Looking for some advice on EE career!

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Zorthgo, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. Zorthgo

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    Hi guys, I am looking for some advice on switching my degree to EE. But first my background! In December I will be graduating with a degree in Computer Science, and one in Computer Engineering. I have been working as a software engineer for the past 10 years (I am the senior programmer overseeing 5 other programmer & designers). To sum up my analog HW skills, except for Circuit I and Electronics 1, I don't have much analog HW experience. On the other hand, I've had many classes on Logic Design and Embedded systems design.

    I am already enrolled as a computer engineering graduate student scheduled to start in the spring of 2014. But when I graduate I would really love to switch career paths from exclusively writing software to a lower level where I could do digital hardware design, as well as programming. But From what I have gathered from the internet, most digital hardware design jobs usually goes to EEs instead of CEs. A CEs will usually get stuck writing firmware and other low level software and almost no hardware design. So I am considering switching my master's program to EE instead of CE. I've spoken to the advisor, and I can get a EE master's by taking an extra semester of classes to cover the classes that undergrad EE students are required to take but CEs aren't.

    My question to all of you who work in this field is the following: Is it true that CE will usually get stuck with embedded programming and consistently are passed by for hardware design (including digital) jobs? And also, if you were I, would you take the leap and change your major?

    I am sorry for making this posting so long, but I wanted to include as much information as I could.

    I would appreciate any help that you can give me that might help me decide which way to go.

    Thanks! ;)
     
  2. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    Sure, on the other hand, EE's will usually get stuck with hardware design and consistantly are passed by for embedded programming.

    No. Taking an extra semester to cover undergrad courses won't prepare you for hardware design. I think you'll be disappointed with the opportunities open to you. Software can be a fullfilling occupation, and software jobs are easier to come by.
     
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  3. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    Don't pick your path based on fear somebody else might get a job. Pick it based on what you enjoy doing the most.
     
  4. dthx

    Member

    May 2, 2013
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    Bountyhunter's statement/advice is very, very important........
     
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  5. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    I may be your doppelganger: an EE who also writes code. My first question to you is if you would "love to switch career paths" why do you need to switch? Have you been doing something you don't enjoy (but with some measure of success) for 10 years? Do you build little gadgets on your own? Ever make a blinkie LED with a microcontroller?

    I've had more then one interview where I'm told they need a software developer, and when I say I can also do the hardware I get blank stares: there's no box in their organizational chart for that mix (it takes two people) so I have missed jobs in companies I know I would have greatly assisted.

    Your pathway is software is pretty far along. How satisfied would you be at an entry level hardware position?

    I'm not trying to discourage you, just asking the hard questions.
     
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  6. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Why make a distinction between software and hardware?
    Why not have the best of both worlds?
    Become an expert at both then you can tackle any project.
    I second/third bounty's advice. Do what you enjoy the most.
    I like doing both so I do both.

    Does the title of the degree matter?
    I have two degrees, one in engineering and the other in physics.
    Yet I do both software and hardware.
     
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  7. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    IMO, it's a matter of doing one thing well, or doing two things mediocre. Hardware engineering requires one's full attention and constant effort to stay ahead of the curve. I imagine software does too.

    That said, the world needs those who understand both hardware and software. Those people are usually very valuable to any project.
     
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  8. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    But I would sound negative if I completed the statement:

    Pick your career based on what you enjoy doing the most....

    with the understanding that after a while, you may very well be sick of it.


    The danger of making your love into your career is you will turn what you love into what you do for money, and it won't be what you love anymore it'll just be your job.
     
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  9. Zorthgo

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    @Brownout: I am aware that an extra semester of EE undergrad subject won't prepare me for hardware design. What it will do is allow me to get that piece of paper that will let me through the door and get started learning some EE stuff.

    @bountyhunter: My problem is that I LOVE anything that has to do with technology. I will gladly spend hours learning a new programming language, or a new technique, or learning to make video games. But I also LOVE giving things a brain. Taking regular things, embedding a microprocessor into it and expanding its capabilities. In reality I just love dissecting things and seeing how they work. And because of all my years of programming, it is easy for me to pick up a book and expand my software knowledge, while I can't say the same for hardware (except for embedded stuff).

