Computer Engineering vs. Electrical Engineering: What is the Difference and Which is the Better Career?

Computer Engineering vs. Electrical Engineering

Computer engineering involves building, designing, and diagnosing computers and their components, and matching digital or software programs. 

On the other hand, electrical engineering deals with the transmission, conversion, and generation of electric energy. 

The two programs have the core fundamentals of statistics, introduction to computer programming, linear circuits, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and digital electronics.

Although computer engineering can be considered as a subdiscipline under electrical engineering, there are certain fields that make CE a separate area of its own right.

The Difference Between Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering

Computer engineering integrates computer sciences with electronic engineering. 

The discipline embodies the marriage of technology and science in the various aspects of implementation, design, maintenance, and construction, of both hardware and software components of computer-controlled equipment and modern computer systems. 

Computer engineering is firmly rooted in the principles and theories of mathematics and science to provide solutions for technical problems. 

Electrical engineering, on the other hand, is a field of engineering that mainly covers the areas of electricity and technology. 

It is a field where designing and building electrical machinery, equipment, and control systems are made possible and realized. 

Electrical engineering is divided into a diverse range of fields including:

  • System engineering, 
  • Signal processing, 
  • Telecommunication, 
  • Radio-frequency engineering and 
  • Computer engineering

While electrical engineering is the broad field that also covers computer engineering, it demands more coursework and involvement in electrical operations while focusing less on computing and digital systems. 

Computer engineering also encounters electrical functionalities, but the degree is more adept on the basic computer operations and its related areas such as:

  • Software development, 
  • Application integration, and 
  • Deploying hardware systems

The two branches of engineering have an overall distinctive set evidently in career differences, coursework, skills, and interests.

The thin line between the two sometimes overlaps and aspiring engineers tend to confuse the respective scopes of each.

Such cases are understandable since computer engineers and electrical engineers can take on duties of programming, developing, as well as enhancing systems, devices, and electrical circuits. 

Considering the general factors that link CE and EE, there are institutions that offer a combination of the two degrees. 

Electrical & Computer Engineering or ECE is a program that delves into a broad area of further engineering studies. 

Under the degree, students will discover the in-depth learning of biomedical engineering, solar energy and harvesting, nanoengineering, photonics, aerospace industry, robotics, nanoelectronic chips, and computer hardware and software. 

What Computer Engineers Do 

Researching new technologies

Computer engineers conduct research and gather data to continually be updated on technological trends for the implementation and development of computer systems. 

They constantly learn the latest computer frameworks, different technologies, and new programming languages to be able to implement them in projects. 

Technology is evolving and it yields freshly introduced algorithms that computer engineers must delve into every once in a while. They apply such courses of data to solve the present problems in computer operations.

Adjusting new designs as needed

While there is a continuous integration of the latest innovations, computer engineers also participate in building designs for both hardware and software systems and change them as needed. 

Technological advancement calls for flexibility in designing and developing. 

Thus, computer engineers work with other system developers to come up with designs that can adapt to technology revolutions and the upcoming computer innovation upgrades and progress.

Building computers and computer-based systems

Computers engineers are the brilliant minds behind computer advancements in network technology and microprocessors that supplement systems. 

The integrated computer components will be distributed to internal communication systems and processed databases. 

Other components built by computer engineers could also be embedded in various physical systems like medical diagnostic apparatus or automobile aircraft. 

Through proper allocation and feasible construction, computer engineers can develop enormous computer-based systems and technologically-advanced computers.

 Upgrading equipment and software as needed

In the ever-growing technological world, computer engineers keep up with the new hardware and software standards of their industry. 

Together with software engineers and developers, computer engineers render their skills on computer-based operations to upgrade the development equipment and software as the need arises.

Updating the equipment can be extended to deploying related technologies, modernizing old systems of instructional facilities and laboratories, and installing new components.

Working with other engineers and professionals

Computer engineers work with a development team that comprises software developers, software engineers, core developers, and other technology system-related professionals. 

To accomplish a project and meet its specifications and requirements, computer engineers share their knowledge about technology sectors and converge with other heads that are focusing on building and designing a system. 

Computer engineers, along with the rest of their teams face responsibilities such as problem-solving, developing, upgrading, and deploying system components.

Testing new hardware and software

To identify the progress and efficiency of the developed hardware and software, computer engineers test the hardware and software’s processors and network systems. 

There may be critical issues in the project for which the expertise of computer engineers would be of huge help.

The problems will be laser-focused, evaluated, and aided to produce the product in its best condition before it reaches the end-users. 

Careers in Computer Engineering

Computer engineering provides a wide range of career opportunities. The following careers and jobs can be obtained after completing the degree:

Machine Learning Engineer

Engineers who are experts in building and designing intelligent machines are called Machine Learning Engineers. 

ML machines are assembled with systems that can learn, adapt, and execute human-like tasks with minimal supervision. 

Machine learning engineers create algorithms that are advanced enough to teach computers to perform chores without heavy programming. 

Aside from intelligent machines, machine learning engineers can develop Deep Learning Systems, conduct experiments, and run ML tests to build Al-powered machine innovations.

The job profile demands a solid background in computer science, mathematics, and statistics.

Data Scientist

Technologies are built with a data science domain in which there is a need for professionals who can create value from complex and unique data — this is where the Data Scientist comes in. 

Data scientists collect data from multiple external sources, including online platforms. They organize, process, and sort the data information they gather to be analyzed and extracted from the hidden patterns found in further studies. 

