Careers in Electrical and Computer Engineering

The cool thing about engineering is that you get to work with teams of people to create things that truly help people. And as an electrical engineer or computer engineer, you get to be one of the first people to see and develop the new technology people use every day—from new robots that can do surgery and new devices that help doctors care for patients to the next-generation of smartphones your friends will use and electronic systems used in next year’s cars.

The career outlook is great for electrical and computer engineers, too. Electrical engineering and computer engineering are some of the fastest growing career fields in the United States. And they pay well—starting salaries are typically near $60,000 for entry-level engineering jobs for bachelor’s degree graduates. With a master’s or PhD degree, you could even make $80,000 or $100,000 a year at your first full-time job.

But what exactly is the difference between an electrical and computer engineer? Use this chart to learn more.

What is Electrical Engineering? 

Electrical engineers are at the foundation of all electronic devices—your smartphone, laptop, GPS, e-reader, LED lights, or even your car.

Electrical engineers create technologies that connect the world and help make our lives better.

They work in various industries from electric power and communications to health care and avionics.

ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS:

  • Develop wind, solar, and traditional energy systems to help provide everyone in the world with electricity
  • Design controls and communications systems to help doctors perform surgery with smarter robots
  • Enhance image processing and make better instruments to help diagnose and treat diseases
  • Develop nanotechnologies to help scientists study microorganisms
  • Design computer circuits to help speed up networks and processors that run your smartphone and other electronics
  • Improve batteries that help power equipment for soldiers and run electric-powered cars

 

What is Computer Engineering? 

Computer engineers solve problems in hardware, software, systems, and networks so things like your laptop or big airplanes work properly.

Computer engineers make current devices we use for work and entertainment faster, smaller, cheaper, smarter, and safer. They also develop systems needed to protect and operate the United States’ critical infrastructures—such as the Internet and smart power grid—so its day-to-day services are not interrupted.

Computer engineers work in almost every industry—from health care and gaming to banking and online shopping.

COMPUTER ENGINEERS:

  • Improve Internet security to help protect your information and make it safer to buy things online
  • Design faster processors to help make HDTV and 3-D TV watching and video gaming experiences better
  • Develop biomedical systems to help monitor patients in hospitals
  • Implement sensor networks to help make robots more human-like
  • Create the smart power grid to help manage energy distribution to households across the country
  • Work with digital forensics to help police and the FBI track and catch cyber criminals

In addition to electrical and computer engineering, students at Iowa State University can major in software engineering. The software engineering program is administered jointly by the Department of Computer Science and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Learn more about the differences among the computer engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and software engineering majors at Iowa State.