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Is the IT field part of engineering or not?

Discussion in 'The Lounge - Off Topic' started by wagnerk, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. wagnerk
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

    I've decided to start a thread based on this question. Alot of people (not here, but on other forums) say that IT is an engineering field, while other disagree. Added to that the BCS have brought out the CITP, when the ECUK already has the CEng. plus the ECUK will be releasing the ICTTech mark, when they already have the EngTech mark.

    I've always believed that while IT may have had it's roots in engineering, it is now a profession in itself.

    So I decided to e-mail the ECUK with this question:

    I received this answer:

    Now I don't know of any engineering field that is only part engineering (unless I'm mistaken). So my question to you... Do you think/believe that IT is an engineering field or a profession in it's own right?

    There's no right or wrong answers, lol, just wanting to know what you think...

    Certifications: CITP, PGDip, BSc, HNC, LCGI, PTLLS, MCT, MCITP, MCTS, MCSE, MCSA:M, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, MTA, MCAS, MOS (Master), A+, N+, S+, ACA, VCA, etc... & 2nd Degree Black Belt
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  2. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

    I think thats the answer isn't it ?

    If you're Alan Turing, IT is Maths.

    If you're Steve Wozinak, IT is Engineering.

    If you're John von Neumann or Charles Babage, IT is Maths and Engineering.

    If you're Richard Feynman, IT is Physics.

    If you're Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, IT is Business.

    If you change the paper in the printer, IT for you is stationary :D

    Are car mechanics engineers ? Some are some aren't...
  3. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

    As my other half is an engineer, we have had a few conversations around this topic (rivetting in our household, I know :rolleyes: :biggrin)

    He is firmly of the opinion that generalistic IT is not an engineering discipline, and I am inclined to agree with him.

    Learning methodologies and work-disciplines are completely different between the two disciplines. We accept that in IT, we invariably undertake self study to improve ourselves academically in the field. The exams we take are almost always multiple choice, which limits what the test-taker needs to know with regards to the chosen exam. It's also a hotly-discussed topic as everyone knows IT tests can be easily attained through cheating. We have no governing bodies accrediting and approving our working status, and most ICT techs believe their managers, as the last line of authority approving the work of a tech, are complete muppets. Wow. That's professional.

    Engineering is a broadly sweeping term for a lot of different career paths. So I'll use the example of my other half - an electrical design engineer.

    He got his current job on the strength of an ONC, the first year of a HND, and nigh-on ten years of practical industry experience doing the same thing - designing points heating... stuff. He cannot progress in the firm he currently works in unless he gets a degree (or gets a lot further into his degree course than he is now at any rate). His work is regulated by bosses using the Wiring Regulations - restrictions he has to work to all the time, with standards set by the IEEE. Everything he does is checked, double checked and signed off to be sent to someone else to check, to ensure it's compliant. Let's face it. IT would never work like that.

    The only area of IT I would say moved into the realms of engineering would be network installations - where you would have to comply with EIA/TIA standards with the wiring and installation.

    I'll try to analogise the two. Engineering is the swot at the front of the class answering all the questions, getting it all right, and being all proud of themselves in the process. IT is the student who, if slightly more organised, would be just as swotty and proud, but can't find their way to the right class and dropped their bag and ooh everything's just spilt onto the floor I'll just stoop down to clean that up and fall over......

    And a lot of engineers (IMO) heap as much scorn on IT professionals as the swot laughing at you drop your bag as you limp in late to class.

    The BCS is *trying* with regards to "professionalising* the IT... profession. But is it the case of too little, too many to convert? A lot of people I have worked with don't even have certs to do their job, and don't see the need of them - whereas engineers such as my other half need to have them to stay in their job and progress. Similarly, being a member of the IET and working towards your Chartership is seen as a primary way to progress your career in engineering, whereas a lot of people I have chatted with can't see the point in the BCS at all as it has no positive impact on their career as a whole. And it won't have, if that is the attitude that continues to be prevalent.

    I also don't know if engineers (or engineering bodies, I should say) don't appreciate the level of technical ability it takes to do an IT job, or if we take for granted the level of difficulty with perceive ourselves to work at.

