Software Engineering vs Computer Science: What’s the Difference?

The personal computer industry began to take off in the 1970s, and things have come a very long way since then.

In today’s world, computers are a huge part of everyday life, and many people work in jobs that rely on them. There are various types of IT career paths available, but it’s easy to get these mixed up with one another.

Software engineering and computer science are two good examples. Both can be great career paths, but people often don’t know which to choose.

In this software engineering vs computer science guide, we’ll look at how these two fields compare so you can get a better idea of which one is right for you. Keep reading for more.

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering focuses on the principles and standards of engineering that are involved in designing, maintaining, testing, and evaluating computer software. People also often call this “computer programming”, “software design”, or “software development”. This is because the nature of software engineering typically requires a solid understanding of programming languages and principles of software design.

Software engineers sometimes perform quality assurance checks on software that’s currently in development or has recently been launched. They help ensure its efficiency and efficacy to determine if it’s suitable for its real-world application.

Software engineers are also sometimes familiar with theories surrounding software use. With that in mind, working with these theories usually doesn’t fall under the software engineering job description. It generally focuses more on constructing and testing theories about programming and operation.

What Is Computer Science?

Computer science is all about the study of computers and computational systems. Computer scientists typically theorize and calculate elements of software and software systems during the design and development stages.

On top of this, computer scientists sometimes study and work in areas focused on:

  • Computer networks
  • Security networks
  • Security monitoring systems
  • Machine intelligence
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Database systems
  • Mathematical analysis
  • User interaction
  • Programming languages
  • Computing and processing theories

In some cases, computer sciences will study principles of software engineering, which is usually the only characteristic that’s shared between the two fields.

Software Engineering vs Computer Science: The Key Differences

There are some shared qualities between these two information technology careers, but if you’re looking for one to pursue, it’s important to understand each of them in detail. Computer science and software engineering jobs can vary quite significantly, so you want to make sure you’re starting on the right path.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key differences between these two careers.

Core Educational Studies

Whichever path you want to take, you need to pursue the right type of education. This is the first choice you’ll need to make before starting your career.

There are various core studies that computer science and software engineering share. While studying, however, the focus of each is different.

In computer science, students are more likely to do courses that center around computing, analysis, application, and data systems of computer software and programs. A software engineering student, on the other hand, will typically focus on applying these key principles to product design, performance, interplay, and other functional aspects of computer software.

To make things a bit clearer, you can think of computer science as learning about the science behind how computers work. Software engineering centers on taking the mathematical and scientific principles here and using them to design, build, and implement hardware and software programs.

Career Paths

It’s important to make the right choice at the start because both fields have different career paths. Whichever you choose to study and pursue will determine the kind of jobs you’re able to secure in the future.

Those who work in computer science tend to have a broad range of jobs in the IT industry they can aim for. This includes things such as computer programming for website design, IT support, game development, and more.

software engineering career is typically more specialized. These jobs commonly involve developing and building applications and software programs for corporations, companies, and mid-sized businesses.

Common Tasks on the Job

In most cases, computer science jobs involve analyzing and monitoring the processes of computer applications (typically when they’re new or still in development). This can either be done as an independent contractor working with different companies, or as part of a software firm. They’re often responsible for data systems, security networks, and other crucial systems that an organization uses.

Software engineers may work for similar companies, but they’re unlikely to perform the same tasks. They’ll usually be focussing on designing and developing specific software programs that the organization needs to operate.

Hardware and Software Interaction

Computer scientists often deal with the interaction between hardware and software. This could be ensuring a specific program works with the appropriate hardware, for example.

Software engineers are far less likely to handle computer hardware. Their job is specifically related to designing, creating, testing, producing, and maintaining software programs.

Software Design

Both computer scientists and software engineers can deal with software design but in different ways. A computer scientist is likely to work with theories and algorithms based on how a program works, the best way to design it, and how to apply programming languages to it. They might also decide how a program should be built based on their use of computer languages and mathematical calculations.

Software engineers might use information and analysis from a computer scientist to design the framework for a specific piece of software. They may also build software using specific program requirements that they’re given.

Programming and Development

Computer science focuses on determining the best ways to create software. It also looks at finding suitable calculations that make it possible for developers and software engineers to create programs that meet the necessary requirements.

Software engineers work on the full development and construction of software programs and new frameworks. They do this using the outlines and analysis that computer scientists provide.

Engineering Concepts

The studies of computer scientists focus largely on mathematical engineering as it applies to computers and computing systems. They also learn about engineering principles and concepts along with software engineering studies.

Software engineering concentrates more on building entirely new frameworks that applications can run on. Computer science often touches on this, but software engineering looks more closely at how real-world engineering concepts are applied.

Scientific Theories

The scientific theories that computer science is based on relate to computer operations, computing and data systems, and how software is designed. These are about the theories behind computer operations.

Software engineering, on the other hand, uses these theories to help with the design and processes of building frameworks, software, and applications. Rather than looking at how these theories tie into computer operations, this involves applying these theories to create the required applications.

Product Management

Computer science looks at the complexity and algorithms of software and other data analytics. This can include things like the computational science of programming, user interaction, and the structures of visuals and graphics.

A software engineer will take an approach that includes the design process, application, evaluation, testing, and quality assurance checks for the relevant software programs.

Computer Coding

Both computer science and software engineering involve computer coding to some degree, but they focus on it in a different way. A computer scientist will typically consider how coding relates to computer languages. They may use coding to perform calculations and determine compatibility between hardware and software applications.

Software engineers have a much more in-depth focus on coding. They learn it to a high level so they can use it to help them design and develop software.

Choosing Your Focus

Even with all of this information, it can still be difficult to decide how you want to proceed. There are a few things you can do to make your decision easier.

Examining your interests is perhaps the most important part of your decision, as it’s best to pursue a career you’re interested in. If you’re more interested in computer systems and how software and hardware work together, computer science may be the right choice. If you’d rather get into hands-on and real-world applications, software development could be more suitable.

You should think about the hands-on nature of software engineering and if you’d like to work on the creation and assessment of software. Software engineers are usually given specifications to meet and these guide their work. Computer scientists may instead offer strategies and effective ways to create a program.

It could be a good idea to consider computer science as a starting point to enter the IT industry. You can potentially move from here to software engineering further down the line if it’s what you decide you want.

Finding the Right Career Path for You

When looking at software engineering vs computer science, there are some clear differences. One thing that remains true is that you need to be well-educated in whichever field you choose if you want to enter such a career path.

Coding Temple is dedicated to helping people get started on their journey in the IT industry. We offer courses relating to software engineering, computer science, and various other IT fields.

We only enroll 100 learners each month to ensure we can give everyone personalized attention resulting in a superior learning experience. Apply now to start your journey to your dream career.