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Western Carolina Major decision, EE vs ECEt

  1. Jul 1, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone! I've been looking around and I was considering going for Nuclear Engineering at NC State recently, but I decided against it after much consideration. Now, while it seems like a solid field to go into I prefer the flexibility of location that comes with an Electrical Engineering degree. I also enjoy making Tesla Coils, Marx generators, Van de Graaff generators, and so on. So it seems obvious, at least to me, that I belong on the electrical side of things. Now, I have two majors I need to decide between and I want your input concerning both! Also, I am turning 28 this summer, if that matters.

    Now, this is the link to their EE 8 semester plan.

    This is the link to their ECET 8 semester plan.

    My questions are, which route do you believe is the best in todays job market? Would a technology degree with a focus on electronics be on even employability footing as the EE degree? I noticed the EE degree has a much heavier focus on mathematics, which I assume is a basic difference between any EE and EET degree as EE is more focused on theory.

    The ECET degree is designed to lead me down a career path with a heavy focus on computers such as:

    System Administrator
    Network Specialist
    System Engineer
    Applications Engineer
    Software Engineer
    Information Technologist
    Technical and Computer Sales Representative

    Those jobs strike me as jobs requiring a heavy amount of programming. I know a bit of programming but I would never call myself a programmer.

    So I am stuck. Both are equally interesting to me and I have roughly 2 years to decide. I am going to a community college currently taking some electronics classes, physics, calculus, chemistry, and some other general ed classes to prepare for whichever path I take. It also helps that I can afford CC classes without taking out any student loans and a good portion of these classes are transferable.

    Also, I will add this, with either degree I can get my PE. For the EE degree, I can test for it straight out of college and with the ECET degree I can test for it after I have a bit of experience.

    Oh, I forgot to add, I have experience doing electrical wiring and working with electronics but I do not have any certifications, not yet. So with either degree I will be graduating with experience relating to large generators, wiring, electronics, motors, engine maintenance, troubleshooting and repairing an air compressor, installing PLCs, programming PLCs, and so on.

    Given the experience I have, it almost makes me think I am more suited for the EE degree, but I want to hear any and all opinions first!
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2013 #2
  4. Jul 8, 2013 #3
    Don't try to fool yourself. A Technology degree is NOT the same as an Engineering degree.

    If you pursue and get a Tech degree, you will be limited. The training given in a Technology degree is not as rigorous as the training given in an Engineering degree. The skills in analytical thought and problem solving are simply more advanced with the Engineering degree. The folks who are making the decisions in Dysfunctional Corporate Land know & understand this. You might get hired with a Technology degree and be labeled as "Engineer" because HR doesn't have to pay you as much but they get to call another person "Engineer". But your peers who actually got the Engineering degree won't respect you much and you won't be part of "the club". And their lack of support will hold you back & frustrate you. In their mind, you would have overreached your grasp.

    Follow your heart and go where your wallet lets you. But don't expect to pick up a cowpie and hope the world believes it's a diamond. If you would be content being a 3rd-tier support employee (nothing wrong with that, the world needs plenty), then go for it.
  5. Jul 8, 2013 #4
    I'm going to have to disagree here. I know they are not the same, that is why I have made this thread. Also, the main difference I see is the EE degree has a much higher focus on theory while the technology degree is much more focused on hands on applications concerning electronics. Also in my state you can get your PE with a technology degree, it simply takes longer.

    While I cannot argue against this when it comes to theory, what the ECET degree lacks in theory it makes up for in practical hands on applications.

    While that may be true starting out, once I have my PE it is irrelevant.

    They cost the same.

    It's sort of offensive that you consider technologists 3rd tier support employees, although I am willing to guess that is a common bais that many have.

    Anyway thank you for your thoughts!
  6. Jul 8, 2013 #5


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    Since there is a lack of reply here, i'll give you my perspective. Note, I'm not an engineering, but as a statistician, I tend to work my well into a lot of different fields. We're sneaky like that.

    From my limited experience consulting with engineering firms, it seems like the difference between an entry level tech and an entry level engineering is somewhat minimum. However, it appears that the career paths drift quite a bit. I'll use my father as an example. He's a civil engineer, and his best friend is a drafter. They've worked together for over 30 years. When they started working back in the late 70's early 80's they both worked on drafts and designs, but their mentors taught them specifics about what they would do later on in their career. 30 years later my father is lead on a project and ensures the entire project runs on time, his best friend is lead of his particular section and ensures that the designs are correct and informs my fathers of limitations and gives advice on how to overcome obstacles.

    So, from my limited view, it really depends on where you see yourself. Do you see yourself being in charge of other engineers and making the 'big' decisions or would you prefer to work more closer to the project ground level and ensure designs are implanted correctly and or maintained?