    To achieve fast-track TMIET status for example, you are required to have a CCNA. TMIET is a technical member of the IET, and whilst it is a post-nominal accreditation, very few people ever use the TMIET post nominals as they don't mean too much. To get MIET, you need CCNP or CCIE. My other half again is MIET - and has his ONC and work experience. Now you may chirp up that I said he has 10 years work experience - but to attain the CCNP or CCIE you need a massive amount of industry experience, plus the CCNA. That's easily more complex than an ONC in anyone's book!

    And then there's the post-nominals. I don't see many people anywhere using their BCS post nominals. I never use mine.

    Until we start taking ourselves seriously, other professions won't take us seriously. Engineers don't count us as engineers, as our jobs aren't as specialised, our regulatory bodies are non-existent, and the certifications we use to verify ourselves are susceptible to abuse from cheats.

    I hope some of that made sense. It's been a long morning. I may re-read and re-write the entire thing later....
    Certifications: A+, N+, MCDST, 70-410, 70-411
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  4. derkit

    derkit Gigabyte Poster

    I agree with Dmarsh on this but would add that IT has roots in many disciplines mathematics, engineering, sciences etc. so how could anybody individually, let alone "profession" wide, be able to label it?

    IT can also be academic if you are researching the next new thing - perhaps that subsects of IT could be engineering (say networks) but then programming could be mathematics.

    If you do first/desktop (second line) support, it could be classed less as engineering but more as customer service role.

    Would you call a breakfix engineer that replaces parts inside of printers/workstations/servers etc. an engineer on the same level as a civil engineer or perhaps a 3rd line virtualisation specialist or is he just following the process to replace a part?? ie, hands to do a job, rather than an engineer?

    Part of CEng or entirely new Profession - for me I'd go with CEng. For one reason if nothing else, its established and covers a very broad arena of engineering (civil, electrical, mechanical in some aspects). As said above, IT is also very broad, but perhaps not broad enough to create a new category for itself.
    Certifications: MBCS, BSc(Hons), Cert(Maths), A+, Net+, MCDST, ITIL-F v3, MCSA
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  5. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

    I agree with the general gist of what you say Arroryn, just as many people with average intelligence go and get a business degree, the same can be said for some aspects of IT.

    However I have worked as an equal with computer scientists and electronics engineers on interesting R&D projects. Not all of IT are the people that can only pass multiple choice. Telecoms is now firmly IT yet it has a very prestigious history in engineering, look into information theory, Erlangs etc.

    I've worked with many electronics engineers that have moved into IT, they have a full engineering training and are incredibly intelligent, other people in IT I've worked with have had physics or maths degrees.

    Well look at the railways, they are a well established engineering discipline, nobody would be allowed to just walk in and design or manage a rail network nowadays, you'd need 10+ years experience but this occasionally still happens in IT. In the early days of rail this was more common however so is it just because IT is still immature ? On a side note many of IT's founders learn't their fundamentals in the MIT model train club. Read Steven Levys book.

    I only got my job in IT because I went and got A-levels, a HND and a degree. Not all Computer Science degrees are cakewalks...

    Huge generalisation, but yes IT is a field that is still open to all like many new fields, (think of the early days of rail, aviation, medicine, electronics) that has huge advantages and disadvantages. Some people have just walked in off the street and have a huge gap between their ears, others have spent years in the trenches or doing research.

    There has to be a real investment in training and rigourous assessment, the BCS is just a group of like minded individuals at present, its not the same as other professional bodies. Its like comparing the Royal College of Surgeons to the House Builders Association.

    Yes but difficulty alone does not make it engineering. Buying the right stocks is hard but very little of finance is engineering, many things are part art, part science. IT is frequently where computer science meets business, because of that, things like time to market, return on investment, come into play, the processes involved have to be 'fit for purpose'.

    Ever thought the other professions might have much to gain by not recognizing IT? How many engineers from any profession including IT are members of the board? Business people like to enter IT when it suits them with little training, yet the reverse is not so easy.

