The Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

computer science versus computer engineering

Should you take up computer science or computer engineering? Both courses will give you the skills to be part of the tech industry, which is one of the most lucrative industries in the world with a growing demand for tech talent according to McKinsey.

If you’re not yet sure about which course to take for college, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between computer science and computer engineering, what skills you’ll learn from each course, and the career opportunities awaiting you.

What is the Difference Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering?

Computer Science and Computer Engineering deal with computers and computer information systems. Both courses require students to have an in-depth understanding of how computers’ hardware systems and software work.

However, they apply this knowledge differently as Computer Science focuses more on software systems, so it involves programming, software development, and computing theory while Computer Engineering emphasizes designing and building secure hardware systems and firmware.

While the two are very similar, students learn specific skills that prepare them for different sets of careers in the tech industry. Computer scientists and computer engineers often work together to design computers or machines.

To help you better understand the distinction between Computer Science and Computer Engineering and decide which course to take, let us delve into each course.

man taking computer science

What is Computer Science?

Computer Science is the study of computers and computing theory. Students of Computer Science study both computer hardware and software but eventually specialize in software systems, artificial intelligence, and algorithmics.

You’ll notice that this course is quite similar to Information Technology (IT), another popular choice among STEM strand students. However, IT focuses more on managing and maintaining computers and networks while Computer Science focuses on the design and development of computer systems and software.

This is an important distinction when choosing between IT vs Computer Science and even, vs Computer Engineering.

What do students learn in Computer Science?

Computer Science students learn about the fundamental concepts and skills that will allow them to analyze and design computer software systems. They will encounter classes on:

  • Mathematics
  • Algorithms
  • Computational Thinking
  • Programming Languages
  • Software Development
  • Computer Organization and Architecture
  • Data Management
  • Network and Security
  • AI and Machine Learning

As you can see from the courses, computer scientists need mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Computer science and computer engineering require similar skills that would support the technical skills required in their respective fields.

What Career Opportunities are Available for Computer Science?

Graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science typically pursue jobs related to research and development. If you choose this course, you may pursue one of the following jobs:

Software Developer: They design and maintain systems and applications for networks and devices. They also write and test code for software.

Web Developer: A web developer writes code to design and build websites and web applications.

Computer Programmer: They write, modify, and test code to allow computers to follow instructions created by software developers so computer software and applications function properly.

Data Scientist: They use algorithms and machine learning techniques to extract information and interpret data to identify trends or find solutions to problems.

Systems Analyst: They analyze system activity, identify vulnerabilities, and provide recommendations based on research findings.

Video Game Developers: They write the code to turn design concepts into playable video games.  

Network Systems Administrator: They set up and maintain an organization’s computer infrastructure and networks.

Careers in Computer Science are available in a variety of industries that integrate technology, such as healthcare, manufacturing, finance, telecommunications, and agriculture.

woman doing some computer engineering

What is Computer Engineering?

Are Computer Science and Computer Engineering the same?

Although the two courses share a lot of similarities, Computer Engineering focuses more on developing hardware and firmware for devices and applications. What makes it different from computer science is that computer engineering integrates elements from Electrical Engineering to prototype and test various components.

Computer Engineers may specialize in hardware systems, robotics and cybernetics, embedded systems, or computer graphics. So, if you choose to pursue this course, expect to be hands-on in the development of processors, microchips, circuits, and so on that will eventually go into smartphones, laptops, and other devices.

What do students learn in Computer Engineering?

If you study Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, expect to be immersed in these subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • Computing Fundamentals
  • Computer Programming
  • Algorithms
  • Computer Networking
  • Electronic Circuits
  • Embedded Systems
  • Computer Organization and Architecture
  • Autonomous Robotics

Like computer scientists, computer engineers require strong mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills in addition to their technical knowledge of software and hardware systems.

What Career Opportunities are Available for Computer Engineering?

Graduates of Computer Engineering can explore a variety of career opportunities, such as:

Hardware Engineer: They research, design, and develop computer systems and components like circuit boards.

Systems Engineer: They install, configure, test, and manage operating systems, application software, and system management tools.

Systems Architect: They configure the design and maintain a system and its components.

Computer Network Architect: They design, develop, and maintain networking and data transmission systems.

Communications Engineer: These professionals design, develop, install, and maintain communications systems and equipment.

Cloud Engineer: Cloud Engineers build and maintain cloud infrastructures, integrate cloud-based applications, and help organizations migrate resources to cloud applications.

Computer Vision Engineer: They research, develop, and optimize deep learning models to create programs that can see and interpret visual information.

Machine Learning Engineer: They design and develop machine learning systems and scalable solutions for big data problems.

Unlike Computer Science, Computer Engineering jobs may be more concentrated in the tech industry, but they may also find positions in finance, retail, healthcare, and government.

Which is Better for You: Computer Science or Computer Engineering?

Both Computer Engineering and Computer Science have great job outlooks. These courses are intellectually challenging and will hone skills that can help you be successful in a competitive world.

Thus, the answer depends on you and what you are ultimately interested in doing.

Ask yourself whether you prefer dealing with theory and software or being more hands-on in the development of hardware systems.

If you’re interested mainly in applying logic and programming to solve problems, Computer Science is the way to go. However, if you’re not afraid to get your hands a little dirty in testing and experimenting to build new hardware, go with Computer Engineering.

Look closely into the topics each course tackles and the potential career paths before making your decision.

Entrust Your Education in Oed

Whichever course you decide to pursue, what is most important is to get high-quality education that will enhance your knowledge and skills and help propel you to a successful career.

OEd offers a comprehensive curriculum in Computer Science and Computer Engineering that lets students explore the fundamentals of the field with the support of industry experts. With online education, you can learn at your own pace and on your schedule.

Can’t quite make the decision yet? Send us a message to learn more about our Computer Science or Computer Engineering programs.

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