The field of computer engineering has morphed about as rapidly as the technology to which the profession is dedicated. In the early days of computer design, most of the lead professionals were electrical engineers. Today the best computer engineering major for electrical theory and design is electronic engineering, which is recognized as a separate discipline in the industry.
Computer science majors can end up in any one of a number of professional niches. In recent years however, graduates in this field end up on the theoretical side of computer development and are immersed in computer engineering activities. Many people who work in the field have a master’s degree in computer science, but that may place them in a lab environment, creating and inventing new technological powers for digital machinery. At that level, the engineering typically follows theoretical design, but a computer science graduate can engage in either practice.
At the moment computer design is relatively standardized. For nearly twenty years the development of new PCs has been about building faster, more powerful machines – and secondarily, to put them in smaller containers. Some of the most innovative computer engineering work has been performed by software engineering graduates. For several years the cutting edge of digital development was in network design, much of which has driven by the software required to make networks both functional and secure.
Today some of the more sophisticated network design and implementation is performed by individuals who had a systems engineering major in college. An affiliated major but separate profession is systems analysis, which is a senior role in the corporate environment. Systems analysts are the professionals that scale networks up, transition software programs, and often get heavily involved in data management. These jobs are increasingly taking on a multinational character which can make the assignments much more complex.
An excellent educational choice in the computer engineering field is MIS, or information systems management. Graduates with an MIS degree are often drawn into the cyber security field because of the acute failures in data systems that have occurred on a massive scale. Data theft has become a crime wave, with pilfered lists of credit card names and numbers being used to steal cash and buy products. Stolen corporate and government data can serve other highly dangerous purposes. MIS professionals learn to design data systems for intranets and for highly interactive programs such as retail websites.
And finally there is the option of majoring in computer engineering itself. In 2004 there were only 170 accredited computer engineering programs in the nation’s colleges and universities. Today there are many more, including some online computer engineering programs that are accredited as well. There is also the option of a computer engineering technology major, a field that is more oriented to the mechanics of design rather than the theory.