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How Hard Is Computer Engineering?

A Computer Engineer At Work

Whether you’re seeking insight into the computer engineering student life or looking for resources to help map out a career in this field, you’ve come to the right place.

Quick Answer

Computer engineering, just like any other engineering program, is not a walk in the park. While it isn’t exactly the most challenging engineering field, it does have exacting requirements.

To enable you to understand just how hard this field is, we’d be looking at it alongside other related disciplines.  

Computer engineering can be a blend of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. So, we’d be looking at the mentioned fields in the below points, amongst other things.  

What Is Computer Science?

Computer Science is the study of computers. It involves the study of algorithms and data structures, computer and network designs, modeling data, information processes, and AI.

Professionals and trainees in this fieldwork more with computer software than hardware.

What is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineering is the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and maintenance of electrical control systems, machinery, and equipment.

It deals with the application of electricity and electromagnetism to come up with or develop electronics.

What Is Computer Engineering?

Computer Engineering is a branch of engineering that integrates several fields of computer science and electronic engineering required to develop computer hardware and software.

As I mentioned earlier, Computer Engineering is a mixture or a blend of the fields mentioned above.

Computer Engineering vs. Computer Science

One thing we should all know is that Computer Science and Computer Engineering are tech-intensive fields oriented around computer and information systems.

Computer Engineers and Scientists have very different roles and responsibilities.  

The first prioritizes computer design and development, while the latter emphasizes computing theory, cyber security, algorithms, and computer networks.

Computer Engineering outranks Computer Science as an academic discipline because its conflated learning modules also prepare graduates for many Computer Science careers.

Computer Engineers use their acquired knowledge and training to solve real-world problems, while Computer scientists focus majorly on the theoretical and applied side.

Computer Engineers study computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics to create efficient and functional solutions to computing problems.

Computer Scientists can pursue careers as software developers, data scientists, system analysts, and database administrators.

Computer Engineers, on the other hand, can work as software engineers, hardware engineers, network engineers, and telecommunications engineers.

Computer Engineering vs. Electrical Engineering?

Just like aerospace engineering is a specialized field of mechanical engineering, computer engineering is a technical field or a subset of electrical engineering.

Electrical engineering requires more mathematical proficiency than computer engineering. Hence, it can be more complex than computer engineering.

An electrical engineer works with all kinds of electrical circuits and wiring systems. In contrast, a computer engineer deals with computer hardware and software, only a portion of electrical equipment.

Computer engineers work on a lesser variety of products than electrical engineers.

Electrical engineers can develop electronics and computerized devices, and they can even work on internet connections.

Both fields are available as a single program in many universities, which isn’t surprising since their curriculums are pretty similar.

Is Computer Engineering Hard?

Computer engineering is far from easy. It requires many challenging math courses and incorporates several technical electrical engineering and computer science concepts.

It isn’t the most demanding engineering course, but it’s not precisely seamless to sail through.

To succeed in this field, you’d need strong technical and logical skills, and your understanding of mathematics must be above average.

You must also be willing to practice what you learn consistently. The challenges of studying this field can be summarized thus:

Challenge #1: Difficult Quantitative Learning Modules

When pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering, you should expect to take several intensive quantitative classes.

These classes are foundational and would help you learn or relearn the basics of science, mathematics, and engineering in this field.

You will come across the following quantitative courses if you’re undergoing a computer engineering program,

Calculus I, II, and III, Physics I and II, Differential Equations, Probability and Statistics, Mechanics, Linear Algebra, Introduction to Algorithms and Programming Data, Program design and Data Structures, Electricity and Magnetism, and the Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering.

Challenge #2: Technical Courses

Once you have completed the above learning modules, you’d move on to learning incredibly technical courses.

You should expect to take more advanced computer science courses like operating systems, embedded applications, system security, and network software.

These lessons can be pretty challenging to understand because they aren’t really practical.

More advanced Electrical engineering courses like intermediate electronic circuits, integrated circuit design, and image processing will also be introduced.

These courses will require you to embark on challenging laboratory experiments.

Challenge #3: Mastering Theoretical Knowledge and Practical Skills

To succeed as a computer engineer, you must have a lot of theoretical knowledge and know-how to apply this knowledge to real-world scenarios or problems.

As mentioned earlier in this article, Computer Engineering is a mix of Computer Science and Engineering.

These disciplines make this field highly theoretical and practicable by providing adequate knowledge and training on computer software and hardware.

Through these courses, one can develop sound problem-solving, innovative, and critical thinking skills.

What Are the Different Computer Engineering Pathways?

Computer engineering has several pathways or branches. They are Software Engineering, Computer Hardware Engineering, Network Engineering, Electrical engineering, etc.

There are also various Computer Engineering specializations. Some of them include Hardware Systems, Robotics, and Cybernetics, Computer and Network Security, Computer Graphics and Visualization, Distributed Computing, and many others.

Here are some of the top universities to study Computer Engineering in the US:

  • The University of California-Berkeley
  • Stanford University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Columbia University, Butler University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University

Final Thoughts

There isn’t a degree you’d go through that you wouldn’t experience some difficulty levels.

Computer engineering may not be the most accessible program to complete, but it is super rewarding.

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