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Engineering Electrical Engineering vs Civil Engineering

  1. Jun 22, 2009 #1
    Hi! As you can see from the title, I'm interested in both Electrical and Civil Engineering. I have very little time to make a decision. Saying go with what you like more wouldn't help me at all because I'm interested in both of them! Which one provides better job security and higher pay? What are the job prospects for them? How is outsourcing impacting these two disciplines? Which one would you choose if you could go back in time?

    Also I want to set up a home business, become a patent attorney or an investment banker later in life so which one of these two would provide a better background for that?

    Thank you for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2009 #2
    Impossible to answer....but I'd guess civil might be subject to somewhat less outsourcing in some areas, say soil analysis and foundations...but most of bridge design,for example, seems capable of being done anywhere....

    the technical training for either should be helpful. I'd think electrical might be a bit broader discipline giving insights to bio medical devices, circuits, electronics, computers,information and communication technologies......

    I'd suggest you either take some courses in each discipline and decide for yourself and/or talk with some students in each discipline and/or sit in/monitor a few classes in various disciplines...
    When an undergraduate I took extra math courses because I enjoyed them...but decided math was getting quickly abstract (for me) so I stuck with EE which seemed more applications oriented which I liked....
  4. Jun 22, 2009 #3
    Civil Engineering seems closest to what you want to do later in life. There might be a few management courses bundled into your civil engineering degree depending on your college, or you could do a minor in commerce along with civil or electrical engineering. Quite a few friends of mine are doing a combined civil engineering and commerce degree. Of course, it involves more work but it has its rewards :smile:

    Well, it really depends on where you work. I would think both jobs have equally good opportunities and job security. Telecommunications, media etc are important in developing and developed countries, lots of demand for electrical engineers. Same with civil engineering, although with the economic downturn and depending on where you live in the world, there might be a lesser demand than before.
  5. Jun 23, 2009 #4
    Thanks for your answers.

    When I ask about job security, I mean something like http://www2.studentsreview.com/articles/article.php3?article=how-to-choose-a-career.txt". Is that article true? If it is, does "most engineering fields" include CE and EE?

    I skimmed through textbooks of both fields and somehow I think I like just a little more EE (not that I don't like CE) but I don't want to end up as a "wage slave" and I really want to open a home business (something related to the type of engineering, of course) after a couple of years after graduation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. Jun 28, 2009 #5
    Hi, I am in the same position that you are in right now, except that I just completed a BSc in Physics and i want to start over with either EE or CE. I read the article you posted about job security, and if it is true, then i believe CE would be a little bit "safer" to choose.

    From what I have read for CE, experience is the most important aspect (even more important than up-to-date skills), since civil engineering is very demanding in regards of reponsability and usually big construction companies will tend to hire engineers with more than 5 y experience who have completed many successful projects. This sounds more like a common sense than anything else,but is important to emphasize nonetheless. So I think that EE specialists usually manage without much experience and their higher starting salaries prove it.

    On the other hand, as everyone is aware of the current global economic crisis, CE is one of those fields that could be affected the most. So its not 100% safeproof.
  7. Jun 28, 2009 #6
    I don't intend to go off-topic, but can't you do a M.Sc. in EE or CE with a B.Sc. in physics? Why start all over again?
  8. Jun 28, 2009 #7
    Thank you for your question, Niles. The problem is, it is very hard - near to impossible, especially with CE. With EE it is more realistic, but lets face it - if you want to work in industry and be competative then an Engineer diploma in BSc is a must.

    To relate to Niles' question let me share with all of you something that I found out the hard way - a diploma in Physics be it MSc or BSc is not going to get you anywhere, except ofcourse a start in a Research/Teaching position somewhere - and all the back-breaking work and sucking up for funding does not justify the benefits of such a career (like for example having a deeper understanding of how nature works). It is with great regret now that I realize I have made my biggest mistake by choosing Physics as my specialization 4 years ago instead of Engineering.

    P.S. Niles, are you asking this question, because it can be done? (you know someone who has done it before ) Because, at least, in my country it is impossible.
  9. Jun 28, 2009 #8
    I haven't heard of anyone doing it, but I thought it was possible doing a B.Sc. in Physics and then a M.Sc. in EE.

    In some ways I agree with you. But for me, I have chosen to make my physics-education as industry-orientated as possible as a way to make myself more "attractive".
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2009
  10. Jun 28, 2009 #9
    May I ask you how do you make your physics education more industry-oriented ? Perhaps by taking more engineering elective courses, or choossing a related thesis statement ?
  11. Jun 28, 2009 #10
    I've been programming for some years at home, and regarding coursework, then I try to choose courses which are applicable, e.g. quantum optics, photonic courses, condensed matter courses, neutron-scattering (materials science) etc., and stay away from courses in particle physics and such.
  12. Jun 28, 2009 #11
    Way to go! Several of my classmates are also into programming, two of them are actually working part-time in firms. This is indeed very practical and beneficial for a CV, except that I never loved programming and I dont see myself working 40-50 hours per week writing code.