    @ErnieM: The answer to your first question is, no I haven't. I love programming. But I want to become proficient in hardware too. And secondly I have built quite a bit of things with microcontrollers. I love embedded systems/logic systems. Which is why I chose Computer Engineering over EE when I started (I don't really regret it). But I would like to have a chance to actually work with embedded system and from what I've read, they don't usually hire CE for hardware. And lastly, I know I would take a hefty pay cut by switching and going back to being a newb. But I think it MIGHT be worth it for the learning opportunity that it offers!

    @MrChips: You hit it right on the nail! :) That is exactly what I would like to do. But the only problem is that I have enough programming experience that I can pick up a book and learn any new subject related to programming. But because of the lack of experience with hardware, I can't do the same. What you are doing is exactly what I hope to accomplish in the end. Be proficient at both, which enables me to work on both sides.

    @bountyhunter: "The danger of making your love into your career is you will turn what you love into what you do for money, and it won't be what you love anymore it'll just be your job." Those are some wise words!

    Thank you all of you for replying! You have provided me with invaluable information.
     
  10. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    To a large degree, it doesn't matter that much. It isn't the name of the major associated with the degree as much as it is the skills that you have developed. There is probably something to be said for having a different major for your undergrad as your graduate programs because them you have BOTH names that you can wave at an employer.

    I would take a look at the CE and EE programs at the undergrad and grad level and list the courses that distinguish one from the other. I would recommend taking ALL of the EE required undergrad courses that you have not had (except for things that are unrelated to your job path, such as power engineering). Also look at the courses that are part of a minor or area of emphasis, such as embedded programming or signal processing. I recommend looking at doing this not based on which program you eventually go into, but on the direction you appear to want to take your career.
     
  11. Zorthgo

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    @WBahn: I think your idea is really good. I would love to take all the classes I am interested in! It's just that I am also eager to finish with this whole school thing. Specially if I decide to leave my field and switch over to electrical. I am pretty sure that after I finish my degree. I can just study up on anything I am lacking. :)
     
  12. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Yes and no.

    Being "eager to finish with the whole school thing" may be a bad sign, or may not mean much at all. You will always be "in school" as a practicing engineer. Most will be informal and self-guided, but some will be formal, as well. So if the things you are eager to have behind you are the things related to learning new material, you are in trouble.

    How successful you will be at learning stuff on your own depends on a number of factors. First and foremost will be your personality. Are you the kind of person that can pursue a path of self-guided education in order to pick up the things you are missing, some of which may be quite extensive and unfamiliar. Keep in mind that once you start working you will have a lot less "free" time than you do now. I know, doesn't seem possible. Just wait.

    Many people need (or at least really benefit from) the structure and deadlines imposed by taking formal classes. I definitely fall into that category. I can teach myself most anything and, when I am truly interested and motivated, do a pretty good job of it. But there are LOTS of things I am interested in but not enough and not motivated enough to carve out the time to learn it. I might start and learn a little and then get pulled away by other things.

    The nice thing is that when you take classes because you want to learn the subject and don't need the grade, you can be much more relaxed and unstressed -- and often do much better precisely because you WANT to take it.
     
  13. Zorthgo

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    @WBahn: I see how "eager to finish" might be misconstrued. I am only eager to finish, because right now, I am working full-time and going to school full time. Not just that, but if I switch to EE, I will have to restart my career. Which, if that is the case, the sooner the better! I also feel like I need to get this basic stuff out of the way, so I can start learning some advanced fun stuff.

    I would have to say that I am pretty successful at learning things on my own. Before starting school, was used to doing quite a bit of self directed learning. But after I started with school, I don't have enough time in the day to do my work well, school well, and learn new interesting things on my own. IMHO, I believe will have more time to study! Since right now, I work full-time as the head of the software development department at the company I work for, and also attend school full-time (managing to get straight As, and being a member of Tau Beta Pi); when I don't have all the school responsibility on my back, it should free up some spare time to do some self directed studying.

    I completely agree with you on your last paragraph. I do actually learn a lot more when I am not being forced to study something for a test. Tests makes me learn just enough to get my A on the test. While learning by myself, makes me try to learn as much as I can... Just to learn as much as I can! not just to take a test. Thank you for your input! it is greatly appreciated.
     
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