Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I take the ECE major? What opportunities are opened for me?

The ECE Option spans a very broad spectrum of technology, from the atomic level for engineering new materials to the large hardware and software systems that are used to build the Internet. By taking the ECE Option, you will be exposed to the fundamental skills and knowledge that will allow you to access many fields, giving you lots of flexibility and options even in areas that you may not associate with ECE. You could become a cyber sleuth on the Internet, help handicapped people live fuller lives, or work on fighting diseases. The most important problems in the world can all use ECE expertise. For examples where ECE people can make significant contributions, look at the Grand Challenges for Engineering.

Why aren’t there separate majors for Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Engineering (CE)?

EE and CE are tightly linked and share many of the same fundamentals. After careful thought, it was felt that a single option would serve our Engineering Science students the best by providing the core knowledge that gives the most flexibility and best opportunities for the future. Our world is rapidly evolving and changing. A strong knowledge of fundamentals allows you to not only adapt to change, but create change. The world is also growing more complex and many aspects of ECE are key to integrating the technologies and knowledge used today. It is important to have the big picture view across the entire ECE spectrum.

I know I want to do software, so why am I forced to take Energy Systems and Electromagnetic Fields in third year?

It is important to have some breadth. No one writes software in isolation. No one can dispute that Energy is a growing area where more software will be written as the area matures. Having some breadth, such as knowing a little about Energy Systems may open doors in the future.

How is the EngSci ECE major different from the regular Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Engineering (CE) programs?

Being in an EngSci option means that students will have gone through the rigorous first two years of EngSci where they study much more math and sciences than the regular programs. The result is that the third year of the ECE Option is partly a catch-up year so that students can access any EE or CE course in fourth year. The first two years also provide a solid foundation that enables ECE option students to take more advanced versions of similar courses in EE and CE. Students also take the fundamentals of both disciplines so that they can legitimately justify claiming the ECE label.

How is Computer Engineering (CE) different from Computer Science (CS)?

One way to think about positioning the two disciplines is to think of a spectrum with CE at one end and CS at the other end. There is a significant overlap in the middle with aspects that may be taught in both. Engineers are trained to develop solutions for poorly specified problems, where there is unlikely to be one right answer. CS has a mathematical heritage, where there is more formalism and development of theory. A computer engineer will have more training from a hardware perspective. They are more likely to be able to debug a program using an oscilloscope watching signals controlled by a program. A computer scientist might be studying the theory of computation or languages seeking to understand the limits of what computing might be able to do. In the middle there is a significant amount of overlap. A computer engineer and a computer scientist can both have strong, practical software development skills so that either could create the next great video game or mobile app.

What about jobs? Won’t all ECE jobs be outsourced?

The breadth of ECE means that you can specialize in a very broad number of areas of interest. It is therefore difficult in a small amount of space and time to list all of the possible types of jobs and the possible companies that could be accessed. Depending on what you take, you could be at Microsoft writing software or at Intel developing low-power transistor technology for their next microprocessor. Closer to Toronto, you could be at AMD in Thornhill, Altera in Toronto, or IBM in Markham. It is safe to say that there are a lot of jobs for the best programmers. It is true that many jobs have left North America. Other countries provide lower cost labour and are educating many engineers. These are not the jobs that Engineering Science students should be worried about. The goal of Engineering Science is to develop the best people. The best people will fill the intellectually challenging jobs that are needed to drive the North American economy and compensate for the void of the jobs that have left. Engineering Science ECE students will be able to address issues like the Engineering Grand Challenges, become entrepreneurs creating their own jobs and jobs for many others, and invent new technologies as well. These are not the jobs being outsourced.