    Yes thats again the correct way to go, too bad I realized that when it was already too late, I took Astronomy, Astrophysics, Plasma physics, Interstellar Astrophysics, Quantum Field Theory and other theory-oriented additional courses. But nevertheless, if somehow I dont get into Engineering I will apply for a MSc in Solid State Physics, taking similar to those courses that you mentioned.
  13. Jun 28, 2009 #12
    I think it is a good idea to look into those things. E.g. look at http://www.quantfinancejobs.com/

    If you do a search on "physics", it seems that (at the moment) there are decent jobs for Ph.D.-physicists who know numerical analysis/modelling/programming.
  14. Jun 28, 2009 #13
    In my experience, the only true statement in the article is that doctors are paid more than engineers.

    Unless you have some very specific idea, this is probably going to take more than a couple of years. While consulting work is definitely possible from home, this usually requires more than just a few years of experience. From what I've seen in the computer industry, it's also a much more difficult way of earning a living... it's definitely a feast or famine existence.
  15. Jul 1, 2009 #14
    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate them very much!

    In about ten days I have to choose my major and I still can't decide between CE and EE! Let me tell you something about me hoping that you can guide me in the right direction...

    Since I was born in a poor family, I was always forced to go to school and study hard to make money and feed my family some day in the future. I am strong in math and physics and I was always interested in these subjects (and that's the reason I'm posting in this forum). If I could choose, I would study physics straight away but in these hard times there aren't many jobs in this field and I don't want to pursue a PhD to find a good job. Since engineering is closest to physics and there are many jobs for engineers (high paying as well), it seems logical to study it. Don't know if this is correct but I red somewhere that if you don't know which discipline to choose, just choose one from the basic four (ME, ChemE, CE or EE) because the other disciplines are somehow more of a subdisciplines of these four and the path to get to them is easy (e.g. its easy to get from ME to AeroE). First I ruled out ChemE because there are very little (if any) jobs for it and it seems that it's more oriented to building reactors than with pure chemistry. Then I ruled out ME because neither in this field nor in ChemE you could find good jobs in the place where I live, regardless of the fact that it is very broad (and I always had an impression that its slowly being replaced with EE - just look at the automobile industry). So that leaves me EE and CE! Let me give you a list of pros and cons for each discipline... I think that would make it more clear what I like/dislike for each discipline:

    Electrical Engineering:
    - Circuits are very interesting;
    - Computer Science too;
    - Starting salaries are high;
    - Outsourcing (low standard of living - lots of jobs for us).

    - You have to keep learning your whole life or else you'll become quickly outdated and thus very easily replaced with someone else (technology is evolving rapidly);
    - Sitting in an office and working on a computer all day (I know many EE majors who have very bad health problems, especially people who worked in this field for 5+ years);
    - Cannot set up a home business (correct me if I'm wrong but I have no idea what could I open as an EE);
    - Competition for this field is immense and only the best and the brightest find good jobs.

    Civil Engineering:
    - Construction is simply BOOMING, you see structures being built all around you;
    - Possibility to work outside (which I find really exciting);
    - Lots Geometry and Trigonometry (my favorite topics in math);
    - Communication with people on a daily basis (could lead to some business connections);
    - Possibility to work and travel to other countries (mostly to developing ones);
    - Easier to get a job;
    - Easier to get a managerial position;
    - Easier to set up a home business.

    - Fear that I will be bored with some of the subjects taught here;
    - It isn't respected so much;
    - Cannot be outsourced.

    I hope you can guide me in the right direction. Thanks in advance!

    P.S. English is not my native language so if you don't understand something that I've written just say!
  16. Jul 4, 2009 #15
    6 more days... Please help!
  17. Jul 4, 2009 #16
    Most companies like to hire people with technical skills....involving things like physics and math which apply to many business situations, and people skills. If you have quantative eduation of most any type you have a leg up over someone who does not. For example, an EE might end up doing financial analysis of electronics companies combining financial analysis with an understading of the research capacilities of different companies. Or perhaps even auditing an electrical arm of an intergarted corporation. The other generic quantitive skill that comes to mind is finance, again involving math.

    Only you can decide what you like. But if you do get a job in a discipline and do not like it many companies will pay for additional schooling while you work.
  18. Jul 5, 2009 #17
    I am fresh grad in Mechanical Eng. I think from Macroscopic view,
    The career of Civil and EE are provided by these guys:
    1. Consultant (design)
    2. Contractor (Building method management and may have some design; design work for civil only)
    3. Manufacturer (EE only; design and factory management)
    4. Utilities (Large Scale Development and maintenance)
    5. Facility Management (EE only; Maintenance and small scale development)

    It's true that Civil's design will have some thing you can look directly, e.g. the shape of the bridge.
    While EE, many will be electrical symbols(e.g. Building service's consultant). However, sometimes you still can directly see the product, (Trains, fuel cell car, etc)

    I think thinking from macroscopic view may help u to know what they are doing. Hope my answer help u.

    p.s. Please point out if I am wrong. I am just a new baby to engineering world.
  19. Jul 5, 2009 #18
    How about doing a BS in CE with a minor in Power Engineering?
  20. Jul 6, 2009 #19
    is that possible? It seems like CE and Power Engineering are such vastly different fields.
  21. Jul 21, 2009 #20
    Reason for this, im interested to know about Commercial and Residential wirings, power distribution throughout for utilities etc.
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