Category Archive: Electrical and Computer Engineering

  1. Master’s in Computer Science vs Computer Engineering: What’s the Difference?

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    Computer science and computer engineering both play a pivotal role in building the technology that shapes the world. Furthermore, computer systems are rapidly becoming an integral component of not only our daily lives, but of the many systems and equipment that keep entire industries running. For example, services like Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping are only possible because Amazon uses sensors to monitor its stock in warehouses, and because the company uses software to carefully manage supply and predict demand.

    But Amazon isn’t the only place where computer engineering and computer science come together. Whether considering pocket-sized devices like smartphones or massive industrial equipment like wind turbines, building any device with an embedded computer or software requires experts with both computer science and computer engineering education.

    Because nearly every industry relies on computing technology—from healthcare, retail, and renewable energy to transportation, gaming, and telecommunications—professionals with computer science and computer engineering skills are well-compensated. As of 2016, computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $115,080, while computer scientists in 2017 earned a median annual salary of $109,075.

    Professionals who wish to advance their careers or transition into one of these high-paying fields may consider earning a master’s degree in computer science or computer engineering. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two disciplines when deciding which path is right for you.


    Key Differences Between a Master’s in Computer Science vs Computer Engineering

    MS in Computer Science

    • Focus on software and the theoretical application of computing
    • Primarily involved with software, data and computer networks
    • Courses include topics such as data structures and algorithms, programming languages, and hands-on experience writing code

    MS in Computer Engineering

    • Focus on integrating software and hardware, and the practical application of computing
    • Can involve computer hardware and software as well as electrical systems
    • Courses include topics such as architecture and design, digital control system modeling and analysis, physics, and signal processing

    MS in Computer Science

    Computer science degree graduates will generally focus on designing the software that runs on computers. Because they have an extensive theoretical background, many computer scientists also solve problems such as improving system performance, developing the most effective ways of storing data in a given technology environment, and discovering more efficient ways of allocating computing resources to tasks.

    MS in Computer Science coursework offers students a combination of foundational theory and applied technical skills. Students take courses in algorithms, various programming languages (e.g. Java, C++, Python, Perl, etc.), applied data analysis, and software engineering. Professionals with a master’s in computer science are prepared for careers in a range of industries with job titles including Software Developer, Computer Scientist, Mobile Application Developer, Security Engineer, Web Developer, and more.

    MS in Computer Engineering

    To put it simply, if computer science professionals bring ideas to life through software, computer engineers bring ideas to life by integrating hardware and software. While computer scientists may develop software for computers or computer-based devices, computer engineers are often responsible for developing and implementing the hardware for these devices.

    MS in Computer Engineering courses include education in system design, computer architecture, hardware design, electrical engineering and often offer elective options that teach high-demand skills in software engineering, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and wireless communication and networks. Graduates with an MS in Computer Engineering are prepared for roles including Computer Hardware Engineer, Computer Systems Engineer, and Wireless Communications Network Engineer.

    Overlap Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

    Despite some of the differences between computer science and computer engineering, there is significant overlap between the disciplines. Both a master’s in computer science and a master’s in computer engineering often offer courses in computer architecture, mathematics, and programming.

    While computer scientists primarily design and implement software, computer engineers need to understand software capabilities and requirements for optimizing hardware. Additionally, as embedded systems are used in everything from smartphones and GPS receivers to smart cars and medical equipment, computer engineers integrate both the hardware and embedded software in these devices. Because these technologies are constantly evolving, many master’s in computer engineering programs offer specializations in software engineering and artificial intelligence, preparing graduates for roles such as Software Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Embedded Software Engineer, and Senior Embedded Software Engineer.

    University of Arizona Online Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Ranked among the top 40 electrical and computer engineering departments in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Arizona’s Online Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program is a perfect fit for working engineers looking to enter a more design-oriented role and play a central part in the creation and planning phase of new technologies.

    The online engineering programs offered by the University of Arizona are flexible and varied, offering a comprehensive path to professional development for engineers in several different industries. Through longstanding partnerships with some of the foremost technology companies in the country, graduates have gone on to pursue advanced positions in global organizations that pursue constant innovation and shape the future of the world.

  2. Electrical and Computer Engineering Career Outlook

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    We’ve seen incredible advances in the most sophisticated software in the world over the past few years, with major breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence beating humans at poker and some of the first publicly available virtual reality studios. As impressive as these applications are, the hardware and systems that make them possible are equally so. This has increased demand for people who not only understand the potential of leading-edge software, but who have skills to design and manage systems for a constantly evolving discipline.

