Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Communication Theory vs. DSP? Differences?

  1. Mar 19, 2013 #1
    I have a choice between these two courses next semester and I want to learn a little more about them before I make my decision. Does DSP construct a received signal? While Comm. Theory would focus on creating the signal and dealing with noise?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2013 #2
    Comms Theory is like it says the theory of communication. It is primarily mathematical. DSP is also a mathematical theory but it is of wider scope the Communication Theory. DSP is everything from coding for communications, to audio processing, image processing and more.

    They are quite different courses. What are your career goals? In communication theory you will sometimes use DSP to demonstrate algorithms, but really you're more likely to use MATLAB. In DSP you'll also use MATLAB but you'll have a different (but overlapping) focus.
  4. Mar 19, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the reply.

    I'm not exactly sure of my career goals yet because I still know so little about all the different EE fields. If I had to guess though it would be RF, optics, DSP, controls, or even straight software.
  5. Mar 19, 2013 #4
    Go to campus bookstore and spend some time looking through the required books and see which one peaks your interest the most. This is what I did (albeit years ago).
  6. Mar 19, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the reply. Actually, I did check out some books but I'm still having trouble deciding which to take.

    From what I gathered Comm. theory would be creating and sending a signal knowing that the channel might be noisy and then understanding what that signal is upon received with the added noise. DSP seems like only putting the signal back together in the fastest most efficient way possible with the end result of that signal being used in a digital system. I searched for related jobs too and most of the results I've found said either Comm. theory knowledge and/or DSP. If I only took one of these classes would it matter in terms of jobs?

    I'm considering taking both courses as of now; would that be redundant? Both courses seem to have a lot of overlap in terms of Fourier stuff and filters. But I noticed that Comm. theory seems to use a lot of probability while DSP does not.
  7. Mar 19, 2013 #6
    They aren't redundant at all. I took both myself. You'll eventually need to take an intensive course in Random Signals and Noise to really understand either Comms theory or DSP.

    The way to really figure out what you want to do is to take classes in everything. It's hard to tell without getting your hands dirty if you'll like something.
  8. Mar 21, 2013 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To me at least, communications theory is more philosophically interesting. What is a signal, and what is noise?

    Digital signal processing is more the mechanics of coding and decoding from one kind of format into another. Highly mathematical.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook