The terms “computer science” and “computer engineering” are sometimes used interchangeably. But in reality, these are two completely different fields—and it’s important for prospective students to understand the nuances of computer science vs computer engineering.
On this page, we’ll highlight how these two fields differ, uncovering what you might want to consider when deciding between a career in computer science or computer engineering.
Southern Methodist University
SMU Coding Boot Camp
SMU Coding Boot Camp teaches you specialized skills to tap into the web development industry. The curriculum starts with computer science fundamentals then dives into the front end and back end.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley Coding Boot Camp
Berkeley Coding Boot Camp is a 12-week, full-time or 24-week, part-time web development course designed to help students gain the skills to enter or advance their career in web development.
Rice University Coding Boot Camp
Engage in real-world projects while working closely with peers to gain proficiency in the theory and application of coding.
So, for starters, what is computer science? At its core, this field focuses on writing code that integrates data, data structures, algorithms, statistical models and more in an efficient manner. For example, many computer science professionals spend their days creating algorithms that can achieve complex tasks—whether that’s emulating a human brain or determining the best route for an upcomingUber ride.
Computer engineering, on the other hand, is a field at theintersection of electrical engineering and computer science. Computer engineers research how to build all varieties of computing systems, from smartphones to integrated circuits.
It’s easy to get confused when researching computational degree programs since different schools use different terminology, and some programs even combine computer science and computer engineering into one department or major.
What Is Computer Science?
Computer sciencefocuses on topics in computational theory. These include the virtual aspects of computers, focusing on software rather than hardware. As a field that is closely aligned with mathematics,computer science applies theoretical ideas to solve real-world problems.
Computer science degree programs may include courses such as analysis of algorithms, operating system principles, computer architecture and software engineering. A degree in computer science will also cover basic hardware and software topics, including computer organization and architecture.
If this sounds like a good fit for you,take a look at some online computer science graduate programs.
School of Engineering
Master of Science in Computer Science
Aspiring computer scientists can earn their M.S. online from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering.
- Complete in as few as 12 months
- No GRE scores required
What Is Computer Engineering?
In contrast, computer engineering focuses on hardware, not software—with students learning how to build devices through a combination of physics, electrical engineering and computer science. People who are curious about processes and interested in applying that knowledge to build new computer structures may be drawn to a computer engineering program.
The work of a computer engineer involves understanding how we can harness the laws of physics and electronics to create better computer components. Unlike software engineers, computer engineers are more likely to spend time in a lab than they are writing code. Your computer engineering degree may cover a wide array of topics including computer architecture, computer networks and physics. However, some computer engineers learn and use programming skills, so degrees in computer engineering often cover programming topics such as software design.
From aerospace to life sciences and mobile devices to robotics, there are a number of different career options for computer engineers. If computer engineering is a field that interests you, spend some time exploringonline computer engineering master’s programs.
Similarities and Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering
Are you still wondering what the difference between computer science and computer engineering is? Let’s take a closer look.
Degrees in computer science and computer engineering consist of different core curricula. Courses in a computer science degree generally focus on the theory of computation, languages and environments. Meanwhile, a degree in computer engineering focuses on physics, electronics and computer architecture. You might find yourself taking the following courses:
Computer Science Courses
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms:In this course, students learn how to analyze the efficiency of algorithms using concepts from the theory of computation such as big O notation. In addition, students learn how to write code that is optimized for its use case while also analyzing the efficiency of code.
- Introduction to Operating Systems:This course covers the way operating systems manage and execute code in order to make software run. It also covers topics including process and thread management, concurrent programming, resources management and distributed services.
- Software Engineering:Students taking this course learn how to apply the theory of computation to practical problems by creating software solutions. They will cover topics such as effective design and testing, engineering compromises and team-based development.
- Data Analysis:This course provides students with the tools and skills needed to apply statistical methods to large datasets using computational methods. The course also addresses topics such as data creation, storage, access, processing and presentation.
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Computer Engineering Courses
- Mechanics:This course covers the fundamentals of physics. It explores the laws governing movement, energy and waves.
- Electricity and Magnetism:This introductory physics-related course is designed to teach students how to predict, describe and understand different electromagnetic phenomena that influence the world.
- Calculus III:This course covers multivariate calculus and vector fields, providing techniques that help students describe and predict many natural and physical phenomena.
- General Physics:This course will cover the basics of physical phenomena, including particles, work, gravitation and motion.
- Electric Circuits:This course covers the basic concepts in the design of electronic systems. Students will learn to apply their knowledge to build functional circuits and understand computer architecture and integrated circuits.
- Waves, Optics, Thermodynamics:This course applies calculus to understand the mechanics and outcomes of waves and related phenomena. Students will learn to calculate the energy of waves, apply the laws of thermodynamics and understand physics experiments.
