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Software vs hardware career

Rheostat.

What do you think is harder ?

"Don't turn it on, take it apart!"

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Hardware can always be broken down into steps to troubleshoot, once you learn it, there really isn't much hardware wise. Software, it could be a million different things causing the problem.

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I can tell you @PacketMan is right. I've seen a lot of students in my university that failed hard in both ways. If math is easy for you, you can do both good. But you can make more money with software I guess. It's a good time for computer science.

 

edit:

Maybe just start with Java, JScript or C#  and see for youself if it's what you like or not.

 

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As a simple juxtaposition of the two, let's look at adding two numbers, software vs hardware.

In software (albeit a trivial example).

int a = 1 + 2;  // a now stores the result of 1 + 2.


In hardware:


That isn't to say that software is always easy or that hardware is always hard. In fact, in order to do either well you must understand a few things from both fields.

The juxtaposition here is that you can start writing programs within minutes of deciding to. To start building processors you must have a few weeks, or even months, worth of studying the background material to be successful, even for a simple, useless processor.

But since you are presumably asking what to study in college, you will spend years studying the information, so that juxtaposition should not be the deciding factor.

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Career wise I think hardware engineers have it harder. The supply of open positions tends to be a lot smaller and when working on something, they have to get it practically perfect from the get go because iterating a new piece of hardware costs way more time and money than iterating a new version of software. Plus unlike software, you can't just "patch" hardware*

 

However, while software development positions are readily available, there's also a huge pool of people trying to fight for those positions. From what I've heard, for a reasonably large company there could be thousands upon thousands of applicants vying for a single position.

 

On a technical level getting up to either position, hardware engineers likely have it harder because it does require higher level math to understand what's going on in a circuit. However, software developers also have their own unique set of challenges. So if you're going through college to get a degree, I'd argue they're both about equal, for different reasons.

 

* No, microcode updates aren't patching hardware. The hardware still has a fault. All the microcode update is doing is making it so the deeply embedded firmware in the hardware avoids the problem altogether. e.g., if you have say some microcontroller with a dud pin, you tell the firmware in the microcontroller to just not use the pin and find something else to use. There's still a problem with the hardware, but the software inside is telling it to not use the dud pin.

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They're both hard once you reach a certain level. But software has a lot more low hanging fruit and a significantly lower barrier to entry.

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6 hours ago, cujo said:

What do you think is harder ?

It really depends on the person and their interest and ability. Neither hardware or software are a single area, and covers a very large scope. You can find parts within each you might like or dislike.

 

I'd also add, there are different types of role available. On hardware, it isn't just design even if that is the traditional thing that is aspired towards. My current role is more on the support side, and I get to travel as necessary. I wouldn't have seen most of Europe otherwise. Similarly there are sales engineers, which may suit those who want the mix of travel, meeting people while still using technical abilities.

 

10 minutes ago, Mira Yurizaki said:

However, while software development positions are readily available, there's also a huge pool of people trying to fight for those positions. From what I've heard, for a reasonably large company there could be thousands upon thousands of applicants vying for a single position.

I have two friends who started their career in software about a year or two ago. One continued working at IBM where he had interned previously. The other, I first met when she interned where I work, and got an initial job without much trouble. They are relatively new university graduates here, with the only job experience as interns previously. She didn't like the 1st job, and found another which was better. So... not a great sample size by any means but at least around here in the south of UK, it doesn't seem too difficult to get something. I did train initially in hardware (electronic engineering), although I don't do design in my current role. I've been working a LOT longer, and they're each on about 75% of my income already. I wouldn't be surprised if they matched or exceed my income in 5 years. Note I'm not career driven, so I have not as aggressively pursued progression as others might. I already have more disposable income than I need hence buying too many PC parts.

 

10 minutes ago, Mira Yurizaki said:

* No, microcode updates aren't patching hardware. The hardware still has a fault. All the microcode update is doing is making it so the deeply embedded firmware in the hardware avoids the problem altogether. e.g., if you have say some microcontroller with a dud pin, you tell the firmware in the microcontroller to just not use the pin and find something else to use. There's still a problem with the hardware, but the software inside is telling it to not use the dud pin.

Unfortunately it is the way the world works now. Hardware is generally difficult or costly to change once a design is put into production, so businesses will only do so if really required, or as part of other plans. As long as it isn't a total showstopper, "fixing" hardware in software is the typical route.

 

Early on in my career the company products were mostly analog, and I had the ability and power to make changes to that. Now almost everything is in one big embedded system chip and it is the firmware engineers that can action changes to how it performs.

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I've done both.  I'd just do HW if I did things over again.  Mainly due to the fact that the asshole ratio is higher in SW. 

"Anger, which, far sweeter than trickling drops of honey, rises in the bosom of a man like smoke."

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Go hardware if you're asian it's like 90% maths

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3 minutes ago, aezakmi said:

Go hardware if you're asian it's like 90% maths

It isn't though... If you want 100% accurate results, yes.  But most of the time (especially after doing it for a while), you design it, do simulations, the tweak/redesign/etc.  Design work rarely is pure math but a lot of the surrounding work does have math (sometimes done by computers though).  You need math to understand what you're doing, but once you're out of college and are actually doing design work, there's not nearly as much math.

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5 hours ago, Mira Yurizaki said:

However, while software development positions are readily available, there's also a huge pool of people trying to fight for those positions. From what I've heard, for a reasonably large company there could be thousands upon thousands of applicants vying for a single position.

1

Doesn´t sound good. No wonder the salaries are kinda low, at least what I have seen on a few websites.

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11 minutes ago, Teddy07 said:

Doesn´t sound good. No wonder the salaries are kinda low, at least what I have seen on a few websites.

Pretty sure most engineering positions have relatively low salaries.

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12 minutes ago, Geography said:

Pretty sure most engineering positions have relatively low salaries.

According to Glass Door (https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/entry-level-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm), the average salary for an entry level engineering position is $71,000. The lowest they've recorded is in the low $50,000s (though they recorded a high of $100,000, I wonder who offered that)

 

I think this is basically within the top percentages as far as entry level salaries go.

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9 minutes ago, Mira Yurizaki said:

According to Glass Door (https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/entry-level-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm), the average salary for an entry level engineering position is $71,000. The lowest they've recorded is in the low $50,000s (though they recorded a high of $100,000, I wonder who offered that)

This is assuming you find a job in the engineering field. I hear that there's a lot of competition of positions in certain fields (and that lots of people with university education in engineering courses can't find jobs). I also feel that salaries for engineering jobs will drop soon in the future because supply is higher than demand (I'm pretty much all kids are told that engineering is the future).

 

But note that I'm more into the medical field than the engineering field, so I do have a bit of a biased opinion.

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1 minute ago, Geography said:

I also feel that salaries for engineering jobs will drop soon in the future because supply is higher than demand (I'm pretty much all kids are told that engineering is the future).

I doubt it. Once they see all the math involved, a lot of would-bes will either change majors or drop out.

 

But aside from that, even if the supply is plentiful, good engineers are hard to come by and since they're held to an objectively higher standard than a lot of other occupations, that would demand a higher pay.

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