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Engineering Software Engineering/Computer Science vs. Engineering (all others) Career Paths

  1. Jul 24, 2011 #1
    Hi everyone. I am going into my sophomore year of college and am trying to decide my major. I would like to major in some field of engineering, but as a result of starting my freshman year in the school of biological sciences (and not liking it) it is now too late to switch my major to any engineering discipline and graduate in four years. Instead, it would take me four years from now (five total) because I would need to take intro physics courses in my sophomore year and then three more years of engineering courses that require the physics courses as prerequisites. Since I would either have to go five years or pay extra for summer courses to major in engineering, I'm considering going into computer science as an alternative (computer science doesn't require the physics, and I received credit for two semesters of calculus in high school, so I'd be able to complete a Csci program in three years from now).

    Job prospects for computer science graduates are supposed to be pretty good right now, especially if one can get his/her foot in the door with an internship before graduation. Also, comp sci seems to provide a similar level of intellectual stimulation as engineering. However, I have very little experience in computer programming and don't know if I will find it enjoyable or insufferable. This summer I've just began to teach myself python and so far I feel that it's pretty boring, but I can't really do anything interesting with it yet. I've read that to be successful in the computer field you really have to be into your work (i.e., not just doing it for the money, etc.) and I don't want to waste time and money trying to get into a field in which I genuinely lack interest and will eventually just fizzle out.

    My question is this: what are the differences between computer science/software engineering and the other engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, etc.), both in terms of the nature of the fields and the career paths that follow from degrees in each field? For example, I'm aware that an engineering degree is a very valuable degree for anyone to earn, regardless of whether or not they actually work in a field. Can the same be said for a computer science degree? Does a CSci degree have the same flexibility/options that an engineering degree has? Any input about the differences between the kinds of work software engineers do versus that done by other kinds of engineers would also greatly be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2012 #2
    That goes for any field. If you're not enjoying your work, chances are that you will not be staying in it for very long. One can get a job without "being into it", but you likely cannot force yourself to enjoy it and it can also affect your work results, mental health and self-improvement.

    They're all broad, but I think the major difference is in the nature of the practical work and also studies. Engineers mainly work on tangible things and when it's not design work or consultancy, it's out there in the field, in a lab or in a factory. Programmers always work with computers and code in some way or another. In the corporate world software engineering and computer science jobs are pretty much the same (i.e. software development, information handling), it's the curricula in the studies that are slightly different. Also CS tends to have better prospects for doing academic research, because of the more theoretical curriculum.

    Any STEM degree is a valuable degree for anyone to earn. STEM gives the most options and a wide-perspective to things.

    What you should be focusing on is, what do you want to study and do? Not just future career prospects. You can get into a degree program, but chances are that you won't finish it or do very well, if you don't enjoy what you do. It's hard work. Do you want to study something that interests you or something that might not fully interest you?
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
  4. Aug 25, 2012 #3
    Every engineering degree and job requires programming in one form or another. Especially EE - it's very programming heavy major and being Mechanical Engineering major means you will have to hug FEM.

    One of the reason that I decided to say "goodbye" to Physics and engineer career was because I found programming very boring.

    There are majors who use little or none when it comes to programming. Those are (I can be wrong but at my university they don't need to take any programming courses or just 1-2 very basic ones):

    - Civil Engineering

    - Enviromental Engineering (little to none when it comes to programming - you need to program only if you want to specialize in weather simulation)

    - Biotechnology is very lab heavy degree and it doesn't require programming however you said you don't enjoy bio stuff so there is no point and job prospects are poor

    - Chemical Engineering has also very little programming but again it's very lab heavy chem degree

    That's it I guess. Have in mind that some bio and chem jobs are also programming heavy so if you want to avoid it you need to go hands-on lab route. Generally speaking degrees connected with civil, enviromental and bio stuff aren't programming heavy. Mech, math, physics, electrical stuff requires a lot of programming.
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