Data scientists mainly function as the scavengers of present business challenges and uncover helpful insights that can help formulate solutions.

Big Data Engineer

These professionals are solely responsible for maintaining, building, and testing scalable big data systems in a particular industry to assist data scientists in optimizing data systems and running stable algorithms. 

Big data engineers work primarily in technologies, tools, and ecosystems under big data. They are tasked to troubleshoot, optimize, and upgrade the software and systems to enhance database efficiency. 

To work as a big data engineer, one must have industry experience for a couple of years. They need to be exposed to Big Data frameworks.

Computer Network Architect

Engineers who can implement, develop, and design data and networking communication systems can be computer network architects.  

Computer network architects focus on the extranets, intranets, networks, hardware, and software routers and adaptors. 

Their responsibilities are usually shared with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), especially when it comes to locating new networks in an organization.

Computer network architects are required to have a thorough understanding of a company’s business plan to implement and design a suitable network in exact locations.

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer engineering can also lead to the path of a computer system analyst. 

A computer system analyst’s job is engrossed in designing information systems, studying an organization’s computer systems, and structuring business processes to produce efficient, productive, and innovative solutions. 

Computer systems analysts aid the gaps between information technology and the business industry. 

Also, computer systems analysts are responsible for conducting extensive tests and employing effective techniques to analyze overlooked trends and use them to enhance computer system performance. 

What Electrical Engineers Do 

Applying knowledge of electricity and materials

Electrical engineers make use of their knowledge of electronics, physics, and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by electricity. 

They also use any useful tools from massive electrical grids down to portable gadgets.

Apart from handheld electrical tasks, electrical engineers evaluate, promote, test system prototypes with the skills, talents, and in-depth understanding they acquired from fundamental courses they learned and trained for over the years. 

Developing electrical products by studying customer requirements

To meet customer-specific requirements, electrical engineers study scopes, limitations, possible solutions, and feasibilities of prototypes to deploy. 

The electrical engineers will then develop and design products aligned to the project plan.

Power generators, motors, communication, and navigation systems are some of the examples of an electrical engineer’s product niche. After such systems are created, the electrical engineers will oversee the manufacturing procedure. 

Designing and conducting research programs

Since electrical innovation is influenced by technology’s modernization, electrical engineers are responsible for conducting and creating research programs that will improve their scope in diverse industries. 

They harness their concepts and ideas according to their gathered data and feasibility studies.

Furthermore, research programs allow electrical engineers to discover more profound electrical-related projects that they can use as a model and enhance the prototypes they are currently working on.

Evaluating electrical systems, products, components, and applications

Electrical engineers constantly evaluate electrical applications, systems, products, and components, before releasing it to customers. 

Through thorough evaluation, electrical engineers will have a better view of which products or systems need a further development process.

Also, additional installments and product systems are realized during the evaluation. Electrical engineers work with other developing teams, such as systems analysts to make the whole process successful. 

Researching and testing of methods and materials

Electrical engineers are tasked to test manufacturing methods and materials to avoid potential technical issues in a product. 

They also conduct intensive research on the process to get ahead of the possible outcomes concerning electrical-related systems.

The methods and materials to be used vary from one product to another. That is why electrical engineers carefully apply the strategies, solutions, installments, and other actions that the system requires.

Confirming component and system capability

After research and evaluation, electrical engineers need to confirm the capabilities of the system and its components through designing and testing the properties and methods involved. 

If there are errors in the process, electrical engineers are on standby to amend the issues and fix them accordingly.

Careers in Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering has a great number of career choices. The following jobs and careers can be obtained after completing the degree:

Electronics Engineer

Electrical engineers who are adept in capacitors, transistors, diodes, and resistors are potential candidates for the electronics engineering profession. They analyze the costs and requirements of electrical systems.

Electronics engineers use active and nonlinear electrical components to design integrated circuits, passive electrical components, and electronic circuits.

Signal Processing Engineer

Signal processing engineers mainly focus on digital signals and analogs. They are experts on information technologies that alter and analyze digital signals to make them more reliable and accurate.

Signal processing engineers are adept in managing, developing, and updating digital signals, creating algorithms for such analogs to work and process efficiently.

Controls Engineer

Controls engineers are tasked to be on top of controller design, with the goal of making a system function in a certain way. 

These professionals utilize digital signal processors, programmable logic controllers, microcontrollers, and electrical circuits.

They need to be the master of multitasking jobs as their goals revolve around ensuring that the electrical plant is running smoothly, while also maintaining safety and quality standards.

Microelectronics Engineer

Engineers who are good in micro-fabrication and designing tiny electronic components are called microelectronics engineers. 

They also construct and develop plans for different prototypes, including circuit boards, semiconductors, and mechanical systems.

Microelectronic engineers apply their knowledge and skills to mechanical systems, electronics, and new materials.

Power Engineer

Power engineers mainly deal with electricity and related electrical devices, such as generators, motors, transformers, and power electronics design. 

Also called stationary engineers, power engineers are technically certified and skilled professionals that have fortes on renovation and maintenance.

These professionals can work diversely in any type of business and industry to provide mechanical and electrical services in the working systems.


Computer engineering is a sub-discipline of electrical engineering, yet it has its own areas of expertise and courses of work. 

Electrical engineering also has its fair share of industrial and technological fields offering services to different businesses. 

Regardless of their specific functions, both are viable and competitive career paths to take.

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is a writer for HKS Siblab, an education and business blog. He has a MSc in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics from the University of Hertfordshire and has been working in the cyber security industry since 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar and spending time with his family.

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