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FortKnox's Journal: Programmers Are Not Engineers 21

Journal by FortKnox
I read the past Ask Slashdot about whether a programmer is an engineer.
Allow me to warn you. This is one of my sole bigotous traits. I am a bigot when you talk engineer vs coder.

My answer? Depends on the degree. I'm a programmer (actually, I prefer the term 'developer'), and I have a degree in computer engineering. I am an engineer. I have co-workers that have degrees in EE. They are engineers. I have co-workers that have degrees in CompSci and Math. They are not engineers.

Do not get me wrong. Some compsci/math majors are better programmers than some engineers. But they don't have the background in engineering. Engineering is a type of thinking, and a type of problem solving. These techniques are pounded into our heads with every engineering class we take. It isn't easy. I've seen over half (almost 3/4s) of my class drop out. I didn't. I pride myself on that piece of paper that states I'm an engineer. I hate the fact that other people can put it in their title (a la "Software Engineer") and dropped out of engineering for a different degree in college.

Some states require you have an engineering degree before you can have a business title with the term 'engineer' in it. Some states require you have a PE[1*] before you can have the term 'engineer' in your title. I support the first one (the second one is a bit outdated IMO).

So there you go. FK can be a bigot/zealotous himself. Feel free to flame or argue with me, but you'll find I'm pretty stern in my stance.

[1*] a PE is a 'professional engineer'. You have to take a test when you graduate (which is extremely difficult), then take a second part of the test after you have been on a job for over 5 years. If you pass both, you are given the title 'Professional Engineer'. The biggest reason for a PE was for the courts. A 'PE' could be called as an expert on a particular engineering field. There were other reasons (like extra resposibilities and liabilities when you have it), but that was the biggest. Now-a-days, you get a PhD to be an expert and 'PE's are rarely seen (I didn't bother taking the first test), and are a thing of the past that will die away soon.
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Programmers Are Not Engineers

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  • Do you have to take a test when you get your undergraduate degree or not? (doesn't apply in some states, but it weeds out software "engineers").

    Alternatively, have you taken more than 2 classes where the main goal is to get things to not explode?
    • I do think the testing is a little random though. When I graduated, there was no requirement for the Computer Engineers to take a PE. There wasn't really a relevant one. I don't really have a problem calling myself a Software Engineer. I have an engineering degree.

      I think it's more symptomatic of the rapidly changing tech field. When I graduated, there really wasn't a need for a PE. There was such a great need for both programmers and engineers they would take whoever could play the part. Perhaps now

      • That's true. My test would produce a lot of false negatives.

        It's interesting that you're okay with calling yourself a software engineer when you actually have a computer engineering degree. Software engineering has a very special connotation where I come from. (I don't know if the software engineering classes here are actually what software engineering is, but they involve a lot of meaningless paperwork and Gantt charts- the least engineering-like courses in the entire CS/CompE curriculum.)
  • I'm curious. How many readers attended or are currently attending a university with a computer engineering field? In Wisconsin, there is no computer engineering program (yet, CS is in the School of Engineering). Students must decide between EE or CS and many of us selected CS, because our interest was more in computers than electrical theory.

    Even though my degree is CS, I feel comfortable calling myself an engineer since I had to put up with the same prereqs as all the other engineers. It's just the last 3
    • I was accepted into 3 very good colleges with good engineering schools.

      None of them had "Software Engineering" yet, and only 2 of them had "Computer Engineering." I went to the school whose "Computer Engineering" could be tied to software better.
      I knew I wanted to be an engineer, so that's what I did.
      • At Stanford the CS degree comes from the School of Engineering. There is no Software Engineering degree, and the Computer Systems Engineer degree is a hardware/software combo and is looked at as combining the easiest aspects of the EE and CS degrees. Not that it is an "easy" degree, just that EE and CS are both very intense programs there.

        You could certainly argue that since I have a CS degree and one of my classmates might have a CSE degree he is an engineer and I am not. However I have had a lot more

        • I stated in my JE that because you are an 'engineer', you aren't necessarily a better programmer. I'm just stating that if you have a CS degree, you don't have the title 'engineer.' You're coding/programming/developer skills are not in question.
          • I still don't get how a person with a CSE degree is any more of an engineer than I am, especially in the software area. I took the same SW classes he did, plus a lot more that went more in-depth. Admittedly my example is specific to where I went to school and the degrees offered, but I submit that the difference is pretty arbitrary and has more to do with "computer science" being poorly named than with any real difference.
  • by Servo (9177)
    I think this is one of those questions with no real answer. It can only be applied on a person by person basis.

    I consider programming as a form of engineering, but there are numerous people in the field that aren't engineers, but do manage to do a decent job.

    It really depends on how to learned programming, and how you attack problems. And how far up the chain you are.
  • Here in Texas, they are just about to implement a similar thing for Geophysicists.

    I can hire myself out as a Geophysicist thanks to my degree for another month (I think the law goes into effect May 1), but after that, I have to get certified if I want to work as a private consultant. This will raise the barrier to entry, as one must apprentice for 5 years before being allowed to sit for the exam.

    Recently, I had a discussion with some engineers from Bechtel at a networking social, and they said they thought

  • What if you have have no formal education in the field, but you still have expertice? I doubt that it is common that an individual chooses to pursue Computer Engineering without choosing to go to college, but in the even that it were to happen, would a person who has learned to be an engineer informally qualify for the title.

    You mention that a large part of engineering was methods - the type of thinking and problem solving. If you think and solve in this manner, but don't have the degree, can you not be an
  • by mekkab (133181)
    Software Engineering != programming.

    I program. I software engineer (process, metrics, and estimations, oh my!). I have a BS in EE. Come May I will have an MS in CS. I maintain and trouble shoot networking code in real time systems.

    in addition to tooting my own horn, I'm saying all this to show I've seen a little bit here and there. I welcome the idea of a PE test. I saw my fellow EE undergrads crowd around myself and my soon-to-be lab partner because we were the ones who could get our integrated elec
  • makes one an engineer and not just a programmer are things like design patterns, algorithmic analysis, and architectural understanding. A programmer can make a software product like a mechanic could design and build a car... but that doesn't make either an engineer.

    And I think this is pretty obvious from all of the wheel reinvention, and horrible unmaintainable unextensible code that lies all around: people can't tell the difference.

    Well until the thing crashes every other day, is bloated and slow. And
  • I feel that the same problem solving skills available in many *Engineering degrees are also taught in many computer science degreess. I think that the same genre of problems could be solved by either, the two differ in the little tool boxes we build for the students.

    Creating a circuit diagram for an elevator, or witing a polymorphic class require the same thinking skills of the developer. A student in comp. eng. would have exposer to more of the former and one in comp. sci. more of the latter. The reaso
  • Honestly, comp sci just means you took more programming classes and ee/ce means you took more math/circuitry classes. There are lots of cool names for a job you want. (i.e. network security specialist, web developer, database developer, digital systems analyst, implementation and customization designer, smart guy) I find no huge bragging rights with one over the other, unless you want to relate with Dilbert better. Oh and if anyone knows what a data research specialist is, reply to this comment. (I use that

"One Architecture, One OS" also translates as "One Egg, One Basket".