HARDWARE OR SOFTWARE ENGINEERING, WHICH IS BETTER?

“Which engineering major is the right choice for me?” If this is what you were thinking about, keep reading! (It’s better than tension anyway), we’ve got all you need to know.

Life is all about making the right decisions at the right time. But do you know the most important decision you will ever make? Yes, you guessed it right! It’s the decision of your career. This is the most significant decision of your life because your financial well-being, economic stability, and, most importantly, your emotional health depends on this decision, so make this choice wisely! Now many people who have an inborn interest in technical stuff and technological revolutions choose engineering as their career. But, the problem doesn’t end here! Deciding upon the right engineering field is quite tricky for many students. After clearing their entrance examinations to different universities, most students enter the same dilemma. Well, if you are one of those people, then congratulations! You have landed in the right place. Here, we’re going to ride you through different aspects of hardware and software engineering so that it will become a piece of cake for you to decide which one suits you the best!

Let us first understand both types of engineering;

Hardware and Software engineering are of equal importance but opposite sides of the same coin.

You might be wondering about the job description and career prospects in these fields. So here is the answer!

Hardware Engineering

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Hardware Engineering deals with the external working of electrical, electronic, and computer systems.

Job overview

A hardware engineer performs tasks like designing, developing, testing, producing, and maintaining computer systems and various physical components related to computer systems, such as servers, rack setups, physical data partitions, or any hardware supporting the prototype architecture. However, the role of hardware engineers has dramatically evolved. In the past few years, they only had to worry about physical electronics such as working with circuits, storage media, and PLCs, but now, they also need to pay a high concentration on the following tasks;

  • Building portable and cost-effective devices that could also work efficiently with heavy software.
  • Diagnose and troubleshoot various issues regarding the outer working of these devices.
  • Tailor the device according to the user’s needs and recommend necessary hardware modifications.
  • Investigate the technical accuracy, and determine its standards and compliance with the design.

Education

 Hardware engineers study for master’s or bachelor’s degrees in Electrical & Computer Engineering or have an IEEE certification. They must have a sound knowledge of Computers, Technology, Electronics, Telecommunications, English, Mathematics, and Management.

Software Engineering

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Software Engineering refers to developing software and operating systems that make these devices work. 

Job overview

A software engineer performs tasks like designing, developing, testing, producing, and maintaining computer software. It is a field that is advancing rapidly with every passing day! Software engineers are not only responsible for gathering user requirements and designing the software accordingly, but they also need to perform efficient programming, which is a generic term used to refer to coding, testing, and integration. Software engineer also needs to perform the following tasks;

  • Analyze the software based on its correctness, usability, functionality, credibility, and budget.
  • Make sure that the software is dynamic and provides a friendly environment that can be upgraded from time to time. (i.e., software updates are applicable)   
  • Make sure the software is reusable and portable from one platform to another.

Education

 Software engineers study for master’s or bachelor’s in Software Engineering or Computer Science Degree or have an IEEE certification. They must have a sound knowledge of Computers, Technology, Electronics, Mathematics, Design, English Language, Customer and Personal Service, Communications, Sales, and Marketing.

Comparison of Job Market

Now that you have a good idea about the qualifications, knowledge, and job requirements of the most demanded fields, you might be wondering about the career scope and opportunities these fields offer.

Let’s keep in mind that the hardware engineering job market is vast, dynamic, and specialized. Designing highly customized solutions requires excellent expertise in this domain. Even if you have a good academic background, you will need to go through lots of hacking and trial and error to make hardware work according to the needs and expectations. It also goes without saying that here, unlike in many other fields, Google may not be so much of a help when you encounter a failure or a halt in the working of your hardware.

Photo by Benjamin Dada on Unsplash

Now, a single degree program or course would easily equip you with high software skills if we compare that to software engineering. There is a large number of small businesses demanding public websites or their digital retail stores. They can all use similar software platforms. However, this does not apply to the hardware world. Yet software evolves tremendously with every passing second. The flexibility of the software is the biggest challenge here! Good software should be made following future demands. A poorly designed software tends to break early in its lifetime. Therefore, good software requires lots of analytical skills, intelligence, and the ability to apply engineering techniques in the practical world.

Is hardware engineering a good choice?

Read the following points thoroughly and decide for yourself.

  1. Huge working hours! You may need to work weekends and evenings to meet deadlines. But, hey! Isn’t that fair when you are getting a heavy wallet in return? (Oh yes! This job offers a huge salary ;))
  2. It requires continuous studying for you to stay updated on technology. But what’s the big deal if you get a decent job as soon as you earn a bachelor’s degree? (Chill scenes!)
  3. A very limited (relatively slow!) job growth, but isn’t it okay? as long as you can work in MANY organizations of computer manufacturing, design, and scientific research, like San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, Nassau-Suffolk, NY. (Well, big dreams cost nothing!)

Or is software engineering a better option?

We leave it up to you!

  1. Huge Competition throughout your career involves a never-ending study of upcoming software and advancements. (But have you heard, “No pain, no gain”? Software Engineering has been marked as the ‘best STEM job’ and ‘best Technology job,’ according to the S. News & World Report.)
  1. A highly stressful job with long sitting hours. But, the good news is, you can work efficiently from the comfort of your home! (Freelance work is also possible in this field)
  2. No social activity and destroyed social life. (Don’t be overwhelmed, dear! Doesn’t the Global Recognition, Job satisfaction, and professional growth you get make up for?)

  Urghh…How do I decide which one is better for me?

If you are still confused, then ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Am I good at system evaluation, prototyping, troubleshooting, and problem-solving? If YES! Then maybe hardware engineering is the better choice for you.
  2. Am I good at technology design, coding, complex problem solving, logical and critical thinking? If YES! Then go for software engineering; it seems like a perfect option for you!

If your answer to both questions is positive, you are a genius, buddy! You are good to go for any field you want.

Just remember that every branch of Engineering gives you a package of advantages and disadvantages. You need to make that compromise to get the benefit of your choice. Never forget that there can never be an advantage with no reverse side. So stay positive, choose a field according to your personality and skillset, and go where your heart takes you!

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Oluwagbemisola Olaniyan

Oluwagbemisola is the brain behind the "This Is Engineering" bootcamp. As the co-founder of Alo-Timeys Ltd, she is passionate about Engineering education in Nigeria and the impact of engineering in nation building.

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About Me

My name is Oluwagbemisola Olaniyan, co-founder of Alo-Timeys Ltd. I love to impact lives and transfer knowledge. You are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn, I’ll be sure to respond.

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