Computer science and computer engineering sound so similar that it often leads to a lot of confusion among students. Both of them deal with computers and related technologies. At the first go, it can be a little challenging to understand the difference between the two disciplines.
But fret not, for we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to help you understand the differences between computer science and computer engineering.
Difference Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering
Even though both of these subjects focus on computers and have several similarities, there are many differences between the two. However, to understand the difference between computer science and computer engineering, you must first understand each separately.
What is Computer Science?
Computer science is the study of computing theory, algorithms, data analysis, data transfer, and data security. It is the ideal foundation for software and computer engineers. Computer science focuses on abstract concepts and the study of the same.
What is Computer Engineering?
Computer engineering focuses on the testing and development of hardware for various applications and devices. Computer engineers design the firmware for different devices which is integrated with the hardware and enables other software (such as operating systems) to run effectively.
An excellent example of a device’s firmware would be a laptop or PC’s BIOS. It lets the OS and the rest of the software applications work with the hardware smoothly.
Imagine the smartphone you use daily. It might be an iPhone or an Android smartphone. Computer engineers have built and tested the chipset, the motherboard, the RAM, and the rest of the related components of that device.
Apart from these components, they have also created the basic firmware which lets the hardware components interact with the iOS or Android OS of your device.
On the other hand, computer scientists designed the fundamental concepts and theorems that computer engineers used to build the device. These form the foundation on which computer engineers can build their firmware.
Apart from the fundamental differences, there are plenty of aspects where these two differ from each other:
Computer Science Vs Computer Engineering: Scope
The scope of computer science and computer engineering differs greatly. While the former is a branch of mathematics, the latter is a branch of Electrical Engineering.
As a computer science student, you’ll study programming, algorithms, computing theory, data security, environments, data transfer, and related subjects. On the contrary, a computer engineering student would study how to build, test, and prototype circuits, microchips, conductors, processors, and similar components we use in computer systems and devices. They create components for various kinds of devices including servers, smartphones, supercomputers, IoT gadgets, etc.
Apart from creating these components, computer engineers also write the firmware for a device, which allows the software to interact with the device’s hardware.
Computer scientists have to work with mathematical models, computational theories, and robust algorithms that we can use to develop software products. However, computer engineers create the firmware and the hardware for a device.
Computer Science Vs Computer Engineering: Subjects
Computer science and computer engineering cover different subjects and specializations. Some of the subjects computer science covers include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, video game development, machine learning, data science, human-computer interaction, and cloud computing.
Nevertheless, computer engineering offers completely different subjects including embedded systems, hardware systems, computer and network security, computer graphics and visualization, robotics and cybernetics, medical image computing, etc.
Thus, computer science includes subjects that focus on abstract concepts and determine their real-world applications, whereas computer engineers focus mainly on applied concepts.
Computer Science Vs Computer Engineering: Classes
Even though both of these disciplines cover different subjects, the classes of these fields overlap considerably. That’s because, in some institutes, the curriculum of these disciplines only differs slightly while in many others, the course curriculum varies greatly.
The common classes you get in a computer science course are Calculus, Theory of Computation, Computer Graphics, Software Security, Programming, Software Engineering, Algorithms and Data Structures, Web Development, and Cryptography.
In computer engineering, some of the most common classes are Circuit Analysis, Introduction to Electronics, Computer Architecture, Computer Networks, Engineering Computing, Computer Vision, Signal Processing, Embedded Systems, Programming Principles, and Autonomous Robotics.
So, make sure to check the curriculum before choosing a computer science or computer engineering course.
Computer Science Vs Computer Engineering: Skills
Surprisingly this is the field where both computer science and computer engineering are equal. They both require the same skill sets. The most notable skills for making progress in these fields include programming, analytical thinking, attention to detail, creativity, technical writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
Both computer scientists and computer engineers must possess these skills. By using these skills, they can solve their problems quickly and develop enhanced solutions for those issues.
Computer Science Vs Computer Engineering: Job Opportunities
There’s only a slight difference between the job growth potential of both of these sectors. Both have a neck-to-neck demand in the job market.
Computer science jobs are expected to grow 16% by 2028 while Computer engineering jobs are expected to grow 6% within the same period. The reason why computer science might see a little higher job growth than computer engineering is probably because of its wide popularity in the current industry.
You should keep in mind that even though both of these sectors will see considerable upticks in job demand, you’ll face competition.
You would need a strong set of skills, projects, and experience to stand out because the level of competition is expected to grow with the growth in demand.
Jobs For Computer Science Professionals
Some of the notable careers you can pursue as a computer science professional are:
Most of these fields focus on understanding a specific technology (or group of technologies). Another notable fact about computer science jobs is they require considerable expertise in the abstract concepts of a subject along with the applied concepts of the same.
Jobs For Computer Engineering Professionals
The job opportunities you would get as a computer engineering professional are entirely different from the ones you’d get in computer science:
- Systems engineer
- Computer engineer
- Quality control (QC) engineer
- Network engineer
- Computer architecture developer
As you can see, all of these professions are engineering jobs. Hence, they demand more focus on the applied concepts of the studied subjects than the abstract ones.
If you’re interested in learning computer science, you can get an MSc in Computer Science. Taking such a course will help you learn the basic and advanced concepts of this field without any difficulty.
Understanding the difference between CS and CE will certainly help you in determining which one suits you the most. If you want to explain the difference in a sentence, you can say: “Computer science deals with algorithms and data while computer engineering deals with hardware and firmware”.
This point alone will help you remember and choose your career path wisely. We hope that this article on the difference between computer science and computer engineering helped you understand the nuances of each field, their differences, and similarities.
If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the topic of this article, please let us know through the comment section below. We would love to assist you!