View Full Version : Is a Computer Science Degree worth it???

07-20-2008, 10:07 PM
Hey, I am going into my senior year of high school and I want to do robotics in college. I like to program, but I don't know if I should get a degree in computer science or electrical engineering, with focus on control systems.

From the people i have talked to (engineers), it seems that computer science isn't the way to go because it is not as respected/everyone has it, or something like that.

What is the general ideas from the workforce, which would they rather have for an employee that work with the robots.

07-21-2008, 09:44 PM
If you want to design computers, then go for computer science.
If you want to design more general electric/electronic circuits, go for EE
If you want to be a good programmer, take some programming classes. Computer Science is not programming.
Building robots is all those majors plus mechanical engineering, systems engineering, and even a little bit of several other fields. It's hard to be excellent at everything, so focus on one thing and be excellent at that.

Note that the first year of both CS and EE are almost identical, so no rush to declare a major. But, NOW is the time to learn what each of these majors really do in the world, along with several other majors - ideally from people who do them - and try to learn what it is that you really enjoy doing. You know, what you'd happily go without food or sleep for. Whatever that is, find out what THAT major is called, and do that.

(Ever notice some classes you really like, and you get a good grade? Then classes you despise, bad grade? Make a list of the classes you liked, note the grade, and decide if it was the teacher or the subject. All those that you liked, got good grades, and it wasn't necessarily the teacher - that's what you should consider for a career.)

07-22-2008, 11:16 PM
If you want to design computers, then go for computer science.
If you want to design more general electric/electronic circuits, go for EE
If you want to be a good programmer, take some programming classes. Computer Science is not programming.

Make sure you get your terms correct. For all the colleges, that I know of, Computer Science (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_science) is "programming." (Simplification of course) "Computer building," meaning computer architecture design and the like, falls more under the category of Computer Engineering (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_engineering); you are correct usually closely related to EE.

Different colleges may have different terminology; this is just that's what I've observed. Moral of the story being do your research I guess.

ShawnHanna, it all depends on what area of robotics you want to work on. Like Mr. Rotolo says, find your passion. It sounds like you like to program, so do that. EE with control systems will most likely lead you through circuit and logic theory and all the EE stuff before you get to the control systems. While these are equally fascinating material, everybody likes different things.

My recommendation, for what it's worth, is if programming is your passion, go with Computer Science.

If you're worried about getting "lost in the crowd," find ways to stand out; FIRST has already been a tremendous step in the right direction. In college, look for opportunities to participate in research going on at the school (many universities offer opportunities even for undergraduates), or other projects and experiences you can add to your resume. One of the chief complaints from employers currently is that colleges graduates don't have any first hand experience in their field. Show them you're different.


07-23-2008, 09:03 AM
Look at what courses you would take for each major and what you want to learn too.

For example, I'm going to RPI, so here is what EE and CS would take at RPI:



Computer and Systems Engineering:

For an idea from the workforce, I have no clue, but an idea from someone who is a year ahead of you and going through a similar process to find out what I want to major in, I think it is a good idea to keep your options open. You do not need to decide now. I haven't decided yet, and won't until I have to choose classes for second semester. Its good that you know what you want to do, although even that may change some, who knows. As for me, I am taking the required first semester courses for Electrical, Mechanical, and Aerospace Engineering as well as Physics first semester, so that I have more time to decide which one(s) I like best.

07-31-2008, 04:55 PM
Thank you all for the responses. I will look into each and hopefully can decide which one is for me. It's good to have other input into this very important part of the college search.



08-04-2008, 11:41 AM
I think it really depends on what aspect of robotics you think that you'd like to be involved in. If you're interested in the decision making process/intelligence/smarts of robotics (and that includes team based robotics) perhaps computer science would be your niche, for example, the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon is located in the school of computer science! If you're interested in the construction and electromechanical aspects of robotics (ie: choosing motors, designing efficient motor drivers, or integrating all of that stuff together) then you might think of something with more of an EE route with an emphasis in machines or electro-mechanics or controls (as you've noted) (and FWIW there are some schools that offer electro-mechanical degrees).

While it wasn't the optimal route (for most), I think what I ended up doing in school was most beneficial to me... At RIT (with their 5 yr programs) started out as an EE, stayed there for 3 years, switched majors to CpET (Computer Engineering Tech), and then went on to complete a Masters in Computer Science.

What am I trying to say here? Basically don't let your major define what you can or can't do. Most of the time I never had problems taking courses from other departments to help broaden/sharpen my skill set. Ask students from the department you're interested in how hard it is to take courses from another department. Ask if the department you're applying to has a robotics course (when I was attending RIT they had a robotics course in about 4 different departments that I knew of) and what you learn in their version as compared to other departments. If they don't have a robotics related course, ask about independent studies. Lots and lots of questions, I know, but it's nice to know stuff like this before you figure out you're not taking the right path (and have to change majors like I did)!

Good luck!