The fields of software engineering and computer sciences are thriving and present great scope in terms of career growth. While several people use these terms interchangeably, they are different in multiple ways despite sharing some common aspects. If you are confused about whether you should opt for software engineering or computer science, here are several ways in which these two sub-fields differ. The subsequent sections will help you make an informed decision.

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Definitions: Software Engineering Vs. Computer Science

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is a field that deals with designing, developing, and testing software applications based on user needs and expectations. Such applications are useful in the real world. Most software engineers work in teams, and the process of software development is highly systematic to ensure the applications are beneficial to end-users.

What Is Computer Science?

Computer science deals with computer designs and computational processes and has a broader scope, ranging from data processing, network security, and organizing databases to artificial intelligence. A computer science professional is involved in exploring the working of computers based on computations and algorithms. With a theoretical base, the field of computer science involves data manipulation.

Software Engineering and Computer Science: Responsibilities

Exploring software engineering and computer science based on the roles and responsibilities associated with these profiles makes the differences between the two professions clearer. While both these professions deal with computer software, computer science is essentially a sub-branch of mathematics. It is more theoretical in nature, wherein a professional will be required to create and revise computer algorithms, write new programming languages, test theories, and design models based on theoretical foundations for solving computer problems.

On the other hand, the responsibilities of a software engineer include planning and developing software applications, testing and modifying these applications, and taking into consideration the needs and demands of users as well as organizations that require specific software that serves a purpose.

Software Engineer Salary Vs. Computer Science Salary

Software engineering is a financially rewarding field wherein software engineers can earn quite well based on their skill sets and what they specialize in. As they gain more experience over the years and get promoted, their remuneration also increases. As per the numbers indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a software engineer may earn $52.95 per hour or $110,140 per annum, which is the median salary. However, senior positions in software engineering generally require candidates to have a doctoral degree or continued education. Additionally, with an increase in demand for well-developed software, a rise in demand for skilled software engineers is predicted in the coming years.

While computer science freshers can expect a minimum salary of $39,000 per annum, the exact salary depends on their skills. Further, certificate courses and continued education in the field mean better career prospects and higher pay. With experience and specialized skill sets, a computer scientist can earn a median annual salary of $81,000. Further, both software engineers and computer scientists can also work as freelancers and take up various projects.

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Similarities Between Software Engineering and Computer Science

Whether you pursue software engineering or computer science, you will get the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the basics of computer architecture and software systems. Both fields provide students with in-depth knowledge and hands-on skills for designing software programs, using programming languages, and working with computer systems.

10 Key Differences Between Computer Science and Software Engineering

As discussed in the previous segment, computer science and software engineering have several similarities. With that said, here are the 10 key differences between the two subfields of computers:

Core Educational Studies

Some of the core study areas in computer science and software engineering do overlap. However, the major difference is that, while students pursuing computer sciences focus on computing, data system storage and applications, and analysis, software engineering students learn about the practical implementation of software-related principles in software design, performance, and other functional elements of computer programs.

Career Paths

Both computer science and software engineering have several options for career paths. Students who pursue a course in computer science generally opt for jobs in the IT industry, seek IT support roles, and work for website design computer programming. On the other hand, after completing a course related to software engineering, candidates may work for organizations to design and develop software programs and applications. Therefore, as you choose one of these fields, your career options may narrow down to more specialized areas in the respective field.

Common Tasks in the Job

A computer scientist’s day-to-day tasks may essentially involve monitoring and analyzing the computer application processes and determining ways in which innovations can be brought to various aspects of computers. They also maintain the data systems and security networks of the organization. When compared to this, the daily tasks of a software engineer may be completely different. They are more focused on developing software programs that cater to the needs of the organization to improve their operations or build applications that cater to the customers of the organization.

Hardware and Software Interaction

This aspect is one of the key differentiators between computer science and software engineering. While computer scientists focus both on the hardware and software to design programs that are compatible with the hardware, the sole focus of software engineers is on the software programs or applications and not on the hardware. Therefore, when considering whether a candidate would want to specialize in computer science or software engineering, they should determine if they would want to deal only with the software or if they would be more interested in taking up responsibility involving hardware and software interaction.

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Software Design

As mentioned, one of the areas of overlap between computer science and software engineering is software design. However, the approaches these two fields take on software design are somewhat different. While computer scientists work with the algorithms, programming languages, and theories pertaining to programs, software engineers work around very specific program requirements for developing software designs. Additionally, computer scientists also make use of mathematical calculations and computer languages to determine how to design programs.

Programming and development

Computer scientists focus on calculating and computing the most efficient ways to help software developers and engineers build software programs that meet the requirements of the product. Further, software engineers leverage these insights drawn by computer scientists in developing frameworks for software programs.

Engineering Concepts

Since engineering concepts and mathematical aspects apply to computing systems, it is a part of the curriculum of computer science majors. Engineering principles are generally paired with software studies so that computer scientists have the knowledge of building frameworks for applications. software engineering deals specifically with the real-world applications of engineering concepts.

Scientific Theories

As mentioned, computer science deals heavily with theoretical frameworks behind computing, computer operations, software designs, and data systems. Therefore, computer science majors are familiarized with scientific theories and are responsible for developing new theories related to computer operations as they become professionals. Software engineers are more familiar with the practical applications of these scientific theories.

Product Management

Software engineers deal with aspects of product management, such as the design process, testing, quality assurance, evaluation, and applications of a software product. However, computer scientists focus on algorithms of the software program and the computational science of programming and user interaction through visuals and graphics.

Computer Coding

While computer scientists use computer coding to determine the compatibility between software and hardware applications, software engineers learn programming languages and codes to implement them when developing a software program.

Key Tips for Choosing Your Focus

Since computer science and software engineering seem to overlap to some degree, it can be confusing to understand which one you should opt for. However, when you consider the following tips, it will become easier for you to identify which field of the two aligns well with your interests and aspirations.

Examine Your Interests

If your interest lies in understanding how the hardware and software of computers work together, you might want to consider computer science as your major. However, for students who are more interested in applying scientific knowledge pertaining to computers to software development and designing, software engineering will present you with opportunities that interest you more.

Consider the Hands-on Nature of Software Engineering

It is clear from the educational requirements and job-related responsibilities of both fields that, while computer science is more theoretically oriented, software engineering deals with the hands-on applications of computational theories. Computer scientists build strategies for developing software programs and software engineers work with these strategies to follow a systematic process of software development.

Consider Computer Science as a Start

While different in many ways, software engineering also depends on theoretical knowledge much like computer science. Therefore, you can opt for a course in computer sciences to enter the software engineering field. This will also help you have a broader range of options and allow you to choose from a variety of sub-fields. Software engineering is one such sub-field, which means focussing solely on software engineering may limit your choices. 

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Now that you are familiar with the key differences between software engineering and computer science, you will be in a better position to decide your focus. If you are looking to enhance your software skills, we would highly recommend you check Simplilearn’s Post Graduate Program in Full Stack Web Development. This course, designed with Caltech CTME, can give you the right platform to learn new skills and strengthen the existing ones. The course will help you become job-ready in no time.

If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to post them in the comments section below. Our team will be more than happy to answer them at the earliest.

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