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Are Computer Scientists Engineers?

  1. Sep 22, 2008 #1

    Cod

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    The title of this thread says it all. As I'm researching different computer science undergraduate programs, I've noticed that many of the CS departments are co-located with the electrical engineering and computer engineering departments. Also, as I look at professional sites and such, I notice the sites include computer science right along side of engineering. There really isn't much "separation" of the two.

    Wikipedia describes engineering as the discipline and profession of applying technical and scientific knowledge and utilizing natural laws and physical resources in order to design and implement materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes that realize a desired objective and meet specified criteria. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't computer scientists do this every day as well?

    Then, ABET describes engineering as the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property. Again, computer scientists do the this as well.

    Lastly, accreditation bodies of engineering (ie ABET) have a specific accreditation process for computer science. So it would seem that the mathematics and physical sciences involved in a CS program are on par with engineering programs out there; however, a little more limited.

    I know employers, advisors, and society in general do not refer to a computer scientist as an engineer; however, aren't they technically engineers? So why aren't they refered to as engineers?
     
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  3. Sep 22, 2008 #2

    chroot

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    Computer science has absolutely nothing to do with engineering, though some of the courses do overlap with computer engineering and even electrical engineering. They also often use some of the same laboratory space, so schools put them close together geographically.

    Computer scientists study computation itself -- algorithms and techniques to manipulate data. Computer engineers learn how to actually build a computer out of individual logic gates, but spend relatively little time learning to program them effectively. Computer scientists rarely even need to learn anything about electricity, and are not engineers at all, in any respect.

    - Warren
     
  4. Sep 22, 2008 #3
    But what about software engineers? :smile:
     
  5. Sep 22, 2008 #4

    mgb_phys

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    There is basically a split between computer science (maths) and software engineering (engineering) BUT which the university calls the course and which it really is doesn't necessarily match up.
     
  6. Sep 22, 2008 #5
    Computer Science and Software Engineering are nearly exactly the same at NZ universities, apart from Computer Science is 3 years, and Software Engineering is those 3 years, with the 'general engineering' year tagged on beforehand, to make 4 years. I can't tell you how annoying that year is... I want to go straight into Mechanical, but they make you do a whole year, of doing every engineering, before you go into your specialization. Agh!
     
  7. Sep 22, 2008 #6

    Integral

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    In many large "high Tech" companies your CS degree will get you an Engineering position. In industry an engineer is just about anyone who is salaried and degreed but not management. Exactly what your degree is in does not matter as much has having the degree. Here at HP I know of people with Liberal Arts degrees holding Engineering positions...(not usually the best engineer!) . Generally they have come up through the "ranks" to get the job.
     
  8. Sep 22, 2008 #7

    mgb_phys

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    In some countries the profession 'engineer' is regulated and you can only get on the track if you have an approved degree ie. from a university engineering dept.

    Computer/software engineering isn't really regulated yet - but some depts include a year of general engineering stuff to allow you to make the requirement (or because they are filthy sadists that like teaching 1000 bored undergras about blocks sliding down inclined planes)
     
  9. Sep 22, 2008 #8

    chroot

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    I'd be a little careful making such a statement. Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering... you would not be able to get a job in any of these fields with a CS degree. If HP hires CS students into "engineering" positions, then they're not doing any real engineering at all. If HP's only definition of "engineer" is "salaried, degreed, but not management," then I think the company's got some big problems. Salespeople are engineerings? HR employees? Accountants?

    C'mon Integral... Certainly, you're not suggesting that a CS student learns about microelectronics and EM fields, or turbo machinery and vibration, or reactor vessel design and control systems, are you?

    - Warren
     
  10. Sep 22, 2008 #9

    mgb_phys

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    It's worse in the country that invented professional engineers.
    An engineer is someone who arrives to hook up your cable TV.
     
  11. Sep 23, 2008 #10
    I think that Computer Science is generally considered a Quantitative Science (like Physics or Chemistry, but obviously not a natural science), although since it tends to deal mostly with theory and algorithms, it is probably closer to math than science. Computer engineering is generally considered an engineering discipline, although with its focus on physics and chemistry, is probably closer in many respects to a quantitative science than computer science.

    Either way, most departments require serious mathematics and physics classes for a Computer Science degree, and, truth be told, neither computer science nor computer engineering fit cleanly into either the science, engineering, or mathematics peg. I am not really too familiar with how software engineering differs from computer science or computer engineering (both of which are offered here). The only "software engineers" I know are from overseas.
     
