What career is right for me?

I am looking for some advice. For some time now I have been trying to decide what I want to major in. I started out as a MechE and then switched to CompE but now I am unsure. I saw the thread about the GT using more robotics in their curriculum and that is why I decided to ask. I would love to be in a career where I get to do the same thing as we do in FIRST. But I would like to do EVERYTHING on the robot. I know it isn’t possible. But I am deep into electronics, mechanical and programming. I am very knowledgable in all the areas too. Right now I think I would rather do something with embedded systems like in what we do here. I am guessing that is a CompE major, but what exactly does a CompE major study? What does a CompE major do as a career?

I would like to do some kind of programming like what they do for something like Asimo or just some kind of factory robot or something. I just don’t really know what is out there. But I like designing the electronics for an embedded system then programming it.


I am currently a Junior CompE.

Most of what we do (at least my University (UofHartford)) is embedded microsystems and some signal analysis as well as basic electronics and analog analysis. Basically the hardware end of a computer system. We also learn assembly as well as some hardware description languages.

We are also required to take some CS courses, (so we learn like C++, Java, etc). This is just to ‘well-round’ us as engineers.

As far as what we acutally do in real life, I have no idea. I know that I definitely want to go into data communications design.

Hope this was of some help.


Don’t sweat it.

There are two tools you get from college. Knowledge and learning skills. Get some good co-ops, go and get a minor in programming, and then push yourself as a great candidate for robotics systems. Michael Eisner graduated from a small liberal arts college with a major in english. He turned out to be the longest running CEO and rebuilt Disney back in the 80s.

My best friend is going into Electronic Technology but plans on going into politics with it.

Unfortunately, many companies in industry get Computer Engineering and Computer Science mixed up, so be careful if you chose CE. Not that one is better than the other, but most HR departments will see you as some sort of programmer if you’re CE. Starting out in industry, the only jobs I found available as a CE were more along the lines of VLSI, signal processing, and hardware infrastructure (think rooms of servers that serve as processor farms). Computer Engineering is so much more than that, but to get to the fun/hard/good stuff like processing architecture design and PCB/Circuit design, you have to either go pretty far in your education (MS/PhD) or have lots of experience from the right job.

As an EE, I found I was able to take any course from the Computer Engineering side as well as any course from the Electrical side that I wanted. I took embedded systems, Microcontroller Design (used a PIC18F452! with assembly!), advanced control systems, a Sensors and Perceptions course, and an electrical mechanics course. These are a fairly broad range of courses and I apply most of what I learned in them to the prototype and build seasons in some way.

My career path right now is as a Systems Engineer, and most of what I do has had to be learned on the job. During the FIRST season, I have fairly sound inputs to the mechanical side of things on the robot even though I’m most knowledgable about Electronics, Programming, and Controls. The point is, the reason I love mentoring with FIRST is that it allows me to do the engineering I love to do from multiple areas of engineering but am not able to do every day at my job. It is indeed the only way I can do everything I want to as an engineer currently, but eventually I will become project manager and be able to touch multiple disciplines in my job as well.

Hence, just going through engineering classes will change the way you think enough that if you’re patient, eventually you can do everything you want anyways. There are very few careers that deal with everything a FIRST robot deals with within one job (it’s always delegated out among several employees), but eventually you’ll be able to work on everything. In the meantime you can mentor a FIRST team :slight_smile:

edit - Note that the jobs I found for CompE’s listed above were for the Atlanta area. Not sure what else is out there for entry level engineers in other parts of the country.

I think you should major in EE. Also there are several colleges that have a Mechatronics major. Its a combination of electrical, mechanical, and programming. Georgia Tech has it I believe. From their website: “Mechatronics is the synergistic combination of precision mechanical engineering, electronic control, and systems thinking in the design of products and manufacturing processes. It is a relatively new concept relating to the design of systems, devices, and products aimed at achieving an optimal balance between basic mechanical structure and its overall control”

I’ll vouch for Mechatronics as a logical follow-up to what we do in FIRST. I’m a first-year Mechatronics student at the University of Waterloo, and although we haven’t really gone too deep into the material yet, the program is designed as a hybrid of ME, EE, CE and Systems Design courses. The only problem is that there aren’t yet many jobs in the industry targeted specifically towards Mechatronics Engineers (probably due to the current lack of graduates); my first co-op job was basically a manufacturing engineering job and my second looks like it’s going to be programming. But I’m sure that will change over time.

In one way of looking at it, it doesn’t matter much what degree you end up with. That degree will help you get your first interview, that first job will help you understand what it is all those classes in school were for (and a bit about politics), and your second job will be the fun one, where you do what you really want to.

The point is for you to learn as much as possible, from the experts (your profs) about whatever subjects you are interested in. The degree will sort itself out once you name all the classes you want. Oh, yes - also learn how to write really well, that’ll carry you a long ways.

EE with some ME background is a pretty good mix (I may be biased, it describes me) because you can do the EE stuff, and still get by on the ME stuff. CompE is a bit of a mix between the two, because you need to understand the hardware and electronics, but some CompE jobs deal with macro computing (i.e. systems architecture). The modern phrase is mechatronics I suppose.

Just remember that you can get a job doing whatever you like, and if you find such a job (persistence makes it’s own luck - understand?) you will always be successful, because it’s hard to fail doing what you love.

I have a job that allows me the freedom to do almost whatever I want, and it’s great, even after 20 years. What little I miss, I get from FIRST. If I got any happier they’d have to shoot me.