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Computer engineering or Electrical engineering?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello,

Since about 10th grade, I have wanted to be a computer engineer. I love working with, on, and around computers. I seem to have a knack for computer related "stuff". I have decided to pursue a degree in computer engineering with a HARDWARE emphasis through the University of Florida. I will transfer in as a junior in the fall after I finish my prerequisite courses this summer. From what I understand, computer engineering, especially computer Hardware engineering, is very close to electrical engineering. Alot of the classes are the same. A couple of days ago I was talking with my dad and he was asking about electrical engineering. He is under the impression that electrical engineering is a broader field than just computer engineering. He is honestly trying to help me and in no way trying to discourage me but he raised an important question. Would I be better off going with a degree in electrical engineering? I'm sort of panicking now because I don't think the university will allow me to change my major. I know that computer engineering is a broad field, but it seems like electrical engineering would be a broader one with lots more diverse opportunities with alot of different jobs to choose from. It seems that an electrical engineer could do computer engineer work if need be but not the other way around. So what do you guys think? Is computer hardware engineering a broad enough field where I would have no problem finding a job that I enjoy? Could I pursue an electrical engineer related job with a computer hardware engineering degree? Sorry for the extremely long post, I just wanna come to an understanding before I dive off into this.

Thanks
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
chroot
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Welcome to PF, CE Trainee.

The two degrees probably differ in only a few classes. I did CpE at Virginia Tech, and took a few extra programming classes. People in the EE program took a few extra fields and power classes. The degrees were essentially identical. If that's also true at your school, I wouldn't even bother worrying about the slight difference. Your career choices will be the same with either degree.

For example, although I have a CpE degree, I work as a mixed-signal integrated circuit designer, and am pursuing a graduate degree in EE.

- Warren
 
  • #3
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Hey chroot,

Thanks so much for the reply. At the university I'm transferring to, the computer engineering program has a hardware and software specialization. I chose the hardware specialization. I looked at the class lists for EE and CPe hardware and they are pretty close with the exception of an electromagnetics class and the specialization courses like some power classes and such. So, the two degrees are for the most part interchangeable? Also, in your work as a mixed-signal integrated circuit designer, how much calculus and differential equations goes into it? I don't mind it, I've done well in my math so far. I was just wondering if it holds real world application once I get a job or if it's just part of the weedout process and/or coursework.
 
  • #4
chroot
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CE Trainee,

It sounds like the two degree programs are pretty much interchangeable at your school, too.

How much calculus do I use? Calculus is pretty much a fundamental tool in my work; I use it so often that I don't even really notice it anymore. The equations that describe how an analog circuit behaves are almost all differential equations, sometimes really, really hairy ones. I don't sit down and solve them analytically very often, though; I let MATLAB or some other tool numerically solve them instead.

I also do a lot of digital signal processing, and that involves some pretty heavy calculus, too, usually packaged up in the Fourier transform. Complex numbers and trigonometry are used everywhere, as you can probably imagine.

My skill set is actually fairly unique among EE's, since I have a background in computer programming. I'm able to automate a lot of my tasks, and I'm able to bring novel problem-solving solutions to the table. My programming skills are every bit as vital as my electrical know-how.

I guess it's a pretty diverse blend. :smile:

- Warren
 
  • #5
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Hmm, so in the real world its not so much "here work these 20 integrals out on paper that will take you forever to figure out"? As long as you know how the math works and what to input, you mainly put it into a program of sorts and implement the result?
 
  • #6
chroot
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Well, it's a witch's brew. It's not nearly as simple as just putting in the right inputs and doing what the computer tells you to do. The computer eases the burden and tedium, but the human being guides the entire process.

You mix some intuition about how electricity behaves, some circuit topologies that you've studied in the past, some first-order approximation models, some numerical solutions to those models, some optimization algorithms, some grunt work, a custom computer program, a prototype made out of discrete components on a board, and a ton of simulation results... and you get a chip that (hopefully!) works.

- Warren
 
  • #7
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Hi,

I am new here also and struggled with the same decision recently. At the university I go to here in New Zealand the computer engineering course is basically a blend of computer science papers and electrical engineering papers. They don't have core computer engineering papers.

I decided that Electrical was the way for me and I hope to do a lot of hardware and software papers along the way. I really don't think there would be any disadvantage going either way though.
 

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