Difference between Computer Science & Computer Engineering


The terms "computer science" and "computer engineering" are sometimes used interchangeably, but they're actually two separate fields. Understanding the differences between computer science and computer engineering is essential for students looking to choose between these career paths.

Let's dig into the distinctions between these fields to help you decide whether a career in computer science or computer engineering aligns better with your interests.

Firstly, what's computer science all about? This field primarily involves coding that integrates data, algorithms, statistical models, and more in an efficient way. For instance, computer science experts often create algorithms to perform complex tasks, like mimicking the human brain or finding the best route for an upcoming Uber ride.

On the other hand, computer engineering combines elements of electrical engineering and computer science. It focuses on researching how to construct various computing systems, from smartphones to integrated circuits.

When exploring academic programs related to computing, the terminologies used by different schools can be confusing. Some programs even merge computer science and computer engineering into a single department or major.

Understanding Computer Science:

Computer science deals with computational theory, emphasizing the virtual aspects of computers rather than their physical components. Aligned closely with mathematics, it applies theoretical concepts to solve real-world problems.

Courses in a computer science program cover topics like algorithm analysis, operating system principles, computer architecture, and software engineering. A computer science degree provides a foundation in both hardware and software, including aspects of computer organization and architecture.

For those interested in this field, exploring online graduate programs in computer science might be a good idea.

Understanding Computer Engineering:

In contrast, computer engineering concentrates on hardware rather than software. It teaches students how to construct devices through a blend of physics, electrical engineering, and computer science. Individuals curious about processes and keen on applying that knowledge to create new computer structures might be drawn to a computer engineering program.

Computer engineers focus on understanding how to use principles of physics and electronics to build improved computer components. Unlike software engineers, computer engineers typically spend more time in labs than writing code. A computer engineering curriculum might include topics such as computer architecture, computer networks, and physics. However, some computer engineering programs also cover programming skills and software design.

There are various career paths for computer engineers, ranging from aerospace and life sciences to mobile devices and robotics. If computer engineering interests you, exploring online master's programs in computer engineering can provide more insights.

Similarities and Differences:

Are you still wondering about the differences between computer science and computer engineering? Let's take a closer look at their core curricula.

Computer Science Courses:

  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms: Students learn how to analyze algorithms' efficiency using concepts like big O notation. They also learn to write optimized code and assess its efficiency.
  • Introduction to Operating Systems: This course covers how operating systems manage and execute code to run software. Topics include process and thread management, concurrent programming, and resources management.
  • Software Engineering: Students learn to apply computation theory to practical problems by creating software solutions. Topics include effective design, testing, and team-based development.
  • Data Analysis: This course equips students with tools to apply statistical methods to large datasets using computational techniques. It also covers data creation, storage, access, processing, and presentation.

Computer Engineering Courses:

  • Mechanics: This class delves into the core principles of physics, exploring laws governing motion, energy, and waves.
  • Electricity and Magnetism: This introductory physics course aims to educate students on forecasting, describing, and comprehending various electromagnetic occurrences shaping our world.
  • Calculus: Covering multivariable calculus and vector fields, this course equips students with techniques to describe and anticipate numerous natural and physical phenomena.
  • General Physics: This course offers an overview of fundamental physical phenomena, encompassing particles, work, gravitational forces, and motion.
  • Electric Circuits: Providing foundational knowledge in electronic system design, this class teaches students to construct functional circuits, comprehend computer architecture, and integrated circuits.
  • Waves, Optics, Thermodynamics: By applying calculus, this course examines wave mechanics and related phenomena. Students learn to compute wave energy, apply thermodynamic laws, and comprehend physics experiments.
  • Digital Logic, Machine Design: Students explore how electrical circuits execute logical operations, focusing on designing and building circuits employed in computing systems.


While computer science and computer engineering are distinct fields, there's some overlap. Professionals in both fields use computers to solve problems, relying on data and human interaction. Both fields also share many prerequisites and coursework.

Computer scientists and computer engineers often collaborate to create products, as both hardware and software are vital for computing systems. Businesses often rely on skilled professionals from both areas to develop well-functioning devices.

Career Outlook:

Computer scientists typically work in software development, computer programming, network and database design, web design, and testing, often involving frequent coding. Job titles for computer science graduates might include software developer, database administrator, web developer, or project manager.

Computer engineers focus on developing, designing, and manufacturing microprocessors, integrated circuits, and other computing systems. Graduates might work in telecommunications, robotics, aerospace technology, and other areas, taking up roles such as embedded software engineer, electrical design engineer, hardware engineer, or network engineer.

Job salaries and outlook: In May 2020, computer scientists earned a median salary of $126,830, while computer engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560. The employment of computer scientists is projected to increase by 22% from 2020 to 2030, while computer hardware engineering jobs are projected to increase by 2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Choosing Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering:

The decision between computer science and computer engineering depends on your passions, skills, and career goals. Both fields offer opportunities to solve real-world problems through innovative solutions.

Once you choose a path, pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science online or a computer engineering degree can help you learn foundational concepts to translate theory into practice.

Ultimately, the choice between computer science and computer engineering is yours to make.


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