Students studying computer engineering may choose to focus on specialty areas including artificial intelligence (intelligent systems for applications such as robotics, language understanding, knowledge acquisition, reasoning, computer vision, and pattern recognition), computer systems (the design and analysis of computers including the topics of VLSI systems, computer architecture, computer networks, and integrated circuits), or systems and computations (including the integration of both hardware and software into a coherent system). They must have strong analytical stills and be detail oriented. In addition, they must work well in team situations as they are often called upon to work in a group setting with other engineers and with others outside of engineering.
Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering vs. Information Science
Most four year degree programs in computer science and computer engineering are accredited by ABET, Inc. Typically these degree programs reside in the university’s College of Engineering. The computer engineering degree program resides in the department of Computer Science and Engineering, or the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, or it may be a stand-alone department of Computer Engineering. In some cases, such as MIT and University of California at Berkeley, these degrees are offered in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Typically there is considerable overlap in the computer science and the computer engineering degree programs. The major difference between the two accredited degree programs is that an engineering design component is required in the accredited computer engineering degree program.
Information science degree programs are tailored to prepare students for careers in the application of computers in business. Therefore these degree programs typically reside in business colleges and are not accredited by ABET. Although there are a few ABET accredited programs offered in engineering colleges. In addition to computer science courses in programming, computer organization and operation, computer networks, databases, these degree programs require courses in business and management, and fewer courses are required in mathematics and the sciences than in computer science and engineering degree programs.
Computer Engineering Programs
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. Accredited computer engineering programs usually provide broad studies in electrical engineering and computer science. It is important to select a program that is accredited in Computer Engineering.
Admissions requirements for undergraduate engineering schools include a solid background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus) and science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and courses in English, social studies, humanities, and computer and information technology. Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering typically are designed to last 4 years, but many students find that it takes between 4 and 5 years to complete their studies. In a typical 4-year college curriculum, the first 2 years are spent studying mathematics, basic sciences, introductory engineering, humanities, and social sciences. In the last 2 years, most courses are in engineering, usually with a concentration in one branch. For example, a computer engineering program might include courses in computer hardware, microcomputers, software engineering, digital signal and image processing, electromagnetic fields, electronic devices and circuits, and computer organization and design.
Internships and Coops provide students with a great opportunity to gain real-world experience while still in school. Many universities offer co-op and internship programs for students studying Computer Engineering. Click here for more information.
Courses of Study
Students specializing in Computer Engineering will study computer hardware, microcomputers, software engineering, digital signal and image processing, electromagnetic fields, electronic devices and circuits, and computer organization and design. They will likely take courses in linear algebra, data structures and software principles. Computer Engineers also need to develop strong communication skills.
At some point in the career of the engineer typically the engineer must make a choice between following strictly a technical career path or a career path that involves both technology and management. State-of-the-art research and development teams are usually led by individuals with an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in engineering or science. The Ph.D. degree is typically required for individuals aspiring to be university research professors.
Some engineers elect the technology management path. Typically they take advanced courses in accounting and finance, business management, business or patent law, and entrepreneurship and may acquire an MBA degree or an advance degree in technology management.
Technological advances come so rapidly in the computer field that continuous study is necessary to keep one’s skills up to date post graduation. Employers, hardware and software vendors, colleges and universities, and private training institutions offer continuing education. Additional training may come from professional development seminars offered by professional computing societies.
Those interested in a career in Computer Engineering should consider reviewing engineering programs that are accredited by ABET, Inc. If you choose to attend a program that is not ABET accredited, you should be sure that the university is regionally accredited. The following is a current list of all universities offering accredited degree programs in Computer Engineering. All but the first are at the Bachelor’s Degree level. Be sure to check with ABET for additions or changes.
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