Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is part of the College of Engineering and Science. Most classes and labs at the 200+ level are held inside Riggs Hall. As with all College of Engineering majors, freshmen start in the General Engineering curriculum, and at the completion of their second semester at Clemson, are moved to the major of their choice.
Electrical and Computer Engineering students share many of the same classes, especially in their sophomore year. Students in both majors are required to take several levels of circuits classes, a basic digital logic course, etc. There is a great deal of overlap between the departments, but specialization migrates EE students toward areas like power, electromagnetics, semiconductor physics, and advanced circuit design and analysis, while CpE students focus on software development (becoming increasingly lower-level as the curriculum advances), software-hardware interaction, embedded computer interfacing and advanced digital logic design and analysis.
Electrical Engineering, commonly abbreviated as EE, is the study of electricity, magnetism, and their applications for practical use. After fulfilling the freshman General Engineeringcourses, EE begins sophomore year with virtually the same basic circuits and digital logic courses as Computer Engineering. In junior and senior years, EE emphasizes more on electromagnetics, power transfer, communications, electronic circuits, and system design. Programming is required, but not to the extent of a computer engineering student. One class in C++ or Java is required, and a few EE courses use C and assembly. EE currently requires 135 credit hours for graduation. The course load is reasonably heavy, and grades are weighed almost entirely on 3-4 exams.
Computer Engineering is arguably one of the hardest majors offered at Clemson, generally falling in line with Chemical Engineering and Electrical Engineering in that regard. The Undergraduate program overview provides the following summary:
- The program in Computer Engineering leading to the BS degree provides an in-depth education into a wide range of computer topics including computer hardware, software and applications. Emphasis is placed on giving students hands-on experience with computers of all sizes (micro, mini, and large) by solving a wide range of real-world problems using engineering principles.
Practically, there is a lot of overlap between CpE and EE, and a large portion of jobs that would require an EE can be accomplished by a CpE as well. As a Computer Engineering undergraduate, you can expect a lot of math courses, a lot of circuit analysis, your share of lab time, a weighty emphasis on digital logic analysis and design, and a considerable amount of programming. As the Computer Science major is more a science of theory than an exercise in engineering, you will likely do more real programming projects in CpE than in CS. The ECE website has a section on choosing between Computer and Electrical Engineering.
- Freshmen year: All College of Engineering and Science students begin their freshmen year in General Engineering, and the courses are shared among all engineering diciplines.
- Sophomore year: As a sophomore, expect a very challenging workload of circuits and digital logic courses, along with your continuing series of calculus courses. There is a lot of lab time as a sophomore - almost every ECE class at this level has an accompanying lab.
- Junior year: As a junior, expect an in-depth look at C programming, interfacing and electronics (transistors, diodes), as well as a more in-depth look at circuits and digital logic. Arguably the hardest semester occurs in your junior year.
- Senior year: As a senior, you'll focus on specific design areas (Architecture, Robotics, Networks, Signal Processing, etc.), work on semester projects and fill out any remaining electives.
Computer Engineering is not for those looking for a "Computer Science lite" curriculum. Neither is it for someone who wants to avoid circuits or low-level EE material. The workload is often heavy, and many a CpE undergrad has had to wish their Marketing and Business major friends luck and hit the books instead of heading out on Thursday nights. Exam week can be tough. But it isn't so bad as to be socially crippling; even the hardest majors at Clemson won't keep you holed up studying all day, every day. While everyone can suggest improvements, most undergrads in the CpE department are pretty satisfied with the curriculum, and that should say a lot.
The CpE curriculum used to hover right around 141 credit hours, which was very high - most degrees at Clemson require less than 130 hours. However, recent changes in the College of Engineering and Science designed to reduce extraneous workload have resulted in a few changes to the course structure. Several introductory programming courses have been combined, required elective hours have been dropped, and some changes to higher level courses have resulted in a new curriculum, covering generally the same topics, that clocks in at right around 128 credit hours. Entering sophomores should choose this new curriculum, and students in the middle of their degree progress were given the choice of migrating to the new course or staying with the old one - a decision that was usually based on progress to date. It is unknown at this point whether the new curriculum will prove harder, easier or about the same as the old. Certainly, fewer classes means fewer 18+ credit hour semesters.