Electrical Engineering vs. Computer Science: Which Career is Best For You?

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Electrical engineering and computer science degrees differ in many ways, and understanding the defining characteristics of each choice will help you make the right decision.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical engineers design, develop, test, manufacture, and repair electronic components. Electrical engineers work in various settings ranging from offices to manufacturing or product development facilities. Electrical engineers are pertinent to a wide variety of industries including consumer goods manufacturing, government work, telecommunications, research and development, travel, and more.

A computer science degree prepares an individual to develop applications, work with networking infrastructure, design operating systems, or manipulate the code that drives computers and other devices. Computer scientists work with the foundational frameworks that operate servers, internet protocols, small electronics, large pieces of equipment and more.

Similarities Between Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Entry-level positions in either field generally require a bachelor’s degree. Both fields offer advanced degrees to increase knowledge, diversify or hone skillsets, and improve earning power. Both career tracks also involve heavy computer usage. Aptitudes that aid in both degrees includes: logic, critical thinking, math, communication, and analytical skills.

Differences Between Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Electrical engineering and computer science careers differ in many significant ways, meaning degree programs for each field differ demonstrably.

Coursework

An electrical engineering degree may include more diverse course offerings than a computer science program since the degree applies to a wider variety of careers. Electrical engineering programs not only include computer engineering courses but other application-based courses including manufacturing, navigation systems and devices, digital signal communication, vehicles and locomotion, nanotechnology, healthcare, and more. Communication classes such as technical writing, management, and team-based communications may also be included. dsMost computer science curriculums include courses on databases, computer programming languages and theory, app development, operating systems, networking systems, and internet protocols.

Skills and interests

Although some core skills benefit professionals in both fields, necessary aptitudes vary substantially. According to the BLS, an electrical engineer needs good oral, verbal, and written communication skills since most related careers are team-oriented. Computer science professionals need effective communication skills too, but they should also be analytical and detail-oriented and have problem-solving skills.

Career differences

Both professions involve working with technology and computers, but electrical engineers work in a wider array of positions and industries than computer scientists. More career options means electrical engineers can seek roles that closely match their individual preferences and tailor their work environment to their liking. Computer scientists work in various industries and have some options related to job types, but they typically work in an office setting with uniform duties.

How to Choose?

Ask yourself these three questions to determine what route is the best fit for you:

1. What’s My End Goal?

Look for positions that appeal to you and do some research to find out what degrees are typically required to perform the duties. The answer might surprise you, but it will provide valuable insight to help you make a strategic decision. According to Jeff John Roberts, a reporter at Fortune, some of the most successful software developers earn degrees unrelated to computer science – including electrical engineering.

2. What Type of Work Do I Want to Do Each Day?

Knowing what types of tasks, responsibilities, and job environments you enjoy will help you choose a graduate degree program. Speak to electrical engineers and computer scientists about their work to learn what you might expect on the job.

3. What Are My Strongest Skills?

Take inventory of your natural abilities before choosing a master’s degree program. By defining your skills, you can match them up with those required for each job to find your best fit.

A computer science degree offers the in-depth knowledge of computer theory and programming necessary to aid your career in a programming setting. If your interests extend beyond writing code, an electrical engineering degree will help you develop a wide range of skills to prepare you for many career possibilities. Research both options carefully before choosing a degree

Learn More:

At the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, graduates of the online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program are equipped with the skills to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications — and to position themselves as leaders.

Additional Reading

What Is Construction Engineering? Exploring Careers, Salaries, and Educational Requirements
How to Become a Transportation Engineer: Steps Toward a Dynamic Career in Civil Engineering

Sources:

Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Software Developers, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Fortune.com, “This App Guy Thinks Computer Science Degrees Are a Waste of Money”