- Digital Logic, Machine Design:In this course, students will explore how electrical circuits can be used to perform logic operations. Students will learn to design and build the type of circuits used in computing systems.
Computer Science Skills Learned
- Designing efficient algorithms
- Finding optimal, scalable solutions to problems
- Managing data efficiently
- Designing useful and effective software
- Managing software development projects
- Understanding the theory of computation
- Writing high-quality code
- Proficiency in various programming languages and environments
Computer Engineering Skills Learned
- Designing integrated circuits
- Designing microprocessors
- Understanding the physical phenomena that electronic devices rely on
- Creating efficient and effective devices and computing systems
- Designing computer architecture
Similarities Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering
Though computer science and computer engineering are distinct fields, there is some overlap. Computer science and computer engineering professionals use computers to solve problems, relying on data and human interaction. Programs in both fields also share many of the same prerequisites and coursework.
On top of having similar scopes, computer scientists and computer engineers often collaborate to create products. Hardware and software are important elements of computing systems—so any electronic device you use, from your laptop to your car, may have been developed and designed by a combination of computer scientists and computer engineers. To create the well-functioning devices, businesses may look to highly skilled employees in both of these areas.
Choosing between computer science vs computer engineering can be difficult, but earning a degree in either one of these areas may open the door to a number of possibilities. For more insights to help inform your decision, read ourguide to specializing in a computational field.
Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering Job Outlook
Computer scientistsare likely to work in software development, computer programming, network and database design, web design and testing—with many professionals writing code quite frequently. Roles in such areas are based on a sound understanding of the theory of computation and the ability to apply this knowledge to real-world problems. Some potential job titles for graduates with a degree in computer science include software developer, database administrator, web developer or project manager.
Computer engineers, on the other hand, focus on developing, designing and manufacturing microprocessors, integrated circuits and other computing systems. Computer engineering graduates may pursue jobs in the telecommunications space, robotics, aerospace technology and other areas. Careers in computer engineering focus on designing the physical systems that enable digital technologies. Graduates of computer engineering programs may end up assuming roles such as embedded software engineer, electrical design engineer, hardware engineer or network engineer.
Wondering about computer science vs computer engineering salary and career outlooks? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),computer scientists earned a median salary of $126,830in May 2020 whilecomputer engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560. From 2020 to 2030,employment of computer scientists is projected to increase by 22%. The BLS notes thatcomputer hardware engineering jobs are projected to increase by 2%.
Should I Study Computer Science or Computer Engineering?
Still looking to settle the computer science vs computer engineering debate? Ultimately, the decision will come down to your individual passions, skills and professional goals. Both fields provide opportunities for you to solve real-world problems with innovative solutions.
Once you pick a pathway, earning abachelor’s degree in computer science onlineor a computer engineering degree can be a natural next step for learning core concepts that will eventually help you translate theory into practice.
Remember: The decision between computer science and computer engineering is entirely yours to make.
Last Updated: April 2022
Is it better to do computer science or computer engineering? ›
Both degrees are also exciting, especially if you choose the one that appeals to you more. If you are more into software than hardware, then computer science may serve you well. On the other hand, if hardware interests you more than software does, then computer engineering may prove to be the better choice.Is computer science harder than computer engineering? ›
Computer engineering is more difficult than computer science because, in addition to computer science courses, you must also take more advanced math courses, additional electrical engineering courses, and a handful of practical laboratory sessions in order to obtain your degree.Does computer science have less math than computer engineering? ›
Computer Science is offered by the College of Science as opposed to the other two, and so it involves more math courses and is more theoretical than the engineering programs. This means no courses on circuits, but more on programming and the theory behind it. This means a lot more math.Do computer scientists or computer engineers make more? ›
On average, computer scientists can earn $118,370 per year and computer engineers make $114,600 per year. Not only do these career paths boast lucrative salaries and stable job growth, but earning a degree in either field can pave the way for many different career options.Is computer science equal to computer engineering? ›
Many prospective students wonder, “Is computer science considered a type of engineering?” While terms like “computer science” and “computer engineering” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are technically separate fields that focus on different aspects of computer technology.Why computer science is the hardest? ›
Are there any other reasons that Computer Science is considered hard? Computer Science requires extreme attention to detail, a really good memory, an ability to think abstractly, and the use of creativity and intuition. Students can learn to do all of these things with sufficient time and practice.Which field in computer science is hardest? ›
- Cybersecurity Consultant. Qualified security consultants are hard to find. ...
- Systems Analyst. Some companies basically consider an analyst anyone who sits at a computer. ...
- Database Architect. ...
