Friday, 16 November 2012

Electrical or Computer Engineering?

We all know that in some departments around the world they combine electrical and computer engineering in 2nd year, but after that you gotta choose between the two. Have you ever had troubles choosing between the two? I know for me I had an easy time and chose electrical because I was not a big fan of programming. However, some people may not have an easy time choosing between the two. Some people want to know which one will provide a better career? More money? Or what if I want to do both? Well here's a post by Abraham Chan, a University of British Columbia student in the faculty of applied science. He will share his thoughts of electrical and computer engineering and discuss why he chose the path he did.

This is what he had to say:

Deciding if you should go into Electrical or Computer Engineering?

After completing general engineering courses, students must choose a specific engineering discipline, which will set the direction for academics and perhaps, a future career. Should you find yourself in a tossup between electrical engineering and computer engineering, I hope I can help clarify their differences through my take on the situation.

Electrical and computer engineering programs typically share similar introductory courses in the first year. Courses like circuit analysis and digital logic design are usually required in both programs.

Electrical engineering deals with the application and development of electricity and electromagnetism. On the contrary, computer engineering deals with the application of electricity and software to develop computer systems.

To break things down for you, computer engineering can be described as electrical engineering without power electives and with software courses in its place. Furthermore, electrical engineering can be subdivided into energy systems and nanotechnology sectors whereas computer engineering can be split into hardware and software sectors.

The job market potentials for both fields are continually growing. However, computer engineering opportunities will be more diversified and grow at a faster pace than electrical engineering due to declines in the manufacturing sector and a heightened demand for software application development.

In the end, many electrical engineers will find work in the computer engineering sector and vice versa. The undergraduate programs are designed to give you a broad sense of what it is like in the respective field of study. After all, your upper-level technical electives will be more relevant to a potential employer than a designation on your degree.

Authors Note: At the end of my first year, I knew I was either going to study electrical or computer engineering. While I was interested in circuits, I had also expressed a fondness for programming. As a student determined to attain a future career in engineering, I wanted to choose the appropriate program. I wanted to weigh my options based on a variety of factors such as academic potential, employment opportunity and industry development. As a result, I examined the curriculum for each program. Wary that electrical and computer engineering share a common second year curriculum, I went with electrical engineering knowing that I could switch to computer engineering for third year. Having completed the various second year electrical and software courses, it was clear that my interest lied within computer engineering. I made the change to computer engineering just before third year and I have not regretted since.

This post was written by Abraham Chan, a Computer Engineering Student at the University of British Columbia (CANADA)

Feel free to comment on why you chose the engineering discpline you're in.


  1. Why settle for just 1? I wanted to be a computer programmer, but the tech school I lived near didn't offer programming. They offered SCADA automation engineering as an AAS which started off as a year of EE, covered a summer semester of motor controls and wiring code, and finished with a year of PLC programming mixed with computer programming. That's a winning combination if you ask me. I have to admit I had troubles finding work in the field due to the economy and that there weren't many jobs in the field in my area of the country to start, but I wouldn't let that discourage anyone. I went on to start work on another AAS in computer programming, then got work as a web developer. I would advise anyone interested in both computer and electronic fields to research the terms SCADA, process controls, PLC and HMI programming, industrial automation, and instrumentation. They're all intertwined and mix EE and CS quite well.

    1. That sounds like a great program Mark! I wish my school had something like that. I took several control courses in my electrical degree, but it did not teach me anything about PLC and HMI programming. All I learned was math and how to make equations for plants -_-

    2. Well of course I have to point out how difficult it was - ~70 credit hours for a typical AAS degree, bachelors is ~120, and I had to have 92 to graduate my program (since has been reduced to 89). Like other AAS degrees, countless all-nighters. Here's the course description:

      If you'd like to learn on your own you probably need a plc to start, I'd recommend 1 of the cheaper of these models:

      The controllers are relatively cheap, and the software comes free from the company that makes them. Here's a shameless plug for my empty forum (I tried to start a discussion board for these things but not much luck so far):

    3. Mark, if you want you can be a guest blogger and write a post about your program. It seems much different from most electrical & computer engineering programs. As well, with this blog post you can advertise your discussion board to get more traffic :). Let me know if you're interested. Message me on the fanpage if you are.

  2. My school offered a similar first year general approach then the decision for which discipline to pursue starting second year. I initially wanted Elec, but I ended up in comp and so far its okay. Seeing that programming ability is not the best, I worry a little sometimes. However, I catch on with the languages easily and I mean it is a good trait to have as an engineer to be able to adapt. But whichever path is chosen I am sure they both are good choices. In fact.. a combination too would resolve the problem.
    Isn't computer a specialized form of electrical engineering though..?

  3. I went for Electronics and Comms Engineering because it was a good mix of the two .. not much about Computers .. and no dangerous 380 Volts to play with .. haha ..

    but it was damn difficult to get out from with a good mark .. lol

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