Posted by John:
[link to this posting on the Mentoring Board]
I'm currently a technician working in an R&D group, writing some test code, debugging, simple fixture designs, etc. I'm working on a degree as well and have been on the EE path.
I'm finding that I'm really interested in firmware (seems to be the best of both worlds). The question I have is which degree is best for this career path? I've been told CS, EE with CS minor and I've been told Computer Engineering. It seems like it depends a lot upon who I ask.
A mentor replies:
[link to this reply on the Mentoring Board]
I am familiar with your situation. I have also worked as technician with some work in programming to support R&D. I too decided to get the degree. Your background will be a strong asset in your engineering career.
From your message it sounds like you might have already started a BSEE since you said you "have been on the EE path." Your decision to pursue firmware is a career path that many EEs and CpEs (also CS majors) have found rewarding. No doubt people from both fields will give you advice based on their experience in answer to your question, "Which degree is best for this career path?"
Your future degree is actually a foundation you will build on and grow with, a stepping stone. Your ability to immediately get a job in that field and become successful depends on your skills when you graduate. Although EE is a nice field, often EE programs don't have many programming courses. Thus it may not get you the level of educational experience you need to get a job in that field. If you want to do a significant amount of programming, additional CS, microprocessor/microcontroller courses will be needed. Some universities have a Computer Engineering curriculum, which blends mostly the digital side of Electrical Engineering with Computer Science as well as adding some important microprocessor courses.
If you are interested in getting into more hardware than software then Computer Engineering sounds like a fun field for you. Getting a minor in CS is a great idea but it won't teach you assembly code or machine language, which is often helpful in writing firmware or embedded programming. A minor in CS will be helpful for data structures (methods of storing/using data), software engineering, etc., all of which can apply to that field.
Hope it helps,
James W. Baldwin
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