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Computer vs. Electrical Engineering

  1. May 25, 2014 #1
    I understand what Computer and Electrical Engineering are in the sense that computer engineering is electronics and some programming and electrical deals more with hardware whether it's power lines or electronics.

    What I want to know is whether or not one job market is better than the other. I would definitely be more interesting in computer engineering but I don't want to be limited to just working with computers. I would like to be able to keep a wide base of knowledge varying from solar panels to robotics to electronics.

    A) Is one seen more valuable than the other?

    B) Does either choice limit your career opportunities? If so, how?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2014 #2

    donpacino

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    In my opinion, computer engineer is and always will be a subset of electrical engineering. Typically if you study EE for undergraduate you will at a minimum be exposed to basic CPE concepts.

    There are many instances where digital electronics are replacing analog electronics. There is a growing demand for software and computer hardware. That being said, analog electroncis can NEVER go away. It is an analog world.

    A.) EE can cover aspects such as RF and Microwave, transmission lines, semiconductor, analog electronics, power, and control theory.

    CPE can conver aspects such as digital electronics, microprocessors, fpgas, networks theory, drivers.

    In many cases there are opportunities to cross between the two disciplines.

    B.) There is a strong demand for each field. You will limit your career opportunities based on the classes that you take. If you go CPE you will not be able to specialize in RF. If you choose to specialize in RF, you will not be well suited for a CPE job. That is true of picking any major. I think with either EE or CPE you should not have a lot of difficulty finding a job.

    At some schools there is a lot of overlap, at some there are very little. I got an EE degree for my undergrad, however I took a LOT of CPE classes. note: it is a lot easier to go from EE to CPE compared to CPE to EE
     
  4. May 27, 2014 #3
    At the school that I am interested in both majors are essentially the same except for the electives.

    In your opinion, what are the hot topics or rapidly growing fields in EE or CPE?
     
  5. May 27, 2014 #4

    donpacino

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    Right now I am working on embedded systems in the aerospace industry. The new big thing is FPGAs, the usage of which is similar to programming in some ways.

    There is also a big push for modular reusable hardware and software, lasers and optics, and using serial com protocols to decrease wire weight and increase reliability.
     
  6. May 27, 2014 #5
    What exactly is FPGAS? I just finished my first year so I have only done MATLAB
     
  7. May 27, 2014 #6

    donpacino

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    FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Array. It is essentially a piece of hardware that can easily impliment large scale digital logic. An HDL (hardware description language) is used to tell the FPGA how to act. two examples of HDLs are VHDL and Verilog.

    Matlab is traditionally a computation language. However there is something called auto coded firmware in which you design the digital logic in simulink or matlab and matlab generates the HDL files.
     
  8. May 27, 2014 #7

    donpacino

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    You may learn more about them when you take a digital logic class
     
  9. May 27, 2014 #8
    Thank you for your help.
     
  10. May 27, 2014 #9
    You should really check the specific program at the schools you are looking at. My daughter went through this decision.

    First, you probably don't have to decide until your Junior year. And even then you could change your mind and maybe probably only have to add a semester.. So don't agonize too much.. My daughter started as a CE and realized she hated programming.. so it worked itself out.

    If you are not a programmer and don't like it, then you will hate the CE major. It is an EE with more than just a Comp Sci Minor.. at least at my daughter's school. You had to take some of the serious Comp Sci courses like Compiler design. And there are the differences in the core EE as others have pointed out.. like power and RF. and focus on Digital in CE.

    I think every EE program you will be learning microcontrollers whether or not you are taking CE or EE.

    When I was looking at the job market a few years ago there were very few jobs that were specific in the CE requirement.. Does that mean a CE could not apply for an EE position? With most civilian employers I would say it would not matter, but with Federal jobs it probably would make a difference. Like the Patent Office.. the Federal Government are drones and very exacting with qualifications.

    but in the end, if you don't like programming I would not touch the CE.
     
  11. May 27, 2014 #10
    I actually like programming very much.
     
  12. May 28, 2014 #11
    If you do CE, you will either become a programmer or electrical engineer, there aren't many jobs that combine both.
     
  13. May 28, 2014 #12
    But it doesn't limit you in EE? I am worried about employers seeing Computer Engineering and assuming I can't do EE work.
     
  14. May 28, 2014 #13
    Why not just get an EE and do a minor in Comp Sci? Your job prospects will be a function of how far you are willing to relocate or where you currently live.
     
  15. May 28, 2014 #14

    donpacino

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    That is 100% not true. The embedded systems market has jobs that are perfect for a CPE major.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2014
  16. May 28, 2014 #15

    donpacino

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    EE with a minor in comp sci is different from getting a CE degree. it can be similar IFF you take all your electives in the CPE department and you take low level comp sci electives.

    CPE will prepare you for any job that requires digital electronics, low level programming, designing processor boards, etc.

    that being said if you are worried about not having enough EE background, getting an EE degree and taking a lot of CPE classes is not a bad route to take
     
  17. May 28, 2014 #16
    I said "there aren't many jobs..." I know embedded systems combine both but that is only 1 job.
     
  18. May 28, 2014 #17
    I was looking at CpE instead of EE with a CS minor because the minor would add another semester. I already a little behind because I am transferring.
     
  19. May 28, 2014 #18

    donpacino

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    true. However almost every modern device from a toaster to an airplane contains embedded electronics. there is a fairly high demand for computer engineering.

    As far as computer engineering goes. There are a decent jobs out there. It'll make you very good at what you do. There is less jobs available then if you went for just EE.

    that being said almost everyone in EE has one or two niches, something they are good at. I would say the computer engineering niche is no smaller than the analog electronics nich or the RF niche.
     
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