Software engineering is the application of engineering principles to software to solve real-world problems. Computer science is the broad application of the scientific method to computer software to solve practical and theoretical problems. Both fields often heavily overlap.
If you’ve been thinking about entering the field of technology, you might be wondering where exactly you should start. If you have a degree in computer science or have completed an engineering course, you might see many related options in the industry. These options usually overlap with each other in terms of job responsibilities. A lot of the descriptions of the roles you have searched for online might sound vague or similar.
For example, consider software engineering and computer science. What’s the difference between these? Both utilize programming and deal with software, so where do the two fields divert from each other? Is software engineering a subcategory of computer science?
In this article, we’ll answer these questions and list out the differences between computer science and software engineering fields. The information here will help clarify any confusion you have and simplify your decision-making process.
What is Computer Science?
Computer science is a broad scientific topic. It includes the study of how data is processed, the security of networks, organizing databases, artificial intelligence, and the development of websites and applications.
Much like other forms of science, computer science takes an abstract approach to computers and computer programming. It explores how computers work in terms of algorithms and the computations that drive processes that manipulate data with theories.
Data scientists can use the knowledge they’ve gained to program and augment computer systems. After gaining knowledge of these theories, computer scientists use this knowledge for academic purposes (theoretical) or put the principles into practice (practical).
What is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is a marriage of programming and engineering. Officially, it’s the application of engineering principles to software design. In plain language, software engineering is a field in which hardware design and system computation come together. Let’s break down what software engineering really entails.
The physical parts of any computer are computer hardware. Hardware includes the monitor, the central processing unit (CPU), the hard drive, and so on. The hardware will eventually be the home for the software. Software is a collection of digital code that tells the computer hardware what to do. Examples of software include operating systems (like Windows or iOS), programs and apps, and drivers that run in the background.
Software engineers consider both the hardware and software aspects of a computer when creating software systems. This results in a product that functions more efficiently with fewer bugs and problems.
Software Engineering vs Computer Science
Software engineering is the application of engineering principles to computer hardware and software, usually to solve real-world problems. Computer science is the application of the scientific method to computer software. Computer science is broader and more abstract and is used for theoretical applications than practical ones.
The skills that computer scientists need revolve around abstract principles. Computer science degree course work is rigorous with subjects like math, physics, and computational programming. Because most of the skills are theory-based, computer science can apply to a broad spectrum of job niches.
While computer science has a general theoretical focus, the two main niches for computer science are practical and theoretical. Practical computer scientists use computer science to solve real-world data problems, typically with data analysis or applied machine learning. Google is able to intuitively search for something because of the practical results of data science.
Theoretical data science has an academic focus; like the traditional notion of scientists. This niche attempts to further our understanding of computer systems, as well as make breakthroughs in computer technology. These scientists typically work with cutting edge technology like artificial intelligence.
For software engineering, the required skills are more practical. In an engineering field, there is a greater emphasis on applying knowledge about hardware for software development. You’ll need comprehension in subjects like maths, mechanical physics, and basic engineering principles. The coursework is more focused on the design, analysis, and quality assurance of software to solve problems.
Problem-solving is an immensely vital skill for both fields. Whether you are programming or developing software, you need the ability to pinpoint issues and create a strategy to fix it. A lot of troubleshooting is involved for both, so attention to detail is equally essential.
CS vs Software Engineering: Job Outlook
A computer science career path helps you land technology-based jobs. Computer science program graduates can work in almost any job field related to programming or coding. Computer science majors apply for positions like mobile application developer, web designer, data analyst or scientist, or cybersecurity analyst. The range of job types is quite broad.
The jobs available for software engineering students and graduates are quite similar to those of computer science. Fortunately, because software engineering is a mixture of computer science and computer engineering, job opportunities can overlap into other tech fields. Software engineers can work in many programming jobs or hardware engineering jobs. Furthermore, almost every company, organization, or occupation requires some level of software engineering to function.
For almost everyone working in either field, proficiency in at least one programming language is a requirement. The more languages you learn, the more job prospects you’ll be able to qualify for. Having graduated from a software engineering program, there will be plenty of job prospects for you. While the opportunities can be endless, you can also choose a niche that works for you best within the field.
Regardless of which field you decide on, you will need hard work and dedication to enter the job market. Fortunately, in this day and age of technology, both fields are in high demand and are never short on job opportunities.
You can start enrolling in the field of your choice through bootcamps, short courses, and degree offerings in your field of choice at your local college.