Electrical Engineers vs Computer Engineers


by Nothing000
Tags: electrical, engineers
Nothing000
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#1
Jan2-06, 05:05 AM
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What is the main difference between the two fields? And also, which pair of classes would you guys think would be more important for Computer Engineers: Calculus of Several Variables and Complex Variables, or Modern Algebra and Discrete Math?
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ranger
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Jan2-06, 11:53 AM
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A computer engineer is an electrical engineer with a focus on digital logic systems, and less emphasis on radio frequency or power electronics.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_engineering
berkeman
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Jan2-06, 02:00 PM
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Quote Quote by Nothing000
What is the main difference between the two fields? And also, which pair of classes would you guys think would be more important for Computer Engineers: Calculus of Several Variables and Complex Variables, or Modern Algebra and Discrete Math?
To my mind, the term "computer engineer" is not very well defined. An EE can have many specialties, including more of an analog/RF specialty or more of a digital design specialty. A "computer engineer" would just be an EE with more of a digital design specialty, IMO. A software engineer would be an EE with more software experience, or I suppose they could be 100% software and no hardware background. We certainly have all of those different folks at my work. The most valuable ones, IMO are those that have some experience in all of those different specialties. There are several of us at my work who can do it all, from designing analog and digital circuits to writing software to support our other work.

As for the class selections, I have to say that the Discrete Math courses that I took in college have not turned out to be useful in the real world. But I use complex math multiple times a day, so I'd recommend the Complex Variables track.

Nothing000
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#4
Jan2-06, 02:27 PM
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Electrical Engineers vs Computer Engineers


So you don't really use the discrete math in the real world? Did you actually take a complex variables class, or did you just pick it up as you went through your EE major?
berkeman
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Jan3-06, 09:55 AM
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Quote Quote by Nothing000
So you don't really use the discrete math in the real world? Did you actually take a complex variables class, or did you just pick it up as you went through your EE major?
No, and B. I suppose if you were writing an FPGA compiler, you would use some discrete math theory, but if you are just using the compilers to implement your circuit designs, there is very little discrete math that you need. I took several discrete math classes in my EE undergrad work, and I don't think I've used a bit of it. In 20-20 hindsight, I should have taken more RF classes instead.

I didn't take a complex variables class (don't think it was offered at the time), but you use a lot of complex math in your other signals and systems classes. It would have been nice to pick up a full class on the subject earlier, to help with the intuition in the other classes.
Nothing000
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#6
Jan3-06, 02:02 PM
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So even though you don't use the discrete math at all, do you at least think that learning about it gave you a greater undersanding of the subject of digital electronics?
And where do you work Berkeman?
berkeman
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Jan3-06, 03:10 PM
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Quote Quote by Nothing000
So even though you don't use the discrete math at all, do you at least think that learning about it gave you a greater undersanding of the subject of digital electronics?
And where do you work Berkeman?
I suppose it depends on the treatment of the discrete math, and how concrete they get in their examples. At least for the courses that I took, it was all theory, with very little practical application for real world stuff. Certainly others may feel differently.

I work at www.echelon.com. We were a startup about 16 years ago when I joined, and thankfully now we are public and doing well. As you can tell from our website, we invented LonWorks technology, which is basically a networking technology that is optomized for multidrop monitoring and control applications, as opposed to data transfer applications like point-to-point Ethernet. LonWorks networking technology has become the standard for many applications like building automation, factory automation, and energy monitoring (like with our Networked Energy Services electric meters).

I worked at Bell Labs, HP and on my own as a design consultant before joining Echelon, and over the years I've done lots of different kinds of design work. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I think that engineers that can mix several EE disciplines have extra value to a company, because they can really tie together multiple parts of a design. Whether it's helping out in the architecture planning, or even just helping out other engineers to get their work done on schedule during crunch time, having skills in multiple practical areas really pays off. When we interview candidates for positions in our R&D Lab, we look for a mix of analog, digital, software and IC design skills. You don't have to be a hotshot in all categories (just a couple), but being able to work in some depth with all the different specialties is a big help to the team.