    *As a side note, I have no clue on the current economic status of an engineering tech degree. Furthermore, I think for a career safety point, it would be more beneficial to do a complete EE, since it seems like an EE, could learn the practical side easier than a tech could learn the theory and prove they know it. I say this because it appears that the physics offered for tech is not calculus based (according to the outline) thus it seems that the main point of the tech degree is to offer you working knowledge of the physics, not a more detailed comprehension.
  7. Jul 8, 2013 #6
    Oh no, by all means. I am looking for input from anyone. :D

    I've been told this by a few people, some engineers and some technologists, so I believe it to be true to an extent.

    Also sounds similar to what I have been told by someone with a masters of technology. The engineers I know are only in the first 5-10 years of their position so I can't get their thoughts on the long term, say 30+ years out.

    Well, honestly, I am not all that concerned with being in charge of a team of engineers making 'big' decisions. I do find it easier to troubleshoot what someone else has already designed and tell them why it does not work, that tends to be my role in some of my classes anyway. Although I assume in all things troubleshooting will always be easier than design. At my job I am required to troubleshoot problems based on limited information on an almost monthly basis.

    Yea, those are things that concern me. It would be much easier to simply have an EE degree and prove I know the practical part than to have a technology degree and have to prove I understand the theory. On the other hand, i'm far more interested in hands on work than designing.
  8. Jul 28, 2013 #7
    For what it is worth, I am a junior at WCU in ECET. The main difference in the degrees themselves is:

    EE is math heavy, Even a different Calculus designed for EE majors. Do this one if you LOVE math. I mean LOVE it.

    ECET is hands on. You take classes in making circuit boards and some programming classes as well as circuit analysis and microcontroller classes.

    You do NOT have 2 years to decide, btw. A lot of guys transfer into the program thinking that and they are wrong. The advisers around here are screwing all the transfer students. The only benefit of getting an AS before coming is you will not have to take what WCU calls "perspectives". It will still take an additional 3 years to complete an ECET degree, and 4 for EE. Get into the program at WCU asap. If you want the EE you are better off starting and finishing at WCU. Otherwise you will be left behind. The reason for the extra years is the order in which the classes are offered. The ECET is a little more flexible as scheduling goes, but not much.

    Overall the senior year consists of a Capstone project which is pretty cool. All the majors come together in one class to develop a project together. Last year they developed a working prototype for the special forces.... a new dish for PARI.... and more. It is a FUN degree.

    After you graduate the EE looks a little better, but not much. It IS a tougher degree, but with the demand for anything closely resembling an EE, you will find a good job.
  9. Jul 28, 2013 #8
    Yea, while I am here at the community college I will be taking calc 1 and 2.

    Yea I expect the long years, the main reason I am at the CC is I am taking all the calculus they offer. I may not even finish the degree because the classes I am focused on taking are chemistry, communications, instrumentation, calculus 1 and 2, an applied calculus physics class, and so on. Most of them just happen to be offered for the EET degree here so I signed up for that.

    I feel that getting a strong base in calculus before I transfer to western would really help me out.
  10. Jul 28, 2013 #9
    While a strong base in Calc is definitely helpful, I would still make sure that the Calc you are taking will transfer to WCU as the Calc for EE majors (If EE is what ya wanna do), there are two calcs here. I was a transfer and most of my ECET classes didn't transfer and now I will be over the credit threshold for my degree. I will end up paying 1.5x tuition my entire senior year. I would meet with an adviser here at WCU and make sure that there is an articulation agreement with your community college for the classes you are taking and make SURE you will not have to repeat them. For what it is worth, I am 33, this is my third school. Now I am determined to finish this degree. I took Calc I at my community college and am taking Calc II now. (With 3 years between the two) It is tough but possible. Also with the EE you will have to take Differential Equations and Calc III I think. With ECET you stop at Calc II.

    But really, call WCU and speak to somebody in the Kimmel school and schedule an appointment to speak with somebody who handles transfers into the department. It will save you a TON of time and money. I wish I had done that.
  11. Jul 28, 2013 #10
    Yea I will have to take Differential Equations and Calc III. Even if the classes don't transfer they are cheap and I am not taking out any loans to take them, I can afford to pay for them out of pocket. I want to take them to make sure I am 100% ready for the heavy load that getting an EE degree guarantees. So far i've been making straight A's since I came back to college so I think, after Calc I and II, I will be ready to transfer.

    I really appreciate the tips man, i'm 28 myself. I also really, really appreciate the heads up about who to talk to.

    I'll make sure I get in touch with them.
  12. Jul 28, 2013 #11
    Just remember.... if what you are taking doesn't transfer in as what you need it to, it will still transfer in as a lower level elective and count towards the max credit hours. Once you reach this threshold, tuition costs more. like 1.5x more. Getting your footing is great... just don't screw yourself. If you have any questions... feel free to message me anytime.
  13. Jul 28, 2013 #12
    Actually, I believe I will message you.
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