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

Computer Engineering - Electrical Eng. & Computer Science?

  1. Jul 13, 2015 #1
    Is majoring in computer engineering the same as doing a double major in electrical engineering and computer science?


    I'm having difficult choosing my major as an upcoming freshmen at the University of Waterloo. I'm very interested in both the hardware and software aspects of computers, but I'm more interested in the software that designs the "brain" of the computer. Let's say 40% hardware and 60% software.

    I've been searching around for a while on the Internet and noticed a common trend that a lot of professors at schools such as MIT and CalTech who specialize in artificial intelligence have both a computer science and an electrical engineering degree. Not to mention, the two most popular majors for a lot of tech schools are computer science and electrical engineering.

    Based off that observation, I'm uncertain if I should do a double major in electrical engineering and computer science or just do computer engineering because it seems to me, from what I've read across on PhysicsForum and Google, that computer engineering incorporates both.

    I'm also having a good interest in robotics in which my university offers mechatronics as a concentration. However, I've always disliked and stayed away from doing double majors or interdisciplinary fields for I fear that I would be a jack of all trades but a master of none. If I were to do computer science and perhaps have a concentration in software engineering, perhaps I could become more adept for creating AI?

    So it goes to this...

    Major in Computer Engineering, concentration in software engineering or mechatronics?
    Major in Computer science, concentration in software engineering?
    Double major in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science?

    I hope this makes sense. 60% Artificial Intelligence, 40% Robotics

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    First off the jack of all trades quote is very often left short.
    the actual quote goes...jack of all trades, master of none, better than master of one
    Don't worry about being a jack of all trades now. Many people get a degree and then work in a completely different field. having a broad base is good.

    I would call computer engineering simply as digital hardware engineering, and the software necessary to make the hardware work. Anything beyond that is either comp sci/software or electrical. That being said, comp engineering departments often teach classes in the other areas.

    Now lets get to robotics . Often these classes are taught from multiple perspectives in multiple disciplines. You can look at the controls and actuation from an electrical/computer prospective, the 'brains' from a software prospect, or systems from any of them. Also don't forget that often EE majors go on to work in software or systems.

    I don't know too much about AI. I do know that is it most often taught from a software prospective, however it is often in the electrical engineering department under the 'controls' discipline.

    What a concentration does is it chooses your electives for you. No one is saying you can't be an EE and take computer science classes, as long as you meet the prereqs. Even then, sometimes the professor will wave the requirements if you seem up to the challenge and have a semi-appropriate background. I wouldn't worry about choosing a concentration just yet. as far as major, if you really want to do AI, comp sci and EE would be a good bet. You would have a nice wide base to start from and could tailor your electives to AI. It wouldnt be bad to do just one or the other.
  4. Jul 13, 2015 #3

    Whew! You gave me a lot of information!

    Things I Got From You:
    1) Don't worry about being a jack of all trades, people work in a completely different field, broad base is good
    2) Computer Engineering = Digital Hardware Engineering, anything beyond is EE&CS
    3) Robotics are taught in multiple perspectives in multiple disciplines
    4) EE majors often work in software systems
    5) AI is taught in software perspective, under EE department
    6) You can be an EE and take CS classes, as long as you meet prereqs or professor...

    Are you recommending to do a double major in computer science AND electrical engineering? My university says that it's 5 years for Electrical and 4-5 years for Computer Science. Since most people don't graduate in 4 years, it's okay. I want to be able to take my time which is likely it will take me 6 years. Is 6 years too long? I could always go to the computer engineering route where it's five years (6 for me) which is basically a combination of electrical engineering and computer science.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  5. Jul 14, 2015 #4

    May someone please help me? I'm still confused.
  6. Jul 15, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    first, take any free advice with a grain of salt. at the end of the day make the decision that feels right

    1. yeah basically. Undergrad is just a base. whether you accept it or not, you won't be a 'master' in anything with olny 4 years of school

    2. basically. a lot of times the curriculum covers low level embedded software too.

    3. yes

    4. yes

    5. at my school a lot of the classes were under the EE discipline. It depends on the school and the actual field of AI. at most schools it will prob be under the comp sci department.

    6. yes

    If your heart is set on AI, you could probably do any of the three majors and enter the field. in robotics, it depends on what you want to do. ee would be controls, mechanics, or hardware oriented, with some software. computer engineering owuld be digital hardware/software oriented, and comp sci would be software
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook