Is computational engineering worth it? We’ll explore the pros and cons, as well as describe the type of student who would do well in computational engineering.
First, let’s take a step back and explain what computational engineering even is. We’ve actually written a couple thousand words on this topic in our What is Computational Engineering article.
If you’re seriously considering majoring in computational engineering, we recommend you read that overview first. Simply knowing what computational engineers do may give you clarity on whether it’s the right major for you.
Here are some of the must-know highlights:
- Computational engineers are also known as computational scientists
- Academic programs are sometimes called computational science and engineering
- Computational engineering is most similar to computer science
- Scientific computing is the term for what computational engineers do
We also came up with a working definition of computational engineering in plain English:
Computation engineers use computers and advanced math to understand, predict, and solve complex real-world issues, especially in the sciences.
All right, so is computational engineering worth it? To answer that question, let’s look at the benefits, the challenges, and the job and salary outlook.
Why Study Computational Engineering?
Computational engineering involves a hefty load of math courses, computer science courses, physics courses, and engineering courses.
We’ll get to the downsides later (they may already be obvious to you), but for now let’s look at the benefits.
First, computational engineering students gain an incredible understanding of the how the world works.
If you love math and science and challenging your mind by learning hard things, computational engineering could be a great major and career field for you.
Second, computational scientists and engineers get to use cutting-edge technology and advanced math to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.
Computational science and engineering has potential even beyond that of data science, as it attempts to understand entire systems and their inter-workings.
By using simulation modeling, computational scientists can make innovative breakthroughs in medicine, meteorology, and pretty much any other science you can think of.
Third, computational engineers work for prestigious companies and earn a lot of money.
For example, the graduates from UT Austin’s B.S. in Computational Engineering program earned an average of $75,000 right out of school.
They also landed jobs with industry giants like Microsoft and Lockheed Martin. These are some difficult but sweet jobs for those who enjoy scientific computing.
As computational engineering is a new and growing field, the job demand is likely to be high as well, although it’s unclear whether smaller companies will hire computational engineers.
What are the Cons of Computational Engineering?
The biggest con of computational engineering is simple. If you don’t enjoy and excel at computer science, engineering, physics, and math, then computational engineering is going to make you miserable.
Engineering, physics, math, and computer science are considered some of the hardest majors in college. So how does computational engineering compare? Basically, it rolls them all up into one.
If you’re looking for an easy major, don’t choose computational engineering. If you’re just looking for a high-paying career, don’t choose computational engineering.
In terms of the difficulty level, computational engineering holds its own with the heavyweights like aerospace engineering. It’s not rocket science, but it’s awfully close. Actually, some computational engineers work for NASA, so sometimes it is rocket science.
To love a computational engineering career, you have to love challenging yourself with hard problems that relate to math, science, and computers.
Okay, that’s by far the first and biggest reason not to study computational engineering. A second reason is that computer science majors can often land computational engineering jobs.
It’s not a bad idea to just study computer science with an emphasis on the appropriate tracks and electives (see our overview of computational engineering for more detailed advice).
By majoring in computer science, you open up another huge swath of potential jobs. That way, if you ever decide to pivot into a different specialty, you can do so easily.
To be clear, we’re not saying that computational engineering is a bad major. We’re just saying that computer science is a great major, with more career flexibility and job openings.
Is Computational Engineering a Good Career?
In short, yes, computational engineering is a great career for people who love math, science, and computer science.
It’s one of the hardest majors and careers out there, which means you’ll stretch your mind and learn incredible things throughout your career.
Computational engineering also appeals to students who want to be at the forefront of discoveries that shape our modern world.
Importantly, the salary and job opportunities for computational engineers look promising over the next couple decades, as this new branch of engineering gains more mainstream recognition.
So is computational engineering worth it? Yes, computational engineering is worth it if you love the work of scientific computing. If you don’t, the salary and prestige won’t measure up to the misery of a brutal college course load and mentally-demanding work.
If you’re still interested in computational engineering, you should know that good computer science colleges are also good choices for computational engineering.
We’ve reviewed the best colleges for computer science in every state, so you can find the best colleges for computational engineering in your region.
We hope this article has given you some clarity, and we wish you the best in your college and career journey.
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