    Bankers have just gone and lost some of the biggest amounts of money in history, it makes most IT debacles pale into insignificance, yet bankers are still percieved as all knowing financial wizards...
  6. JonnyMX

    JonnyMX Petabyte Poster

    I pose the question the other way round just to complicate things.

    When does engineering become IT?
    I studied engineering many years ago and rarely was a task carried out without CAD or computer simulation.

    My dad was a senior engineer with Ford for many years and for the last few, if a car didn't start it was the geek with a laptop that saved the day - not a guy with a spanner...
    Certifications: MCT, MCTS, i-Net+, CIW CI, Prince2, MSP, MCSD
  7. supernova

    supernova Gigabyte Poster


    I am an engineer I did a cybernetics degree with Computer Sci and also did BTEC level electrical engineering

    Yes IT can be a part of engineering, its just another medium. Not just a tool

    In cybernetics you can look at a system as different mediums math (theory), biological, chemical, electrical, physics/mechanical or combination. (of course some of the above are really combos).

    With a system its just a matter of getting the same response as output(s) from input(s)
    Certifications: Loads
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  8. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

    I think the answer given is indeed accurate, IT is and is not Engineering

    lets compare the rank and file IT folks to what goes into building an office complex

    IT staff are required at ALL levels, just like building staff

    be that, the laborers at the bottom
    the engineers working on specific systems like HVAC, Electrics, etc
    or the Architect tying it all together

    there are mirrors of each of these in IT, from the help desk and administrators, to engineers and designers, to enterprise architects

    and the vast majority down the bottom would not qualify as engineers, they are not engineering anything! :)
    Certifications: MCSE, MCITP, VCP
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  9. twizzle

    twizzle Gigabyte Poster

    In my own opimion, IT is a technical vocation and not an engineering one. Most people i know would call themselves IT technicians not engineers. As i see it we do not engineer anything, we do not engineer a way to make something work, we do not design and develop a way to solve mathematical solutions or forumulaic equations, we just make the systems work! If you build PCs, be it servers or desktops thats technical, if you install a network, from servers, hubs and switches to cables and connectors, then thats technical.

    We discuss this in work a lot, whats and engineer and whats a technician, and my reply is always :-

    A Engineer desgins somthing to solve a problem,
    A technician makes the solution work!
    Certifications: Comptia A+, N+, MS 70-271, 70-272
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  10. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

    Nope, IT is not engineering. When something is 'engineered' we speak of a system developed to perform a specific range of tasks: computer engineering involves developing computational systems to perform certain tasks, mechanical engineering involves developing machines dedicated to particular tasks, software engineering is developing software systems, etc. By the time that an IT person gets to any computer system the engineering has already been done - they repair a system that is already in existance - a system that has already been engineered to perform its task(s).

    The only really grey area for me is 'programming in IT'. That straddles the boundaries between engineering and IT since they can write software supporting a system already in existence, and also supporting the users who use the system. :bam

    :what? :noob

    Far be it from me to tell these great minds what IT meant to them. :dry
    Certifications: BSc(Hons) Comp Sci, BCS Award of Merit
    WIP: Not doing certs. Computer geek.
  11. richardw

    richardw Nibble Poster

    The only way to answer this, is to answer 2 other questions first:

    What is IT?
    What is engineering?

    I think you have to split IT into different fields: hardware, software, usage

    Hardware is part of engineering, specifically electrical engineering. Most of the standards are IEEE standards.
    Software is a more modern field, its equivalent is probably architecture. Software is creative, built on the hardware. Architecture is creative, built on building / civil engineering.

    What was engineering like when it first started? Were Brunel & Stephenson qualified engineers? What about da Vinci?
    Certifications: MOS (Master), MMI
  12. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

    I'm not tellin them what to think, people see the world through their own eyes. Richard Feynman famously said this about the beauty of the rose. The point was he saw things through the view of a physicist, but it did not stop him from inventing Quantum Computing or helping to design the connection machine.

    The guys that invented the transistor at Bell Labs were physicists, but how could IT as we know it exist without them? To try to create a seperation is meaningless, many people, concepts and objects belong in multiple categories.