    Although the career outlook for electrical and computer engineers can vary depending on their specific area of expertise, the field covers numerous high-demand skills. For example, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that the number of cybersecurity job openings will more than triple from 2017 to 2021. Fields such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and holography are also poised for significant growth in the next five years, and will increase demand for creative engineers who can plan, build and manage the systems that back these technologies.

    The growing complexity in computer and electrical systems means that engineers will be in high demand, from designing complex communications networks to building and managing the hardware that runs next-generation artificial intelligence.

    Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering Careers

    While not all opportunities in the field require a graduate education, earning a master’s in electrical and computer engineering can help you enter senior-level roles and provide a salary increase for some specific positions.

    According to PayScale, for example, the average salary for computer engineers with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree is $77,260, while the average for those with an M.S. in Computer Engineering is $90,881.

    For some other computer and electrical engineering careers, the salary ranges are even more vast. Paysa salary survey data shows that the range (including bonuses) for AI engineers is $124,542 on the lower end of the spectrum and $257,530 on the higher end of the spectrum; roughly half of AI engineers have a master’s degree.

    Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering Careers Salary Information

    Job Title Common Skills required Average Salary
    High-Performance Computing Engineer linear systems, OpenGL, algorithms, systems engineering $82,030
    Senior Network Engineer virtualization, VoIP, network administration, VMWare $126,196
    Solutions Architect C++, machine learning, Java, distributed systems $114,000
    Systems Architect .NET, C#, virtualization, cloud computing $107,824
    Senior Solutions Architect cloud computing, system architecture, Java/J2EE $130,453
    Principal Architect system architecture, enterprise solutions, cloud computing, project management $131,195*
    Artificial Intelligence Engineer Java, machine learning, Python, C++, distributed systems $171,715

    *Median salary reported instead of average
    Source: Salary data compiled from PayScale and Paysa

    Top 3 Soft Skills for Electrical and Computer Engineers

    Although the specific technical skills required will vary by domain of expertise, most electrical and computer engineers will need at least some familiarity with scripting and statistics programming languages, different types of systems and optimization techniques as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

    Additionally, the importance of soft skills like communication has risen dramatically alongside the growing need for cross-discipline collaboration. Below is a list of core soft skills and how they apply to electrical and computer engineering.

    1. 1. Communication
      One of the important elements to communication for engineers is being able to express complex, sometimes abstract ideas to both technical and non-technical professionals. From a technical perspective, engineers will often need to work alongside experts in other domains to optimize something for a specific purpose (e.g. hardware engineers collaborating with software engineers).

      Another key element to communication is being able to communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical professionals. This is especially true for senior engineers and engineering leaders, who may have to make business cases for their decisions.

    2. 2. Adaptability
      Electrical and computer engineering have a unique demand for adaptable experts. In addition to the usually dynamic forces in organizational and business settings, engineers face constant change from the technology they work with. In fact, entire strategies for provisioning IT resources can shift dramatically within just a couple years. For example, Rightscale’s annual State of the Cloud survey shows that 71% of organizations leveraged hybrid cloud in 2016, yet this dropped to 51% by 2018.

      Changes like these force engineers to be highly adaptable both in the short and long-term. Projects don’t always go as planned, business requirements change and long-term strategies must be regularly updated to keep pace with technology.

    3. 3. Creativity
      It is one thing to have the technical acumen to design new systems to a set of specifications, but it takes a blend of technical expertise and creativity to build a system that solves a new problem.

      While fostering creativity is easier said than done, it will become more important as engineers tackle more complex challenges. One of the ways to enhance creative thinking is to look at problems from a different perspective. For example, if someone presents an idea that first seems unfeasible, thinking about what would be required to make it possible might yield surprising results – perhaps a way to implement the idea or a similar one that was inspired by the original.

    About the University of Arizona’s online M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering

    The University of Arizona’s online M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering program offers advanced practical and conceptual knowledge required in today’s job market while still giving students the flexibility to specialize in an area that aligns with their career interests. In addition to core electrical and systems engineering knowledge, students can gain advanced skills by specializing in one of the following areas:

    • High-Perfomance Computing
    • Digital Signal Processing, Communications, and Control
    • Computer Networks
    • Software Engineering and Artificial Intelligence
    • Detection and Estimation
    • Holography and Diffractive Optics
    • Simulation Modeling and Heterogeneous Systems Design
    • Wireless Communications and Networks

    As one of the top 50 schools for both electric and computer engineering, according to U.S. News and World Report, the University of Arizona’s online Engineering Programs offer one of the highest quality engineering educations in the country with the flexibility of online learning. A degree from UA can give you a considerable competitive edge in the career market. According to Paysa’s data, the average salary for UA’s STEM graduates with just two years of work experience is $123,274.