerous machinery, be careful not to get in over your head.

For physics I would recommend Physics - Foundations and Applications by Robert M. Eisberg and Lawrence S. Lerner, published by MacGraw-Hill.  This text is a complete two year course, including detailed descriptions of lecture demonstrations.  There may be other texts as complete and accessible to the novice, but I am familiar with this one.

For electronics I would recommend The Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill.  It is a bit out of date in terms of references to specific hardware, but the basic concepts and designs are sound and the text is more accessible than most.

Of course, if your goal is to eventually get a degree you will need to enroll in and pay for classes.  Until you are willing to commit to a program it should be possible to audit classes at public colleges and universities in your area for a minimal fee.  Auditing entry level classes is a good way to figure out whether the field is of interest and whether you are ready to take the plunge and enroll, and most public universities permit auditors as long as there are empty seats available.

I saw another post that you submitted about inventing things. So maybe getting hired somewhere is not your end goal. I would suggest reading many books on the subject you want to learn. If you get stuck on a particular interest, hire a tutor. Don't expect to just walk into a university engineering department and have them help and answer questions. They only get paid to help actual students at their university. 

Depending on your final goal (which may shift in time) U may follow different pathways. To experiment on your own is not advisable since it can be 1st dangerous and 2nd very expensive. Besides text books you could consult some catalogs with supplies and equipment for the physics labs. I could only recommend some Physics texts.

Also some Colleges and Universities may allow (I know it was done in California in the '90-s) for U to "sit-in" -- just sit in the class during lecture (most likely will not work with the labs because of the safety concerns) , take notes and participate but not be examined (at no cost) -- but U had to be enrolled in a program (at a slow pace of progress) that included that course and pledge that U will take that class at a later time. Most importantly the instructor had to agree and take U in. 

But just as my colleague from Kansas City has mentioned, U will eventually want to socially apply your knowledge. Meaning U will want to use the acquired skill and understanding while performing a job -- and get paid for it -- which requires that U get examined and acquire certificates, diplomas etc. Most of the time this means U must be enrolled in some educational program.

So the only way to understand your questions and concerns is that U would like to save some money and contemplate a few courses on your own while aiming to eventually enroll and be able to acquire higher end grades and GPA-s (for having had a head-start from your prior independent study).