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I am a junior at a university with a REALLY selective CS program, and because of a 3.2 in a math class, they didn't admit me. I will reapply, but this is my last shot. Being a programmer has always been my dream. I was admitted into the EE department, and I am taking classes on that now.

My Problem/Question: Is it common for people with EE degrees to get a software development job? I don't want to be stuck with a degree where I don't know if I will like the day to day. I know I like programming, and I want to do that.

Some of my options: 1. Transfer to an associated school (a school with a University blah, ) and get a degree there (it is somewhat of a worse school). 2. Take a alternative major like informatics (seems boring) or ACMS (I want to program software, not math) 3. Continue getting an EE degree (I am actually really interested in robotics and artifical intelligence, but don't know how well I would do or enjoy it).

How do I get a job as a software engineer with a degree in electrical engineering?

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    Brandon, welcome to Workplace SE! Unfortunately, your question is both too broad (as in polling for opinions) and extremely localized (an answer will not help other people much which is the very purpose of StackExchange). Please edit your question to make it more focused and potentially helpful for others. – Deer Hunter May 8 '13 at 3:31
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    You apply for one. That's what I did. Now I'm a software developer with an EE degree. You'll have to edit your question to explain why this doesn't work for you. – Muz May 8 '13 at 4:33
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    Have you read the FAQ? Questions like, "how do I learn to be a..." are considered off topic and will normally be closed on this site. – enderland May 8 '13 at 11:41
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    Consider applying for development jobs at places that do engineering work (Defense contractors and NASA come to mind immediately), they are more likely to see the value in your degree. – HLGEM May 8 '13 at 15:19
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    @Brandon you still haven't answered whether you've read the FAQ for the site. This site is not a general "please give me career advice" site, it's a Question/Answer site intended to be useful as references in the future to other users. In this case, the answer is simple - write software and convince employers you interview with you can do so. This won't work for all companies. Some are traditional and want a "CS/Comp E" degree. But a lot of companies want people who've coded, developed, etc, and you can get a lot of experience doing opensource, app development, etc. – enderland May 9 '13 at 11:21
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With a EE degree, but with an interest in software, you would be an ideal candidate for a job in firmware development, especially low-level close to the hardware (microcontroller). The ideal firmware engineer needs to be adept at reading a schematic, using an oscilloscope, logic analyzers and protocol analyzers (USB, I2C, SPI and UART), and reading and understanding microcontroller and peripheral "datasheets" that might be 500 pages long. With a EE degree, you would also be qualified to design the hardware itself if that interested you.

As a firmware engineer for nearly four decades (I started in the mid 70's), I have found it is easier for a EE to learn programming skills than a CS major learn EE skills. As someone else pointed out, when I started my EE degree, there were no CS degrees at my school. They started the CS department around my junior year, and I would have lost too many credits to switch (EE was in the engineering college, CS was in the humanities college.)

I ended up finishing my EE degree, and then going on and getting a Master's in CS. That would be another path you could take. I am typically the only one with a mixed EE/CS background at the companies I have worked for, and usually end up doing a mixture of hardware and software design.

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  • Thanks for your answer! I definitely want to pursue schooling in CS after an EE degree, and hopefully building up a portfolio will help me with admission into a CS program! – Brandon May 9 '13 at 18:28
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As someone with a Computer Science (CS) degree and who has worked in the field for nearly three decades, I expect that you will have no problem getting a software development job with an EE degree. On occasion, I have worked side-by-side with people who have EE degrees instead of CS or Software Engineering (SE) degrees.

An EE degree has been preferred in some circumstances: I've seen this when the work is particulary close to the hardware, or in some settings where CS and SE are not seen as "real" technical disciplines, but EE is accepted.

While it's not the case so much anymore, when I got my degree 2+ decades ago many schools didn't have majors in Computer Science. At those schools, people who wanted to become software developers most often majored in EE or Mathematics. Futhermore, I don't remember seeing a Software or Computer Engineering degree offered anywhere until well after I had completed my Bachelors.

In point of fact, software development is often one of the more flexible fields when it comes to what degrees can get jobs, or even if a degree is needed. I've usually (but not always) worked in scientific environments and have had programming co-workers and bosses who had degrees at varying levels in CS, SE, EE, Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Business, and even no (college) degree at all. I also have friends who work professionally in software development who have degrees in other fields such as Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Psychology, Philosophy, Education, History and Religion.

In observing requirements in want ads, it does seem that things are changing somewhat - more software development job listings want a degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or a related field. However, (in my mind at least) Electrical Engineering is a related field and I do not think that is likely to change in your lifetime.

As for how to go about getting a software development job with an EE degree: While in school, take as many courses as you can that teach software development (if you can, get a Minor in CS/SE/CE/whatever your school offers). Also, you can do some open source development. These things will build a portfolio and resume that should help you get interviews when you apply for jobs. Once out of school, I recommend that you apply to jobs just as if you had a CS degree. Once you have that first job, it should be even easier to get other jobs in software development.

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    Yep, I've worked on software intended to simulate physical systems like satellites and rockets. A lot of physics (and math) involved there. Some of my fellow software engineers had advanced degrees in physics, mathematics, aerospace engineering, etc. They picked up programming skills as needed, and while they may have been lacking in CS/SE knowledge, they understood their particular problem domain very well. They mostly worked on algorithms, while CS people like me integrated their work into the overarching application/system. – James Adam May 9 '13 at 13:41
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    The environment @JamesAdam is in is the way to go with those things. I have just the opposite problem, where the EE/math/physics people develop the whole thing from end to end with no technical oversight and ship it. Management thinks they have something they can sell into other projects and the people with the CS training are left to try and unravel the mess when it doesn't just drop in like everyone expects. Bottom line is that people should be allowed to do what they're good at and given oversight on what they're not. – Blrfl May 9 '13 at 14:15
  • @Blrfl: Yep, I've seen that sort of environment a lot. – GreenMatt May 9 '13 at 15:08
  • @JamesAdam I think that comment could work as an answer, actually. – user May 9 '13 at 15:35
  • Thanks for your great answer @greenmatt. I will definitely take a bunch of classes. I already have a lot of my own projects that I can polish up and put in my portfolio (most of them games =3). I really should look into contributing to an opensource project. Not sure how all that works, you just wanted to say you rock and thanks for your answers. – Brandon May 9 '13 at 18:27
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People without degrees get jobs as software developers. Yes, with an EE degree you will get a good software development job, so long as you can program.

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