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Computer engineering major considering changing majors

  1. Jun 30, 2012 #1
    im pretty conflicted. I'm in a funny situation. Im majoring in computer engineering purely or mostly out of passion (it would be a nice fall back career if worst came to worst). Im fiannacially stable and dont really plan on working in the computer engineering field. Im actaully a business/finance guy professionally. my whole young life i have loved messing with electronics and i just want to be able to tinker and have a strong compentence when it comes to electronics. whats giving me pause is the idea that once i finish my major i may not be able to functionally create electronic devices alone. im not interested in working in teams or on major projects. I just want to be able to sit in a room and mess with and create electronic devices. is this a realistic goal? or is the complexity of devices these days out of hand for a solo tinkerer and is computer engineer mainly for those who plan to make a career out of it? i enjoy the math and will continue my education but i am considering focusing else where like mathamatics, statistic, or economics. subjects i do find interesting but havent had the life long desire to learn.

    also like i said earlier i think it is purdent to have a major that can pay for itself if my finnacial outlook turns ugly, thats another plus of CE but i really dont want to waste my time and not have a functional education just a paper that can get me a job.

    im really conflicted... im torn between desire, functionality, security, and efficency...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2012 #2


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    Hey Magnum29464 and welcome to the forums.

    One general thing that I have found about pursuing interests is that this is a long term thing, and I'm sure it will relate to computer engineering.

    You will no doubt get a little experience in electronics but nowadays a lot of stuff is done using computers due to the complexity and scope of projects.

    This does not mean that you won't be able to experiment and create functional devices of your own: it just means that you most likely won't have a nanometer CPU printing device to create the next Intel chip.

    You should also be aware that for electronics, there are specialist associate degrees that you can take that are half the time but I wouldn't recommend these if you have the desire to do computer engineering because you will most likely be able to pick up anything quickly after having done this: this is one important point about degrees in that you end up learning how to do things independently quickly and effeciently with enough experience.

    The other is that doing math, physics, statistics and say classes using these is important as well especially if you want to use complex components and you have to use a computer program or otherwise to figure out how to incorporate them into your final device.

    The other thing is to try and get experience with the right software if you can like SPICE software, which is going to be critical if you do your own circuit designs. Hopefully you will do some of this in your engineering curriculum, but keep an eye out for opportunities to learn this if it is not the case.

    One thing you might consider is whether electrical engineering as opposed to computer engineering might be a better choice. In some universities, this may just be a matter of electives and a few different core subjects, but it's worth looking into IMO.
  4. Jun 30, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the response chiro,

    I guess the core of my question is, Is a computer engineering degree worth it for personal desire. and will it be usable outside of a large company?

    i know the first part of the question is subjective, for me its dependant on the answer to the second.

    i guess an even purer form of my question is, Is my childhood dream of sitting in a room building and creating electrical devices realistic? are people who have there CE degrees capable of doing this once they graduate?
  5. Jun 30, 2012 #4


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    I don't know whether being capable or not means that they will be looking for you to do that work.

    Again associate degrees in electronics focus more on hands on technician type work as opposed to engineering which is a lot broader that prepares for things like becoming a P.E. and being responsible for signing off on designs and being in meetings giving advice and proposals for decision makers.

    Apart from that, you might find yourself staring at a screen all day as opposed to being involved in hands on work and if it is to do with design, it may involve doing simulations, computational work like numeric analysis, using a circuit simulation program, or programming in VHDL, which is a little removed from the work you are talking about.

    The focus of an associate engineer in electronics though is different to that of a person with a four year degree.

    To get to the point: my suggestion is to find out whether associate's degree holders are more suitable for the kind of work you wish to do as opposed to computer engineering, and if this is the case and you want to still do a CE (which I would recommend), then find out how to use the CE degree to transition to that kind of work based on electives and any external skills you may need: short-courses like soldering for example (soldering doesn't necessarily take an hour to learn).

    With regard of your degree being used outside of a large company, IMO it should. I'm not sure why you think it won't be not useful, but it's up to you to utilize your background for the opportunities that lie ahead.

    I think you could achieve your dream, and I used to work in a spare parts factory where people sat all day fixing electronic equipment with all the tools of the trade. Granted this is not a design job, but this is one example I have witnessed first hand for full-time technicians, working on circuits diagnosing problems all day.

    Also be aware that you might end up getting bored of your job by being forced to do it more than you anticipated. If this is the case, you can take the CE move into another role and then dabble at home on your time off: you'd be surprised how many people do this being trained engineers.
  6. Jul 1, 2012 #5
    but thats my point this wont be my job. i already have a career. my degree is purely for personal pleasure (and a nice backup). i want to create not just fix things or work on small parts of bigger projects. I want to create devices from scratch. im just wondering how realistic that is. im torn between letting that idea go and focusing on other interests i have that are more inline with what i already do or becoming the "inventor" i wanted to be since i was a child.
  7. Jul 1, 2012 #6


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    If you want to invent, then get the basics down and become independent enough so that you can go on your own and do this way.

    The only thing I would have to say though is that it's a good idea to get an idea of the field by working in it for a little while. The reason for this is to build up enough understanding of the field so that you can clarify exactly the area you wish to work on.

    This is what is done in PhD programs: you survey the field for a while and get some guidance from a supervisor (as well as other people) so that you get to a point where you can go out on your own.

    Having said this, it might be beneficial if you look into PhD engineering programs that focus on design for the reason that by the time you get the PhD you will have a very good idea about a particular field, and by that time you will be more than prepared to go out on your own and become an inventor.

    Having said the above, it's important to realize the scope of what you wish to invent: designing a new CPU requires a lot of people, a lot of time, and a lot of resources including very expensive equipment and software.

    If you don't have a particular specific idea of what you want to invent, I would suggest doing a degree and then clarify exactly what you wish to work on: you will probably have to do a lot of mucking around figuring out the specifics as well as what works and what doesn't (inventing is a very messy process that is completely non-linear).

    Once you do a lot of screwing around, things will become clearer and your goals will become more specific. Then things will build on past things and you will develop clear direction and focus which means that what you do will become a lot more organized.

    Getting organized is hard, but getting guidance tends to make that path shorter and easier than it otherwise could be, and one way to do this if you don't go into the workforce for a little bit is to do a PhD with someone who has enough real experience and provides good guidance.

    What kinds of things do you want to invent as a broad description?
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