I am in high school at the moment and soon reaching stages where I would have to make choices. To introduce, I love programming. I had started learning programming a year ago and have some experience with ActionScript3 and Java + (the web languages like html CSS JavaScript. But php I have found a bit hard to understand).

Other subjects which I absolutely love are mathematics, physics and chemistry. The professions related with these subjects that really interest me are engineering (piping engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer etc.).

People say to me that I should choose the profession based on my interests. But I have absolutely no preference of one over another. My choice really depends on the demand of these professions in future. So my questions are -

  • Is the demand of programming going to degrade in future due to a excessive number of programmers in future? Or is it going to remain a profession in high demand.

  • Is engineering going to lose its demand? Almost everybody seems to be going for the profession of an engineer these days and it is scary to think what will happen of the world with the number of engineers there are.

  • Which profession is likely to remain well paid in future too?

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    Questions of the future are pure speculation and cannot be reasonably answered. Questions of pay are very dependent on location and specializations. – user40980 Feb 28 '13 at 17:23
  • If you are scared to imagine the world full of engineers, try lawyers. – Neil Feb 28 '13 at 17:24
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    @MichaelT I am living in Norway, but I am from India. I am probably going to complete my studies in Europe, not sure after then. – Joe Slater Feb 28 '13 at 17:29
  • @Neil Not really interested in politics and law. – Joe Slater Feb 28 '13 at 17:30
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    career advice is off-topic per FAQ – gnat Feb 28 '13 at 17:32
  1. No, the demand for programmers is not going to decrease any time soon. If anything, it will continue to increase.

  2. No, the demand for engineers is not going to decrease any time soon. If anything, it will continue to increase as well.

  3. The salaries are comparable, and both will remain reasonably well paid.

Probably not the answers you were looking for since they don't help you make a decision.

Both are excellent fields if you enjoy that type of work.

I will attempt to draw some comparisons between the two fields, but I'm explicitly trying to sidestep a flame-war.

Traditional Engineering fields (electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical, etc...) tend to be more structured in the work that is performed. Their body of knowledge is not growing at the rapid rate that programming is seeing.

Programming (Computer Science) and Software Engineering, are fields that are still in their formative state. Their collective body of knowledge is growing at quite literally an explosive rate. Drawing a comparison between those two related fields can be done, but doesn't serve much purpose in this case.

Work in any of those fields can be very fulfilling. Traditional Engineering tends to be more concrete - you generally can see the results of your work with your own eyes. Programming (CompSci and SE) tends to be more abstract or virtual. It's harder to "see" the results of your work. Don't read too far into that generalization though.

If you're down to picking between Computer Science and Software Engineering, then consider which Universities you are planning on attending and evaluate their programs from there. Long term, I don't believe your career aspects will be impacted that much by picking one degree program versus the other.

  • I am thinking I should choose mathematics and sceinces as the higher level subjects in the high school. Will it be too late to switch to computer programming after high school. Can I do programming in uni, even when I have not done it in high school? – Joe Slater Feb 28 '13 at 17:39
  • @AnkurSharma - I wouldn't know as I haven't had the pleasure of studying in Norway; not that I'd mind. The level of detail you're now asking is outside the scope of P.SE. I would imagine there are career advisers of some sort at either your high school or Uni or both. In the States, not having programmed in HS is a non-issue for taking programming classes at University. – user53019 Feb 28 '13 at 18:20
  • --"body of knowledge is growing at quite literally an explosive rate."-- I'm not aware of a single new idea since the 1960's in computer science. – mike30 Feb 28 '13 at 19:00

I would say combine two of your passions. Go for electronics engineering. Also, make sure you broaden your horizons by taking some art and design courses. That will take you from being able to make functional devices and software to making beautiful devices and software that people will fall in love with.

Remember, the iPod wasn't the first MP3 player on the market but it might as well be the only game in town. Likewise with the iPhone and iPad. And despite the trend in the PC market for low margin products, the MacBook Pro and iMacs sell like hotcakes even though they cost more than the average PC.

All of this is because of an attention to details and making devices that aren't just functional but are also beautiful.

Now here's a big surprise for you. I don't own a SINGLE Apple product. But I can still respect the beauty in their work. If you're going to enter this field, mimic the best and strive to exceed what they've done.

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