Computer Science vs. Software Engineering: What's the Difference?
Saint Leo University looks at computer science vs. software engineering and the similarities and differences between these two computer-related fields.
If you look at all of the upcoming jobs in areas related to science, technology, engineering, and math—known collectively as STEM—two out of three are expected to be computer-related, according to information published on behalf of Computer Science Education Week which, in 2019, is December 9 through 15.
Not only is this fantastic news for individuals who get excited just by thinking about working with computers as a career, but these types of jobs are also reported as being among the highest paying for those who are fresh out of college, making them more appealing yet.
Are you considering a degree in computing? If so, you likely already realize that there isn't just one computer-based degree option that exists. In fact, there are several, and two to consider are computer science and software engineering. What's the difference between these two academic disciplines and career fields?
If you look up the definition of "computer science," you'll learn that it is "the science that deals with the theory and methods of processing information in digital computers, the design of computer hardware and software, and the applications of computers."
In short, computer science is the broad study of computers as a whole, which includes learning more about their hardware and software programs and how they work. In today's age, this also includes gaining a greater understanding of things such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and more.
Software engineering, on the other hand, is more focused than computer science, with individuals in this field specializing in software function design. Therefore, working in this particular field means that you'll likely spend your days creating, designing, updating, and maintaining software programs, which are the programs that tell the computer what to do.
Science Daily adds that computer software can often be divided into one of three basic types: system software, programming software, and application software. Each type has a slightly different role based on whether it is designed to interact with a system, program, or application.
Admittedly, both computer science and software engineering do have some overlap as each one enables you to work in the same types of specialized fields and roles, some of which include programming language development and software architecture.
Additionally, whether you earn your degree in software engineering or computer science, your educational program will include courses that increase your knowledge of computers, computer software, and computer applications.
That said, when entertaining a career in computer science vs. software engineering, there are a few differences to consider.
The first revolves around the level of education required to work in the field. For instance, those working as software developers (which is the category under which software engineers fall) typically only need a bachelor's degree whereas computer and information research scientists generally require a master's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The individual classes within these programs vary, too. With a computer science degree, you can expect to take classes such as Artificial Intelligence, Introduction to Information Security, and Introduction to Internet Applications. Conversely, with a software engineering degree, your classes likely include Software Architecture, Software Engineering, and Software Quality Assurance.
Another difference between the two is pay. The average median wage for software developers is $105,590 per year, according to the BLS, which equates to roughly $50.77 per hour. However, computer scientists typically earn a bit more, with median annual pay of $118,370 yearly, which is approximately $56.91 per hour.
Regardless of which one you choose, the BLS also indicates that both fields are growing at "much faster than average" rates than most other occupations combined. Specifically, computer science jobs are expected to increase by 19 percent by the year 2026. Similarly, software development roles are anticipated to grow by 24 percent in the same timeframe.
If you've researched computer science vs. software engineering and decided that computer science is of more interest to you, Saint Leo offers a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – Information Assurance degree that can make that dream a reality. With a BS in Computer Science, you can work in a variety of computer-based positions ranging from web developer to computer programmer to systems analyst.
You can also take your computer science one step further and earn your master's in computer science via the Computer Science 3+1 Accelerated Degree. This program provides students a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, Computer Science, and a Master of Science all in one!
And if software engineering is more in line with how you want to spend your career, Saint Leo University is proud to announce that the university now offers both a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering and a Master of Science in Software Engineering! Saint Leo has you covered for whichever route you choose.