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Can electrical engineers become programmers?

  1. Feb 18, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone!

    Is it easy for someone with an electrical engineering education to become a programmer? Will anyone hire an electrical engineer to do development work?

    I ask because I am still trying to decide between computer science and electrical engineering at university.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2012 #2
    Yes its possible, but not the best approach I think.
    Electrical Engineers learn many other things which you may find not so interesting.
    A reasonable choice can be computer engineering, involves more programming than the typical EE degrees.

    Edit: you should check the courses for the degrees before you apply and see which you like more.
  4. Feb 18, 2012 #3
    Unfortunately the computer engineering program at the university I am going to was very recently terminated, so I will not be able to do computer engineering there.
  5. Feb 18, 2012 #4
    Are you interested in hardware or software? Yes an electrical engineer can program however the focus tends to be more on lower level coding e.g. C, C++, embedded C, assembly and other goodness associated with device drivers, real time control systems and the such. If you just want to program you would be better served with a computer science degree which will have a lot more emphasis on data structures, algorithms, discrete maths and the such. So if I were making the decision I would be thinking of whether my interest lies in control systems / device drivers / embedded systems or business apps.
  6. Feb 18, 2012 #5
    I'm not sure what I'm most interested in.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
  7. Feb 19, 2012 #6
    Logic design is a subfield of EE - that's done mostly with hardware description languages like Verilog and VHDL these days. You aren't writing software, you are basically writing code that describes a logic circuit for things like processors.
  8. Feb 19, 2012 #7

    Dr Transport

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    Right now, the organization I work for is only looking for computer engineers, mechanical engineers, optical engineers and physics majors. That should tell you something,
  9. Feb 19, 2012 #8
    Why no electrical engineers?
  10. Feb 19, 2012 #9
    I'm currently doing a joint degree in Electronics and Software Engineering. The subjects do seem to compliment each other. Any gaps you miss you should hopefully be able to fill in with some good books and practise.

    Perhaps try and find a course similar to this?
  11. Feb 19, 2012 #10
    I think I can do a double major in computer science and electrical engineering, however it would probably take around 6 years to complete.
  12. Feb 20, 2012 #11
    Unless you teach yourself programming (From the millions of publicatons out there) and work to build a portfolio of programming work?

    I do not have direct experience with this but find it unlikely a company will take a software engineer fresh out of University over someone who can say I have done x,y,z - worked on open source project blah, blah,blah and still have a EE degree showing extreme flexability and a knowledge of hardware.
  13. Feb 21, 2012 #12
    Anyone can become a programmer, no degree is required.
  14. Feb 22, 2012 #13


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    Just know that there's a big difference between a software engineer/computer scientist and a "programmer."
  15. Feb 23, 2012 #14
    I believe the topic title was "Can electrical engineers become programmers? " not Can electrical engineers become software engineers
  16. Feb 23, 2012 #15


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    I realize that is what the title says. But the actual decision with which the OP is struggling is not mentioned until the final statement of his/her initial post.

  17. Feb 23, 2012 #16
    Yes, I was more asking about if they can become software engineers I suppose.
  18. Feb 23, 2012 #17
    You don't need to study the full computer science degree to become a good programmer. Computer science involves much more then is actually needed to program. A lot of theoretical courses aren't really needed.

    So consider being an EE and taking programming courses. I think you can finish this in a respectable time.
  19. Feb 24, 2012 #18
    There's a lot of people that are great programmers with no academic training so you will have the credentials to at least get interviews with a related degree. Whether or not you're actually cut out to be a programmer is highly dependent on your practice. I was a physics/math major that took 3 courses in software and then worked in software for 4 years. I breathed code after my 2nd year as an undergrad. Anything and everything I could get my hands I would write a program for it.

    On a side note, I believe that electrical engineering is extremely versatile and I have met many "EE's" that have crossed into software, physics, and even pure math.
  20. Feb 24, 2012 #19
    I believe that if colleges offer a degree in Software Engineering, it is for a reason.

    You can program all you want if you pick the right books... However, it takes time to blend with computer languages and be efficient. Not only that, it takes time to realize how much you can do with a language and exploit that.

    Nowadays, companies are looking for people who specifically know a specific language. So if you stick only to one language, chances are low you'll get a good job.

    Let me give you a list of languages, but keep in mind 4 things:
    1. There are no jobs specifically for the first line in the list, but they're a good complement in curriculums.

    For the other 3 lines:
    2. The lower we go in the list, the language gets harder to learn.
    3. The lower we go in the list, the pay tends to be better.
    4. The lower we go in the list, the harder it is to get a job on that language.

    -VBScript, VBA or anything-goes-"script"
    -Java, C#, Visual Basic.
    -C, C++, Objective-C

    The following are not "programming languages" strictly speaking, but they're a must for transactional applications which account I believe for more than 90% of applications developed worldwide. These languages are specific for databases and are supposed to be simple:
    -SQL, PL SQL and Transact-Sql

    There are also essential languages for web development, which all alone are useless, they complement with other languages.
    -ASP.NET / ASP
    The aforementioned languages need to be mixed with others to make a good web application.
    For example, a typical Microsoft Framework web application contains: ASP.NET, C# or VB, Javascript, and T-SQL.

    In addition, Telecommunications are vital to a good programming.
    Most programming books omit telecommunications. For example, the main reason to have C# or VB in the Microsoft Framework web applications is for security (to prevent "listeners" from getting hints on how to hack your site). Web Developers tend to ignore why, even graduates.

    So, as stated before, colleges offer a degree in Software Engineering for a reason.
    It's not easy to get proficient on your own, but you may if you pick the right books and spend enough time at it.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
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