    They all contributed to many fields, but are recognised as having a major impact on computing and hence IT, even if for some in their day the phrase IT had yet to be invented.

    I agree most of IT is not engineering, just as the guy that puts tyres on my car is not an engineer.

    Engineering can be many things, sure programming can be engineering. As to hardware already having been designed, we know its not so clear cut. What if I write new software into the firmware? What if I take stock parts and use them to build a supercomputer? What if I write code that controls boilers, laser welding, mixers, lathes, valves or lifts? What if I write the code in your GPS, microwave or Antilock braking system ?

    Where does coding or design stop and where does configuration and assembly start ? In many cases this is just semantics, what if I architect the infrastructure for a large corporation ?

    Many IT and non IT firms do design and build their own hardware and software. I've worked for at least two such companies. I worked on a project that designed and built a computer, operating system and applications from scratch. Whats more the computer was designed to perform process control and metering, as such it could read from transducers and operate other machinery. One application I wrote for it was to control steam boilers and had to account for the entropy and enthalpy of steam. If it wasn't an engineering job then I don't know what is.

    So who you calling a Noob, I've got more years exp, so I guess that makes you a noob too no ?
  13. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

    Maybe this is because physics is a very broad field that demands very in-depth knowledge? It isn't surprising at all when physicists take an interest in computing, since the underlying 'working' of a computer system heavily relies on physical principles.

    If you are building on an already existing system to improve the way that it performs its tasks, then yes that is still engineering. My point was that it is not engineering if you are just keeping a system functioning.

    Yes, this is engineering, and I do envy you for programming boilers. :\

    You might have more years experience, but I have more knowledge. I bet that if you came to my studio you would be turned down at the very first stage as many have - even with a lot more experience than you. Go figure.

    As they say, quality is much better than quantity. :box2
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  14. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

    It was used in gas powered power stations amougst other places as well as underwater wellheads, it was not used to heat your bath water. :D

    You seem remarkably sure of yourself for someone who until a week ago didn't know what ternary meant...

    Theres abosolutely no way you can draw such a conclusion. I take it you don't take arrogance as a weakness ? You'll be glad to know that the arrogance of young programmers usually fades with age, I'll look forward to finally having an adult conversation with you in around ten years time... :D
  15. BosonMichael
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

    Does it really matter whether IT is part of engineering or not? IT is what it is. Why does it require a special label?
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  16. supernova

    supernova Gigabyte Poster

    Like I already said IT is a medium used in engineering.

    as a science the nearest is computer science.

    some may argue maths however that is maths using the IT as a medium.
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  17. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

    What's the difference? I'm sure you didn't do the hard bit! :D

    And you have no idea what the duration of one week is. I was in Miami a week ago and hadn't visited certforums for a good ten-odd days before hand. Secondly, I did know what ternary meant - just that the term is rarely used in my field where you are required to be an excellent programmer so I simply forgot it. I could have done like you and check wikipedia and come on here like I already knew, but don't feel the need to appear to be a genius like some of us. I dare not list your lack of knowledge, or I'd go well beyond the word count permitted per post.

    Dude, like every other post, you overcomplicate matters in order to boost your own ego. Why introduce Turing, Babbage, etc. into a thread in attempting to deduce whether IT is engineering or not? Every other person here has been pretty much straight-to-the-point apart from you, and you tell me to grow up?! :lol:
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  18. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

    Yep, sounds very reasonable, IMO.

    Can't see any argument for this. Can you expand? :)
    Certifications: BSc(Hons) Comp Sci, BCS Award of Merit
    WIP: Not doing certs. Computer geek.
  19. supernova

    supernova Gigabyte Poster


    I cant honestly remember why i put that .. was late and i had a few.. probably because computational mathematics is often listed as a separate discipline.

    dyslexia and beer don't go together.
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  20. Crito

    Crito Banned

    Auto mechanic or IT tech, what's the difference? I'm out of here... all you "engineers" are beneath me. :ohmy
    Certifications: A few
    WIP: none

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