Electrical engineering (EE) and computer science (CS) degrees are different in many ways. Electrical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, examining, manufacturing and repairing electronic components. They work in a variety of environments ranging from offices to product development facilities. Additionally, the engineers are pertinent to a broad range of industries such as consumer goods manufacturing, civil work, telecommunication, and research. A computer science degree equips one with the skills to develop applications, use networking infrastructure, make operating systems and manipulate codes. A computer scientist works with the frameworks that service servers, internet protocols, different types of electronics, etc.
Electrical engineering vs. computer sciences: which career is best for you? Generally, entry-level positions in either discipline require a bachelor’s degree. Also, both professions involve heavy usage of computers. However, EE may include more diverse coursework than CS because it applies to a broad range of careers. Moreover, computer scientists typically work in offices, whereas electrical engineers work in offices and outdoor settings.
A career in either technology or engineering is suitable for people with excellent analytical and problem-solving skills. Either route can potentially lead to a bright, rewarding future. But, how can one determine which field aligns best with their personal skills and interests? I’m here to help with a side-by-side comparison of EE and CS. Below I provide a useful breakdown of the two disciplines from the basics, job titles to average salaries and more. With this information, it might become easier to determine whether to go for the electrical engineer or computer scientist route.
Electrical Engineering vs. Computer Science: The Basics
It’s essential to gain a fundamental understanding of both fields before selecting one of them. Both disciplines require logical thinking and methodical skills, and they both come with a broad range of job opportunities. However, there are still certain differences between them.
The engineering industry mostly focuses on designing and developing items out of tactile materials. An engineer drafts plans to develop everything from aircrafts, sewer systems, medical equipment to computer motherboards.
The work of a computer scientist is somewhat similar, but in the digital world. They utilize digital technology and computer programming languages to design, improve and create software and applications.
Clearly, the line between EE and CS is very thin, and some professions out there straddle the intersection fully. A sample profession is that of a computer hardware engineer, who has studied CS, but performs engineering duties. Such engineers require knowledge of how computers function in order to create circuit boards, processors, and any other computer hardware.
Other than that overlap, computer scientists primarily focus on the digital realm, whereas engineers concentrate on the physical world.
Here are more differences between EE and CS:
· The Coursework: A college/university education in EE might have more diverse course options than a CS program. That’s because EE applies to a broader range of professions. In EE, students learn CS courses as well as other application-based courses such as manufacturing, communication, locomotion, nanotechnology, navigation and healthcare. They may also take up communication classes like technical writing and tech-based communications. Most CS curriculum teach courses on databases, programming, app development, internet protocols and operating systems.
· Skills and Interests: While some core skills benefits workers in both disciplines, the necessary aptitudes may vary. Electrical engineers require excellent oral verbal and written communication abilities because most roles are team-oriented. Good communication skills are essential for computer scientists too. But they also need to have analytical, attention to detail and problem solving skills to perform their duties well.
· Professional Differences: Both jobs involve technology and computers, but EE graduates work in a wider range of positions and industries than CS grads. More job options mean electrical engineers can tailor their work environments to fit their needs. Computer scientists work in a variety of industries, but they typically work in offices with uniform duties. So, EE may be more suitable for those who prefer to work in the outdoors than at the office.
EE vs. CS: Common Job Titles
Both EE and CS offer a huge range of positions. For an expat looking to take up roles in either fields in the US or UK, here are the most popular job titles.
Popular Positions in CS
- Software Application Developer: In this role, a person designs and customizes software applications, modifies existing software to boost efficiency or remove errors. The profession also involves evaluating software requirements and needs of users to establish software feasibility. The projected job growth for software application developers is 24% from 2016 through to 2026. They earn an average salary of $63,250 (US) or £30,523 (UK) per year (2019)
- Computer Systems Analyst: He or she analyzes data processing issues to enhance computer systems and builds and tests system design processes. Additionally, they enhance system compatibility so that information can be shared seamlessly. Computer Systems Analysts earn an average annual wage of $67,858 (US) or £29,638 (UK) annually.
- Network Systems Administrator: Such a professional is responsible for installing and supporting a company’s network system and examining website functions for optimum performance. They also conduct data backups and disaster recovery work. Network system administrators take home an average annual income of $60,346 (US) or £35,899 (UK)
- Information Security Analyst: Here, a person installs software and firewalls on a company’s computers and conducts safety tests to establish possible network vulnerabilities. An information security analyst also develops disaster recovery plans for Information Technology employees to use in case of an emergency. The job growth for this profession is forecasted to be 28% from 2016 to 2026. On average, information security analysts earn $71,212 (US) or £34,243 (UK).
- Web Developer: He or she is responsible for writing, designing, and editing webpage content, or directing other content producers. A web developer also identifies and rectifies issues uncovered by assessment or user feedback. Furthermore, they back up website files for quick recovery in the event of problems. The average salary of a web developer is $59,108 (US) or £25,304 (UK).
Both CS and EE offer interested candidates a chance to earn above-average incomes. Job titles related to CS seem to be growing at a quicker rate, because of the maturity of industries. CS and technology roles are fairly new in comparison to the well-established engineering sector, and thus maturing fields have extra room for growth.
Popular Positions in EE
- Electrical engineer: He or she deals with the research, development and testing of manufacturing and installation electrical components. The profession also involves building technical drawings to guide installation and operations. Moreover, an electrical engineer may direct efforts in order to comply with specification, codes and user requirements. The average salary for electrical engineers is $74,691 (US) or £31,889 (UK)
- Materials engineer: Here, the engineer designs, plans and builds materials used in a variety of products and calculates impact of materials on the surroundings. They may also oversee a team made up of technologists, technicians, scientists and engineers. Materials engineers earn $74,685 (US) or £31,828 (UK) per year on average
- Mechanical engineer: They are responsible for overseeing installation, operation, and maintenance of mechanical equipment. Also, they read and interpret blueprints, digital reports and technical drawings. The average annual wage of mechanical engineers is $69,847(US) or £30,867 (UK)
- Industrial engineer: Industrial engineers deal with the design, development and evaluation of integrated systems for monitoring industrial production processes. They also estimate production budgets and possible cost-saving techniques for maximum efficiency. An industrial engineer earns $66,326 (US) or £32,945 (UK) on average
- Civil engineer: He or she oversees the general integration of technical processes in architecture or engineering work. A civil engineer also prepares and presents proposals and reports to clients. A civil engineer earns an average compensation of $65,433 (US) or £31,074(UK) per year
Working in EE or CS requires in-depth knowledge of technical concepts. That means one needs to prove they are qualified for the role by finishing some formal education. University or college education is a critical component of finding a job in either discipline.
How to Choose Between EE and CS
Expat looking to work in either field should ask themselves several questions in order to determine the best fitting path:
· What is my end goal? One should seek positions that appeal to them and do research to find out what educational requirements are needed for the work. The answer might come as a surprise, but it provides valuable insight to assist one in making a strategic decision
· What sort of work do I want to do every day? Having an idea of the types of tasks, and work settings one enjoys will help them in selecting a graduate program. It helps to talk to electrical engineers and computer scientists about what they do to understand what to expect
· What are my strengths? It’s essential to take an inventory of one’s natural abilities before picking a study program. After that, the person can match their skillsets with those needed for each role to determine the best fit
Studying CS offers one in-depth understanding of computer theory and programming. If a person’s interests go beyond coding, an EE education may help them to develop a broad range of skills. However, for those who want to leverage their logical minds in an area that’s on the rise, CS is worth considering.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.