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What's the point of a Computer Engineering degree?

  1. May 12, 2014 #1
    Hello to everyone at Physicsforums. I want to pursue Computer Engineering, but wondering whether or not I should. I understand that Computer Engineering is a field of study that lies between EE and CS, and that is my problem. I would know less EE than an actual EE and less CS than an actual CS. I wouldn't be an expert at either, wouldn't that be a disadvantage in the job market?

    From an employer's perspective, if I want to design hardware, I would hire EEs. Then hire CS people to write software for it. The only scenario I see where CompE would be more advantageous than the other two is designing embedded systems. Even then, couldn't an EE with programming experience do the same job?

    Maybe I'm completely missing what Computer Engineering is really about, so please give me your opinions and advise. Thank you.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
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  3. May 13, 2014 #2
    This is an interesting question. In fact, at my institution, our Computer Engineering and Computer Science program is combined, which means that "basically" I'll have the benefit of the two, but I CAN decide by choosing a concentration what to specialize in. I don't think CE emphasizes "pure" EE as much, but I might be wrong (I'm just an undergrad), which is why I think you'll be in a great position to do both tasks: design hardware and write software. Keep in mind that CE is not electronics only. It deals with software as well. It is a great program to dive into fields such as AI, which needs expertise in both, some electronics and some CS, if you consider robotics or calculators, per se, or something similar.
     
  4. May 13, 2014 #3

    analogdesign

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    It sounds like you don't have a lot of real-world experience. A Computer Engineering degree is very strong because it combines the fundamentals of CS and EE. One of the hardest things to find as someone who sits on hiring committees is people who are strong in both hardware and software. The goal of any engineering organization is to make things that work. A lot of situations need a tight relationship between hardware and software and a CE degree is outstanding in that case.

    It is in fact more CS than an EE with programming experience, it's a synthesis of the two. It is a good degree.
     
  5. May 13, 2014 #4
    You're right, analogdesign, I don't have a lot of real world experience, which probably makes this question sound really stupid haha. Back to your reply, would you say CompEs can do CS or EE jobs? I have searched through a few job postings and they've listed CS or EE as the preferred degree and CompE as optional. I have yet to see a listing that specifically wants CompEs. Is it because that's how job listings usually are?
     
  6. May 13, 2014 #5
    I believe you're overthinking it. In addition, the degree will only get you an interview, not the job. You need to do your work on becoming more experienced by interning, doing some related work, building your portfolio, collaborate on projects (teamwork) and be a respectful student with good ties to your professors. If you fit into that category, it really won't matter whether it's EE, CE or CS.
     
  7. May 13, 2014 #6

    donpacino

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    I graduated with ee degree one class short of having a compE concentration.

    EE is a very broad field. It covers semiconductor devices, analog circuits, rf and microwave, control theorey, digital hardware, microprocessors, some software, etc.

    The computer engineering classes tend to concentrate on the digital hardware and microprocessors aspect of the ee world. There is a HUGE market for computer engineering.

    I make electronics and control systems for aircraft systems. Being in the embedded design buisness, if you are a software engineer, you need to understand the hardware. If you are a hardware or firmware engineer, you need to understand the software. thats where computer engineering comes in.

    Anything to do with embedded electronics (aka most computer systems) will have a very strong demand for computer engineers
     
  8. May 13, 2014 #7
    This is exactly what my employer does. I'm an EE i do basic I/O programing meaning making sure analog and digital inputs are correctly mapped and showing the right numbers. We have a contracted software engineer who maintains and develops the software. He also does I/O testing so he has some knowledge of hardware. The electronics we sell to utilities are for Medium Voltage Transformers. The programing i use is very basic PLC,RTU..etc.....

    Here's the thing in my field hardware is "VERY" similar across the board with our competitors. The usability of software is what can put you over the top and help you grow a customer base.
     
  9. May 13, 2014 #8

    FactChecker

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    Computer Engineers design tiny, high-speed devices that approach quantum-theory complications. They design levels of memory to minimize latency due to data access and to allow synchronized use of data by several processors or cores. And the near future may include quantum computers. EE does not necessarily concentrate on these issues and CS definitely does not.
     
  10. May 13, 2014 #9

    analogdesign

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    Well the first thing you describe is primarily done by EEs (designing devices). The second thing you described (synchronizing processors and defining memory hierarchies) is in fact an excellent example of the type of task a CE would get involved in.

    There is a lot of overlap, and people I know working on embedded systems have a mix of EE, CE, and CS. Go for the degree you find most interesting because you will do better if you like the work.
     
  11. May 14, 2014 #10

    donpacino

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    I 100% agree with this
     
  12. May 14, 2014 #11
    My point is that whatever CompEs can do, EEs can do, but not vice versa. Then why should anyone pick Computer Engineering?
     
  13. May 14, 2014 #12

    Physics_UG

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    EE is slightly more versatile and known than CE. I'd recommend majoring in EE and taking CE electives over majoring in CE.
     
  14. May 15, 2014 #13

    analogdesign

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    At my school, the point is if you want to take all the computer-related electives (hardware and software) it would be impossible to graduate in four years with a BS in EE, but you can do it in CE. That is because they don't require advanced classes in EM, solid-state, and analog so you can focus on the computer hardware and software.

    I did the most general EE degree I could and didn't specialize at all until grad school. I didn't even take all the analog electives in undergrad even though that was my focus in grad school.
     
  15. May 15, 2014 #14

    donpacino

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    like I previously mentioned, EE is an insanely broad degree. In your undergrad you can take a wide variety of classes and never really get into detail in any one topic. Typically you pick something to specialize in. One of those topics is computer engineering.

    Computer engineering basically covers everything digital (the entire world is moving to digital right?!?!?!?). Almost every modern design firm needs some sort of digital designers. They work on anything with some sort of digital logic, which is almost everything these days.
    The power industry, aerospace, appliances, cell phones, computers, automotive all have computer chips in them.
     
  16. May 15, 2014 #15

    analogdesign

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    Ahhhh... the sweet sound of job security. :)
     
  17. May 15, 2014 #16

    There will always be Analog applications. Analog and Digital co-exist together. The Power industry especially "AC Transmission" is very Analog for CompEs. Its a myth to think "Analog" is going the way of the dodo. I just haven't seen any proof. A "More" digital world yes, but Analog is still a necessity
     
  18. May 15, 2014 #17

    donpacino

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    Of course that is true. But many systems that were previously only analog controlled now have digital circuitry in the loop. The new big thing is FPGAs.

    To OP. If you are primarily interested in embedded systems, CE is a great path to take. That being said, you can still get into the embedded system world by taking an EE path (thats what I did).
     
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