Computer Science vs Engineering: What Are The Differences?

Due to the rapid growth in the technology industry, computer science and engineering are among the most popular and lucrative academic options for those interested in pursuing a career in technology.

Contrary to popular belief that computers, artificial intelligence (AI), and other related innovations will take people’s jobs, technology will create more employment than they destroy.

Generally, computer science and computer engineering are two of the highest-paying technology degrees, and anyone interested in computer systems can have a hard time choosing the right career.

This article explores what computer science and engineering are, their differences, and other relevant information you need to know before choosing the right career path.

Read on to learn more.

What is computer science?

Computer Science vs Engineering - Lmshero

Generally, computer science is the study of computers and computing. It includes the theoretical and algorithmic support of computational systems, hardware, and software and their roles in information processing.

Computer science also entails studying and applying data structures, computer and network architecture, and data and information process modelling.

Programming, game design, web design, robotics, data analysis, and artificial intelligence have also become part of computer science. Hence, most computer science curricula emphasize application and practical training.

Computer science is concerned with computational theories and the virtual elements of computer systems. It is closely related to mathematics and seeks to shed light on how these theories can be applied to solve real-world problems.

SEE: Branches Of Computer Science [Plus Pros, Cons & Career Prospects]

What is computer engineering?

Computer Science vs Engineering - Lmshero

Computer engineering is one of many engineering degrees available, and it primarily focuses on how to build computational systems and devices. Hence, it integrates computer science, physics, and electrical engineering.

Computer engineers use their broad understanding of these sciences to study, design, build, develop, assemble, and test computer components and systems such as CPUs, circuit boards, computer networks, routers, etc.

While the majority of their job involves hardware, they are also required to be proficient in software to guarantee that the hardware they build and assemble is compatible with the software on which it is intended to function.

In addition to integrating hardware and software, computer engineers work with memory chips and output devices. They may also work with artificial intelligence and voice processing if required.

SEE: Are Electrical Engineers in Demand?

Computer Science vs. Engineering: Differences

Although both computer science and computer engineering involve the study and use of computing and related technologies, each field’s academic and practical focus is different in significant ways.

To start with, computer science and engineering are tech-intensive disciplines that emphasize the study of computers and computer information systems. However, the critical difference between them is the practical application of computing expertise.

As a computer scientist or computer engineer, you will need to comprehend a computer’s hardware and software intricacies. You will also need to develop your programming skills.

On the other hand, computer science focuses more on theoretical and analytical aspects of computing. Some university computer science departments were spawned out as subdisciplines within mathematics departments.

The following are essential skills for computer scientists:

  • Software development
  • Information system design
  • Knowledge/fluency in software languages such as Java, JavaScript, and SQL
  • Strong theoretical mathematical knowledge of linear algebra and statistics
  • Technical writing skills, etc

Computer engineering programs are developed as part or subfield of engineering schools in many institutions and are often associated or combined with electrical engineering degrees.

Hence, similar to other engineering fields, computer engineering focuses more on practicality.

The following are essential skills for computer engineers:

  • Software engineering (coding, testing, program design)
  • Expertise and skill with computer hardware
  • Fluency in languages such as C++, Assembly, Perl, etc
  • Strong mathematical skills
  • Problem-solving and communication skills for teamwork, etc

SEE: Mechanical Engineering: Reasons, Job Outlook, & Requirements

Career outlook in computer science and engineering

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer scientists make an average annual salary of $131,490. On the other hand, computer engineers earn an average salary of $119,560.

However, while the career prospects for computer science and computer engineering graduates are similar, the specific jobs best suited for each profession differ.

Computer science jobs

Due to its emphasis on theory, jobs in the computer science industry tend to emphasize development and research. Examples of common job opportunities in computer science include:

  • Database administrator
  • Data scientist
  • System administrator
  • Software engineer
  • Manager of software quality assurance
  • Web developer
  • Computer programmer
  • Computer support professional
  • Research scientists in AI, etc

Computer engineering jobs

Computer engineering integrates computer science’s foundational theory with components of electrical engineering. Consequently, many computer engineers go on to work in the development of both hardware and software.

Examples of typical jobs for computer engineers include:

  • Computer architect
  • Circuit designer
  • Communications engineer
  • Network systems engineer
  • Network architect
  • Systems architect
  • System engineer
  • Hardware engineer
  • Game developer
  • Computer forensics analyst
  • Computer science researcher, etc

SEE: Some Computer Science Fields That Pay Most

Computer Science vs Engineering: Salary range

The computer and information technology industry is continuously expanding; thus, computer science and computer engineering pay scales are competitive and above average.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average earnings for computer and mathematical professions like computer science and computer engineering are $99,860.

SEE: Is Edx A Good Place To Learn Computer Science?


Can you get a job as a computer scientist without a degree?

Yes, you can. Employers now prioritize recruiting experienced and competent applicants regardless of formal qualifications.

Is computer engineering hard?

Yes, computer engineering is hard. However, it is not the most challenging engineering degree.

How many years does it take to complete a computer science degree?

Completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science typically takes four years of full-time study, as most programs demand the completion of many courses.

SEE: What to Do with a Degree in Computer Science


Computer science and engineering are closely connected and intertwined with developing the best computer software and systems to solve real-world problems.

The rapid invention and development of newer technologies mean that innovative computer scientists and engineers will always be in demand.

If you are interested in computers and digital systems, you may wonder which is a better career to choose.

However, one of the good things about computer science and engineering is that they both lead to a wide range of professional opportunities because technology-enabled jobs are accessible in nearly every industry.

Hence, computer science may be a good fit for you if you are more interested in software. On the other hand, if hardware interests you, then computer engineering might be ideal for you.

However, choosing the ideal match might be tough, especially if you are interested in software and hardware. It will be beneficial to delve thoroughly into your inclinations and interests.

I hope you found this article interesting. You can also read the differences and similarities between industrial and mechanical engineering.

Thanks for reading.