//Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering

Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering

Which Computer Field Should You Study?

Some of the highest-paying and most in-demand jobs of today are in the computing field. For anyone thinking of going back to school to learn valuable computer-related skills, one of the first questions they ask is, “What’s the difference between computer science and computer engineering?”

While there is a great deal of overlap between the two fields, there are also some notable differences that will help you decide between a degree in computer science or computer engineering.

What is a Computer Science Degree?

Computer science programs are designed to teach students about the underlying principles of programming and algorithms in order to design, modify and test systems, networks and applications.

What do you study in computer science?

Students will study a variety of computer languages and environments, which will help them develop a wide range of in-demand skills. These could include creating computer graphics based on algorithms, working with operating systems, building databases and refining human-computer communications. Computer science studies will largely depend on the student’s chosen area of concentration, which can include artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, cyber security, software architecture and web development.

What is a Computer Engineering Degree?

Computer engineering programs are at the intersection between computer science and electrical engineering. Computer engineers put software design and data processing concepts into action and run the software computer scientists create.

What do you study in computer engineering?

Students will still find themselves taking system operations and computer architecture courses, but the true focus of the program is on the development and design of hardware and software. As such, computer engineering degree programs tend to place a larger emphasis on the physics and manufacturing of physical devices and integrated circuits. Computer engineering students may also learn about robotics, pattern recognition and speech processing.

Computer Science vs Computer Engineering: Graduate-Level Overview

Computer Science Computer Engineering
Coursework Sample of core courses required for the Master of Computer Science from our partner Syracuse University:

  • Structured Programming and Formal Methods
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Object Oriented Programming (C++)
  • Object Oriented Design (C++)
Sample of core courses required for the Master of Computer Engineering from our partner Syracuse University:

  • Advanced Computer Architecture
  • Advanced Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Software Engineering
  • Principles of Operating Systems
Concentrations Graduate-level computer science programs may offer concentrations in several areas, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Information Systems
  • Applied Data Science
  • Video Game Development
Graduate-level computer engineering programs may offer concentrations in several areas, including:

  • Machine Intelligence
  • Computer Architecture
  • Integrated Systems
  • High Performance Computing
Distance Education Programs* 40 37

*According to the National Center for Education Statistics

Computer Science vs Computer Engineering Job Outlook

Computer science and engineering degrees provide graduates opportunities to work in a wide variety of industries, because nearly every organization counts on technology to run properly. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs—in such fields as design and marketing—now demand computer science skills, according to a report from labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies.

Employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means these occupations are projected to add about 546,100 new jobs into the marketplace over the next decade.

The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $82,860 in May 2016, according to the BLS, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $37,040.

No matter which route you choose—computer science or computer engineering—you’ll be able to pursue any number of high-paying jobs in the field.

Comparison of computer science and computer engineering jobs

Computer Science Computer Engineering
Title Computer Programmer Computer Network Architect
Definition “A computer programmer is a skilled professional who codes, tests, debugs and maintains the comprehensive instructions known as computer programs that devices should follow to execute their functions.” – Techopedia “Computer network architects design and build data communication networks ranging from small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as cloud infrastructure that services multiple customers.” – Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Tasks     
  • Create, modify and test code to ensure that the desired results are produced.
  • Conduct end-user training upon completion of application.
  • Troubleshoot systems bugs and issues.
  • Research new networking technologies and recommend plans for upgrading existing communication networks.
  • Coordinate network operations, maintenance, repairs and upgrades.
  • Oversee installation of new equipment.
Average Salary (2016) * $79,840 $101,210

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Learn More About Computer Science and Computer Engineering

If you’re still unsure about which field is right for you, we recommend you check out the following resources to learn more about the differences between computer science and computer engineering:

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Computer Science
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