Computer Science vs. Electrical Engineering

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by colinmcd, May 7, 2014.

  1. colinmcd

    colinmcd Member

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    Those are the two majors I'm leaning towards currently to choose when I'm a sophomore. They both have aspects I like, which is why I'd prefer computer engineering but it's not offered. So my question is, does anyone know which major is harder at USMA? I've heard that it really varies on the school so I'd like to know if anyone has any idea when it comes to USMA. Thanks.
     
  2. My3Sons2017

    My3Sons2017 Member

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    Usma red book

    Colinmcd, check out the RED BOOK on the USMA website. It will give you the classes required for each major. During your plebe year, you will talk to professors and heads of departments to help you decide what is best for you. The recruiting tactics can get pretty humorous if that department really wants you!
     
  3. 2012Cadet

    2012Cadet Member

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    From what I've heard, both majors are pretty tough. It all boils down to what you think you will like more. If that is programming, etc., then go with comp sci. If it is physical electronics, etc., go with electrical engineering. However, one big mistake cadets make is basing major decisions off of required classes in the subject they take as freshmen or sophomores. Don't do this as major classes are different.
     
  4. GoBlue1984

    GoBlue1984 Member

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    Asking which major is harder is really the wrong question. IMO, the better question is, "Having an interest in computing, why would I choose to major in EE over CS?"

    Since I have an EE degree with a very strong Computer Engineering bent (most elective classes in my major had both EE and CE numbers), here is my take:

    Comp Sci - focuses much more on the application of computers with less focus on the theory of how they work. Like Comp Sci, Computer Engr also tends to focus on the design and application of algorithms. The main difference between these two degrees is generally a Comp Sci degree does not require the same Chemistry and Physics foundation as a Comp Engr degree does. In contrast, most Comp Sci degrees require more math and math theory than many Comp Engr degree programs require. At USMA, Chem and Physics are required regardless of major so your "comp sci" major will be more like a Comp Engr degree program is at many universities.

    Elec Engr - is a much broader subject than just computers and it has several sub-disciplines within it. The focus in an EE curriculum is understanding the theory and application of physical principles - of which switching circuits controlled by gate logic (which when combined intricately can become a CPU, memory, a FIFO circuits, communication circuits, etc. - in other words a computer system) are just one of many potential applications. EE includes power and distribution of power; it includes telecommunications theory, including the use of satellite transmissions; it includes computer systems design, and the theory and use of computers for control; it includes field theory and a broad understanding of electro-magnetics and waves.

    Both disciplines will have you writing programs (algorithms) and both will include basic digital circuit design. Both will probably include basic computer control, and basic circuit analysis. Computer Science will have you design and write Operating Systems and Compilers while Electrical Engr will have you designing analog and digital circuits.

    Both require a lot of math (but my opinion the math in EE tends to be much more complex than that required of CE, CS, or any other engineering field [with the possible exception of Nuclear Engr; OK - I admit I'm probably biased]). EE requires a lot of wave and electo-magnetic Physics theory, whereas CS requires a lot of data structure theory (of which I have never had any).

    Both will be great preparation for a future career as both require you to think logically and approach problem solving in a disciplined manner.
     
  5. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    To expand on GoBlue1984's excellent input: Both majors will requires some specialization. I'm not as familiar with EE/CS curriculum at USMA, just had a scan of the redbook. But for most programs you specialize:

    EE:
    Digital logic/hardware
    Power Transmission/Energy (think power lines & big motors, solar, etc)
    Radio / Communications / Network Hardware

    CS:
    OS theory & operation
    Web/E-commerce systems (applied use of web/databases/networking)
    Computer modeling, theory, math

    Many schools are adding Cyber-security tracks as well. (It appears USMA has)

    USMA also has a Electronic*&*Information*Technology*Systems which appears to be a hybrid major. Just from external observation this should be a strong major for Signal Corps wannabees.

    USMA also has an IT major which appears very similar to the MIS degree in Civvy schools.

    At civvy schools you typically get initial exposure to most of the specialization areas as a Sophomore as a core track, then specialize in Junior/Senior years. USMA appears to have a similar approach. Different schools may have other specializations, but these are the most common.

    The real question is what do you want to do? Both in the Army for N years, and then for your career.

    As an old-timer, when I came through most computer jobs were done by EE's as the CS programs if they existed were very theoretical/math oriented. That has shifted now, and EE/CS jobs do not have as much crossover.

    Sometimes it's possible to double specialize. If you go EE, Digital & RF Communications is a strong combination. There are similar combinations for CS majors.

    Scanning the redbook it appears USMA does not go quite as deep in their specializations as civvy EE/CS degrees do. This is probably due to the core approach as a plebe. Many schools start EE101 as a freshman, and have a prereq track which expands out from there.

    But you have several good options. All appear rigorous, and I'd be thinking about what you want to do long term and have that drive your decision.
     
  6. colinmcd

    colinmcd Member

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    Thank you all. Yeah, I'm really leaning towards a career in cyber security, hopefully branching Military Intelligence and then possibly a career with a defense contractor or try for CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. once I decide to retire from the Army. After looking at the RedBook, I did realize that West Point has a good computer science major/cyber security minor program that seems like it's exactly what I want and need. Thanks for all of your help and advice.
     
  7. TheKnight

    TheKnight Class of 2014

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    I was a CS major for some time at West Point before I changed majors. Which is easier is a question of what you already know. Do you know how to program already? Then the CS major will be a breeze. Are you really good at Physics? Then you'll have no problem with EE. EE classes at West Point require a strong Physics background. You don't need to be a Physics expert, but the classes will be much more difficult without a decent understanding of Physics, Boolean Logic, etc.

    The CS program is very much focused on software design. You may already know how to program, but you might not know how to design software at the project management level. That sort of thing is what the CS program will focus on as you progress in the major, which will require a lot of work.

    Ultimately, both majors are a lot of work. Those within Engineering majors (both EE and CS are ABET accredited "engineering" majors at West Point) have considerably higher workloads than those without. As I understand it, the Dean has been working to alleviate the disparity in workloads between engineering and non-engineering majors, but make no mistake that if you choose either CS or EE you will spend a lot of late nights studying and working on major projects while also juggling your other West Point requirements.

    As for cyber security, the minor is worthless. I don't say that because you won't learn about cyber security in the minor, but because if you wish to operate within the cyber security field as someone who is competent, you absolutely must be an expert on how computers work by gaining the sort of expertise you absolutely cannot get in a classroom. Computer security is an amazing and exhilarating field, but those who are good at it are those who have a passion for pursuing their curiosity by working to understand the bits and the bytes of how software interacts with architecture. Want to set yourself up for success in computer security? Start doing Capture The Flag competitions. USMA has a competitive computer security team that does CTFs often. If you start struggling on them now, by the time you get to West Point you'll be sure to successfully make the team. The team is currently the nexus of the cyber security efforts at West Point.
     

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