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Computer Science vs Software Engineering – Main Differences

computer science vs software engineering

There is a lot of debate surrounding the topic of computer science vs software engineering.

Some people believe that they are one and the same thing, while others think there is a big distinction between the two fields. So, what are the differences between computer science and software engineering?

Well, I’ve decided to take an in-depth look at the subject to help you decide which field might be right for you!

What Is Computer Science?

Well, it’s the study of computers and computational systems. In other words, it is the study of how to create and use algorithms, which are sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Computer science also encompasses the theory behind programming languages and computing systems.

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering, on the other hand, is the process of designing, creating, testing, and maintaining software. In other words, it is the application of engineering principles to software development. It is important to note that software engineering is not about writing code – rather, it is about the entire software development process, from start to finish.

Computer Science vs Software Engineering – The Differences

Now that we have a better understanding of what computer science and software engineering are, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between these two fields:

Theoretical vs Practical

Computer science is a more theoretical field than software engineering. This means that computer science students spend more time learning about the theory behind algorithms and computing systems, while software engineering students spend more time learning how to put these theories into practice.

Code vs Process

As we mentioned earlier, code is not the focus of software engineering – rather, the focus is on the process of creating software. This means that software engineering students learn about things like project management, requirement gathering, and testing. In contrast, computer science students spend more time learning about programming languages and code development.


Computer science programs tend to be more research-oriented, while software engineering programs are more focused on practical applications. This means that computer science students often go on to pursue careers in academia or research, while software engineering students are more likely to find jobs in the industry.

Your Career Path Opportunities

Computer science and software engineering are both vast fields with many different sub-fields and specializations. However, some general career paths tend to be associated with each field.

Here are a few examples:

Computer Science

  • Research Scientist: A research scientist conducts research and develops theories in the field of computer science.
  • Data Scientist: A data scientist analyzes and interprets data to help organizations make better decisions.
  • Software Developer: A software developer creates and maintains software applications.
  • Machine Learning Engineer: A machine learning engineer builds and trains machine learning models.
  • Artificial Intelligence Engineer: An AI engineer designs and builds artificial intelligence systems.

Software Engineering

  • Project Manager: A project manager oversees the development of software projects.
  • Business Analyst: A business analyst gathers requirements and develops specifications for software projects.
  • Quality Assurance Engineer: A quality assurance engineer tests software to ensure it meets quality standards.
  • Systems Engineer: A systems engineer designs and oversees the development of complex software systems.
  • Usability Engineer: A usability engineer designs and evaluates user interfaces to ensure they are effective and easy to use.
  • Mobile Developer: A mobile developer creates software for mobile devices.
  • Web Developer: A web developer creates and maintains websites.

How To Decide Between Computer Science and Software Engineering

How To Decide

So, how do you decide whether computer science or software engineering is the right field for you? There is no simple answer to this question – it depends on your individual skillset and interests. However, here are a few things to keep in mind that might help you make your decision:

  1. Do you want to learn more about the theory behind computing? If so, computer science might be the right field for you.
  2. Do you want to learn more about how to put theory into practice? If so, software engineering might be the right field for you.
  3.  Are you interested in a career in academia or research? If so, computer science might be the right field for you.
  4. Are you interested in a career in the industry? If so, software engineering might be the right field for you.

Transferable Skills Between The Two

No matter which field you choose, there are a few skills that will be essential for your success. Skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity will be important in both computer science and software engineering. Additionally, both fields require strong written and verbal communication skills.

If you are still undecided between computer science and software engineering, do not worry – there are many ways to switch between the two fields later on in your career. And who knows, you might even find that you have a passion for both!

Read more: Network Engineer Interview Questions

Tips For Deciding Between Two Careers

If you are stuck between two career paths, here are a few tips that might help you make your decision:

  • Think about your skill set and interests. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?
  • Do some research. Talk to people in both fields, read articles and blog posts, and look at job descriptions.
  • Try to get some experience in both fields. If possible, shadow someone in each field or do an internship in each field.
  • Talk to a career counselor. They can help you assess your skill set and interests and give you more personalized advice.
  • Make a pros and cons list. Sometimes, making a list of the pros and cons of each field can help you see things more clearly.

Got Your Heart Set On Computer Science?

Firstly, we have a few articles for you to look at, such as my Is Computer Science A Good Major, my Computer Programmer Job Description, and Software Developer Job Description, or perhaps you’d like to know How To Become A Computer Programmer, or How To Become A Computer Engineer, along with my Best Technology Companies, and my Great Remote Computer And Tech Jobs to decide what’s best for you.

If you’ve decided to pursue computer science, then Computer Systems: A Programmer’s Perspective, and Computer Science: An Overview (What’s New in Computer Science), is a good place to start, along with Computer Science Principles – The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science, and Computer Science Illuminated, all available online in 2023.

More on the subject is A Programmer’s Guide to Computer Science: A virtual degree for the self-taught developer, and Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach, as well as the Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science – Learning to Program with AI, Big Data, and The Cloud, and finally the Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science.

Computer Science vs Software Engineering – Final Thoughts

No matter which field you choose, remember that both computer science and software engineering are vast, complex fields with many different specializations.

So, do not be afraid to explore the different areas of each before you make your final decision. And, most importantly, do not forget to have fun! Learning about computer science and software engineering should be an enjoyable experience.

So, who will win in the battle between Computer Science and Software Engineering?

Well, only you can decide that! Good luck!

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