I'm an electrical and computer engineering undergrad in Portugal, considering a switch to machine learning or applied math for my master's. I've completed Andrew Ng's deep learning specialization and have worked on deep learning projects, including those with transformers. Currently, I'm exploring reinforcement learning and plan to study game theory. My goal is to understand these fields better before deciding on my master's focus. I particularly enjoy signal and control theory in my studies, alongside complex analysis and differential equations, though I don't plan to work directly in these areas. Instead, I aim to apply this mathematical knowledge in programming, avoiding complex proofs.

I'm contemplating a Ph.D. and a career in either industry or government, discouraged by the competitive and flawed academic career path. I'm leaning towards a master's in electrical engineering with a focus on control theory but want to keep options open for deep learning and applied math. I'm curious if it's possible to combine control theory and machine learning in a master's, possibly within a single department, and whether a master's in applied math might be more inclusive of my interests.

I'm also concerned about learning unique subjects like control theory at a level not offered by online courses, while also wanting to maintain the ability to engage with and apply self-learned topics like game theory in my advanced studies. I'm questioning which department (CS, math, or electrical engineering) would best suit a master's or Ph.D. combining control theory and machine learning, if such programs exist in Europe, and how online learning in game theory could integrate into my postgraduate studies.

Any advice on navigating these decisions would be greatly appreciated.

2 Answers 2


Don't worry too much about the label of the program or degree.

Find professors who do the kind of work you want to do. Apply to work with them or to the programs that they take students from.


If you want to do a Master's rather than a PhD, I'd recommed apply to a program with good reputation, where:

  • a significant part of your graduation requirements can be completed with 'free electives' (i.e. those without any restrictions, incl. department which offers the course); and/or

  • a significant part of your graduation requirements can be completed with a master's thesis/project if you do find a professor whose research has a major overlap with your focus.

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