- Systems Integration Engineer. ...
- Embedded Software Developer/Engineer. ...
- Developers. ...
- DevOps Engineer. ...
- Wrapping Up.
Computer science ranks as one of the hardest college majors for its combination of theoretical and technical material. Majors must master operating systems, computing principles, and data structures.Is computer science easy if you're good at math? ›
Computer scientists have to be fluent in the language of computers, and that language is math. Success in this field requires critical thought, abstract reasoning, and logic—all of which are mathematical ways of thinking.Does computer engineering have coding? ›
Computer engineers need technical skills such as programming, coding, and network architecture. Computer engineers also use analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills in their work.
Which engineering has less mathematics? ›
when it comes to courses, Industrial was probably the least math intense. Mining and biomedical engineering also also less math intense, though they would overlap with civil & mechanical. On the opposite end of the scale, electrical is considered one of the most math intense, as would mechanical & aerospace.Which field in computer science has more money? ›
|S No||Job Title||Average Salary|
|1||Computer Programmers||Between $53,000 and $90,000|
|2||Professional Hackers||Between $57,000 and $81,000|
|3||IT Auditor||Between $51,000 and $76,000|
|4||Systems Security Administrator||Between $52,000 and $84,000|
So, computer science is a general study of how computers work. Software engineering, meanwhile, is about making programs for computers to run. Software engineers take the building blocks given by computer scientists and use them to create software applications.Why do people drop out of CS? ›
It's hard. Every programmer or CS student that I know who is really good has likely put in 1000+ hours of personal time to become competent. The students who drop out realize that they don't enjoy the subject enough to put in that much time, or incorrectly assume that they aren't smart enough.What's the hardest degree? ›
The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy. Let's dive right in, and look at why these subjects are the hardest degree subjects.Is computer science harder than law? ›
A law degree is far more difficult to obtain than a computer science degree. Getting into law is more difficult since the intensity, duration, and amount of what is required to learn is significantly greater than in computer science.Is computer science hard for everyone? ›
The short answer is “yes.” Search any list of majors to study, and you'll likely find that computer science tops the list as one of the most challenging disciplines to learn. Compared to other fields of study, pursuing a career in computer science requires both technical and analytical skill sets.Can an average student study computer science? ›
Yes, an average can do CSE. Computer Science Engineering (CSE) is a branch of Engineering which deals with programming and is completely software side. It depends mainly on coding. If you are interested in coding then you can go with CSE.What is the easiest field in computer science? ›
- Frontend web dev.
- Backend web dev.
- Web designer.
- DB administrator for small companies.
- Software tester.
- Technical customer support.
- Technical writer (manuals and products)
- Technical sales.
A recent survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), revealed that among universities, Computer Science has the highest dropout rate – 9.8%.
What is the hardest career to study? ›
- #8: Biochemistry or Biophysics. ...
- #7: Astronomy. ...
- #6: Physics. ...
- #5: Cell and Molecular Biology. ...
- #4: Biomedical Engineering. ...
- #3: Aero and Astronautical Engineering. ...
- #2: Chemical Engineering. ...
- #1: Architecture. Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 22.20.
- Structural Engineering.
- Applied Engineering.
- Chemical engineering.
- Mechanical Engineering.
- Software Engineering.
- Civil Engineering.
- Computer Engineering.
- Biomedical Engineering.
No. Not because a huge amount of mathematics is required — although there is a substantial math component. But because it is very likely that the reason that you don't like math will also apply to computer science.How can I survive computer science? ›
- Pursue knowledge outside of courses. ...
- Avoid last-minute studying. ...
- Develop theoretical computer skills. ...
- Develop practical computer skills. ...
- Make connections with professors and other students. ...
- Rest and relax. ...
- Schedule time to study throughout a term.
Math is an essential component of computer science which underpins computing and programming concepts. Without it, you would find it challenging to make sense of abstract language, algorithms, data structures or differential equations. All of which are necessary to fully appreciate how computers work.What language is used in computer engineering? ›
- You love solving puzzles. ...
- You studied the humanities or have a two-year technical degree. ...
- Your Myers-Briggs personality is an “analyst” type. ...
- You're highly organized and detail oriented. ...
- You are musically talented or have some other “master hobby.”
- Software Developer.
- Computer Hardware Engineer.
- Computer Network Architect.
- Database Administrator.
- Information Security Analyst.
- Computer System Analyst.
- Web Developer.
- Computer Programmer.
You can easily crack those engineering maths with practice. For engineering, there are 4 mathematics papers in the first four semesters. Remaining some subjects are maths oriented, but it is not that tough. So don't worry about that.Can I become engineer if I am weak in maths? ›
degree course you need to have completed your Class 12th with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as main subjects with at least 45% aggregate from a recognized board. So you cannot pursue B. tech / B.E. degree after your Class 12th without Mathematics.