  12. Sep 23, 2008 #11
    Electrical engineering is usually a requirement for a CS degree, but only one or two classes. They tend to focus more on the algorithms than the hardware. But I certainly have had professors who had undergraduate degrees in one field and graduate degrees in the other.
     
  13. Sep 23, 2008 #12
    Depends who you ask, you can make a darn good case that a lot of computer science is a natural science.

    Computer science is the study of computation and its fundamental limits. These limits are imposed by "nature". The models of computation we consider may or may not be possible in reality though. However, when a computer scientist proves a fundamental limit on what can be done with, say, a Turing machine (an unrealistic model of computation) then we know that we've proven a fundamental limit for the real computer as well since we know that Turing machines do better than real computers.
     
  14. Sep 23, 2008 #13
    Are Computer Scientist in union with the IEEE?
     
  15. Sep 23, 2008 #14
    Isn't Computer Science more of a Math then a Natural Science?
     
  16. Sep 23, 2008 #15
    I think so, but in most universities it seems to be considered a quantitative science and get its own department in the science and math school. Maybe computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, and information technology should be unified under a single "Computational Studies" school?
     
  17. Sep 23, 2008 #16

    Integral

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    I did NOT say what your job would be. Your TITLE would be Engineer. Your peers would be the other engineers in your department. We have MEs EEs and CS people all working under the umbrella of an engineer . But then HP is ...Well it is HP, one of the largest "high Tech" corporations in existence.

    As I said in the first post all that they have in common is that they are salaried and have a 4yr degree of some sort.

    In the US engineer is a very broad term, it covers a lot of ground and it is up the to the company to decide what they call that group of salaried workers with degrees. It is really impossible to answer the question "What does an engineer do" because it depends on the company and what your degree is.

    I have to admit that I have no clue about sales people, I work for the technology development organization. We do not have any (that I know of) sales people in our organization. There may be some at the other end of the site working day shift but I know nothing of them.

    Why would it be "trouble" to call the code head in your engineering group an engineer? We have EEs (who are frequently the code head) MEs, CEs, CSs , and even a few Physics degrees in our engineering groups. Each has a place on the TEAM. Is that a difficult concept?
     
  18. Sep 23, 2008 #17

    Integral

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    A course in Electrical engineering is a far cry from Electrical engineering. There may be some schools which require hardware courses for their CS programs but it certainly is not universal.
     
  19. Sep 23, 2008 #18
    At my school (UMass), Electrical Engineers generally specialize in sensors, control systems, electrical power (generation/motors/etc.), communications (the hardware), and general electronic devices - from toasters to keyless entry devices. Computer Engineers are quite similar - sharing pretty much everything with EE's until the senior year, where they usually specialize in VLSI, designing chips/processors, advanced computer network classes, etc.

    Computer Science majors have a very different curriculum at my school that is outside of the Engineering department. While some Computer Engineers will take a couple CompSci courses as electives, the CompSci people are all about programming advanced algorithms. Everything from artificial intelligence to data compression schemes.

    Computer Information Systems is in the business department and is essentially a bachelors degree in liberal arts and secretarial skills.

    It's also important to note that the financial and human aspect of design is integral to an Engineer's studies. From what I've gathered, CompSci is more along the lines of a pure science, where knowledge is generally sought for knowledge in and of itself (rather than application). Of course companies sometimes hire Physicists and Computer Scientists to do Engineering Jobs, and Vice Versa. But, I believe you need an engineering degree from an accredited school to become a PE and practice "Engineering" that involves the safety and well being of the public. Again, science focuses on the knowledge, whereas engineering focuses on applying that knowledge.
     
  20. Sep 23, 2008 #19
    They're not engineers either - another misnomer.
     
  21. Sep 23, 2008 #20

    stewartcs

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    Strictly speaking, yes, they are engineers.

    If you look at the definition of engineer and engineering you will notice immediately that they fit the definition. Note definitions 2b, and 3b,c respectively.

    The area of specialty is just different. For example, here are examples of a CS and ME course of study.

    http://www.ncsu.edu/registrar/curricula/engineering/14csc.html

    http://www.ncsu.edu/uap/academic-standards/RR/curricula/engineering/14me.html

    The first two years are almost identical, it is only the last two that differ. They differ due to the area of concentration. This is no different from that of an EE to ME to CE to whatever. The concentration is only different, which does not make any one of them less of an engineer.

    CS
     
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