Choosing between Systems Engineering and Computer Engineering Degrees
If you love problem-solving and embracing new technology, pursuing one of the engineering degrees offered at Azusa Pacific University could be the right career move for you. Although any concentration in engineering can serve you well after graduation, the benefits may be multiplied by fitting the right program to your specific talents and passions.

This begins with looking at the differences between systems engineering and computer engineering degrees to decide the best course ahead for you.

Systems Engineering Versus Computer Engineering

Computer engineering focuses on computer hardware and software, computer networks, and applications, from embedded systems to cluster computers to cloud computing, explained Jim Johansen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at APU. “With these skills, one will be able to work in a variety of fields. This could include developing handheld devices, internet of things devices, architecting large data center computing platforms, or customizing computing platforms to work in space exploration or satellite systems.”

Systems engineering, on the other hand, is more complex and involves bringing together many different parts and putting them in sync. “Think of being the conductor for an orchestra,” Johansen said. “Individuals are needed that see the big picture and have specialized skills to uncover design issues early in product development cycles.”

A good example, he pointed out, is satellite systems, where each subsystem has to be designed to cooperate with others. This involves far more than just building the technical infrastructure but also maintaining and supporting it.

Which Path Is Right for You?

At APU, both concentrations fall under the Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, and all engineering students, regardless of specialization, start with the same firm foundation of mechanics, electrical circuits, electronics, digital systems, and control systems, along with a strong mathematics and physics framework.

“Both computer engineering and systems engineering require critical thinking and evaluation skills, the ability to feel comfortable with math, technology, and scientific instrumentation,” emphasized Johansen.

In terms of choosing a focus, if you enjoy working specifically with computers to evaluate, design, and maintain computer hardware and software systems, you may want to concentrate on computer engineering. If you want to have a broader engineering degree, systems engineering may be the best approach, as it helps graduates navigate different disciplines while staying focused on the big picture of the task.

A good way to decide between the two paths is to consider your first job post-graduation. Do you see yourself as a computer engineer who works for a high-tech company like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, or Dell? “Systems engineers can find interesting jobs in markets where complex integration is required,” Johansen added, pointing to organizations like NASA and aerospace companies like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

Start Your Engineering Degree Today

Because both systems and computer engineering degrees fall under the same BS in Engineering program, you have some time to take the core courses before deciding on your concentration. If you’re still unsure, Johansen said, “Try a few cross-cutting classes to validate one’s decision or make a change while still staying within the APU ECS degree options.” If questions persist, APU’s professors, staff members, and even your fellow students stand ready to support and assist you.

Ready to put your technical savviness and talent for problem-solving to good use? Find out what a BS in Engineering is all about and how soon you can start classes.