Can I do engineering If I fail in maths? ›
Possible, yes. But the odds will be against you. Studying engineering is very difficult for most students even with a strong math background.Which computer field is best for future? ›
- IT Security Specialist. IT Security Specialist Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030. ...
- Mobile Application Developer. ...
- Software Engineer. ...
- Video Game Designer. ...
- Computer Systems Analyst. ...
- Web Developer. ...
- Health Information Technician. ...
- Technology Manager.
You might think a good job requires you to have a master's degree. However, it is perfectly possible to get a good computer science job with only a bachelor's in computer science. In fact, many of the most high-paying, in-demand jobs can be pursued with a degree in this field.What fields of computer science are the future? ›
- Cloud engineer. Median annual salary: $120,520 (May 2021) ...
- AI research scientist. ...
- Data scientist. ...
- Mobile application designer.
- Computer systems analyst. ...
- Software developer. ...
- Software engineer.
- Machine learning engineer.
The biggest difference in these two majors is that computer scientists are more math heavy and software engineers are more about systems. Both will be a great launching pad into a career.Does computer engineering use a lot of math? ›
The answer is Yes. Computer engineers have applied mathematical skills to digital processing and analysis. Basically, math is almost one of the mandatory requirements for them. So, if you want to be an engineer, a master's in algorithms is essential.Is computer engineering more on math? ›
In the US, most computer engineering programs require significantly more mathematics courses because they require a common engineering core, which will include three semesters of calculus and one of differential equations. I've never heard of a CE program that did not also require discrete mathematics.Is maths difficult in computer science engineering? ›
What Yuval said is true, Computer Science does require less mathematics than a pure-maths degree or even electrical engineering but some of the maths you may encounter will be a bit harder and theoretical. Depending on your university, the requirements for computer science may also be different.Which field of computer science has the most math? ›
Data Engineering and Graphics should have the most math, but most of the math is linear algebra and various algorithms for data encoding / decoding. Data Engineering includes various topics from statistics aka machine learning.Which is better it or software engineering? ›
You should choose Software Engineering if you're more interested in the hands-on approach, and if you want to learn the overall life cycle of how software is built and maintained. Information technology (IT) – Information technology involves the software and hardware aspects of our technological world.
What is the highest paid computer science job? ›
|Rank||Job Title||Mid-Career Pay|
|Rank:1||Software Development Director||Mid-Career Pay:$163,000|
|2||Principal Software Engineer||Mid-Career Pay:$149,000|
|3||Security Architect, IT||Mid-Career Pay:$137,000|
|4||Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer||Mid-Career Pay:$118,000|
Discrete mathematics, linear algebra, number theory, and graph theory are the math courses most relevant to the computer science profession. Different corners of the profession, from machine learning to software engineering, use these types of mathematics.Do computer engineers use calculus? ›
First and foremost, don't worry, computer engineering and computer science are not focused on calculus or physics, but instead on logic and, in some areas, probability and statistics. Most CS/CE major require calculus but not as a pre-requisite, so you can just take the class in college.Which engineering is more with mathematics? ›
Controls engineering is by far the most mathematical of all the engineering disciplines. Systems engineering is the least. The others vary; it just depends on the job. Electrical engineering can be extremely mathematically intense - if you are designing complex high power switching circuits, for instance.Do computer engineers use physics? ›
The work of a computer engineer involves understanding how we can harness the laws of physics and electronics to create better computer components.Which engineering math is hardest? ›
Electrical? Electrical engineering is the most math heavy of the engineering disciplines. You rely heavily on differential equations when dealing with advanced circuit analysis and electromagnetism is basically a physics and math course. In a close second is mechanical engineering, which uses dynamics a lot.Do computer engineers use algebra? ›
Computer engineering relies on algorithms, and it's based on algebra. So you need to get strong knowledge about Algebra, including exponents, polynomials, linear equations, and quadratic equations.Can an average student study CS engineering? ›
Yes an average student can do engineering department easily.In CSE you have to face lots of mathematics stuffs like Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics,Modern Algebra etc. May be you will face difficulty in starting but if you are average in maths then you can improve yourself and do very well in CSE courses.Can I do engineering if my maths is weak? ›
You can easily crack those engineering maths with practice. For engineering, there are 4 mathematics papers in the first four semesters. Remaining some subjects are maths oriented, but it is not that tough. So don't worry about that.Can an average student study computer science? ›
Average student also take admission in btech. And if you are interested in computer science and you want to opt career in this field then go for it. There is a huge scope in this field. So , don't be feel low you can also do engineering in cs.