I picked up a lot of my RF and analog background mostly after I got out of college, and I wish that I'd taken more of those classes in school, as opposed to the digital theory classes. I'd also recommend that you take at least software classes in compilers, OSs, data structures and C++ if you can. You'd be surprised how much software you write, even as a hardware EE. Also, I'd recommend picking up a little extra probability math, and then taking an in-depth communication theory class or two. There is just so much going on in the communication field right now -- understanding the math behind communications is a very important foot in the door at many companies right now, especially some of the ones on the leading edge....

Also try to build practical projects on your own if you can. Maybe make a habit of building a kit project over each semester break, and a couple of them over the summers. Build more complicated projects on your own using microcontrollers as soon as you can, and get comfortable designing and building practical stuff with them. When you build real-world projects, it really helps you to start to understand what is important in designing and building stuff, and helps you to "learn to ask the right questions" of yourself and your teachers. Good luck! -Mike-
Nothing000
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#8
Jan3-06, 04:31 PM
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Quote Quote by berkeman
I think that engineers that can mix several EE disciplines have extra value to a company, because they can really tie together multiple parts of a design.
So do you think that it would be worth it to take a few more computer programming classes than is required? I only have to take two computer science classes (which we will use JAVA), and that is it. I am thinking about taking Unix, C and C++. If I took those classes with the Discrete Math class and one other class I would have a minor in Computer Science. I think that looks worthwhile, what do you think?
And the Discrete Math class that I would take is offered through the computer science dept and not through the math dept and I do think that they focus on application.
Nothing000
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#9
Jan3-06, 04:34 PM
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Your job sounds very cool berkeman. That is exactly what I would like to do.
berkeman
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Jan3-06, 04:40 PM
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Quote Quote by Nothing000
So do you think that it would be worth it to take a few more computer programming classes than is required? I only have to take two computer science classes (which we will use JAVA), and that is it. I am thinking about taking Unix, C and C++.
That sounds like a good set of round-out classes. I'd also recommend that you get some assembly language programming experience. It doesn't have to be a lot -- maybe just part of a microcontroller project on your own. It's fun to compare your own tight assy language program results (size and speed) with what a good C compiler can do. The compiler often comes pretty close unless you are using some specialized tricks in your assy language code. Definitely check out some of your school's textbooks for the communication theory classes, to get an idea of other classes to take in preparation for the harder stuff.
exequor
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#11
Jan16-06, 08:45 PM
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I see computer engineering as a specialization in EE. In my school you can do CE or EE but over 80% of students do a dual degree in ECE since both programs are very similar and only a few courses differentiate the two.
david90
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#12
Jan20-06, 06:01 PM
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yeah computer and ee is pretty close. Computer eng. will take more classes relating to computer than EE.

Does anyone know the typical entry level salary for computer egr? I'm graduating soon
ranger
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Jan20-06, 08:47 PM
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Quote Quote by david90
yeah computer and ee is pretty close. Computer eng. will take more classes relating to computer than EE.
Does anyone know the typical entry level salary for computer egr? I'm graduating soon

http://money.cnn.com/2005/04/15/pf/c...ting_salaries/
EvLer
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#14
Jan21-06, 02:39 PM
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Quote Quote by david90
Does anyone know the typical entry level salary for computer egr? I'm graduating soon
our career services list it around 60 grand per year as a start, but i expect that to vary...

ya....berkeman's job sounds quite thrilling....
Nothing000
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#15
Jan22-06, 02:54 AM
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Are you a computer engineering major EvLer? If so, what year?
EvLer
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#16
Jan22-06, 10:37 AM
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Quote Quote by Nothing000
Are you a computer engineering major EvLer? If so, what year?
yes, i am.... 3rd year.
mattmns
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Jan22-06, 11:28 AM
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I don't know much about either EE or CE, but I do know that Discrete Math is a requirement for CEs here. Also, unless your Modern Algebra class is an applications class, I would not think that it would be much help for computer engineering, as when I took it last semester we did nothing applied at all.


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