Software Engineering vs Computer Science

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Software Engineering vs Computer Science

Sameeksha Medewar
Last updated on July 22, 2024

    Computer science and software engineering are two fields that have many traits in common. The underlying principles of each of these fields are different, though. Computer science is a discipline that deals with the study of the interaction of software and hardware systems and computational applications. Meanwhile, software engineering is a field that involves the application of software engineering principles in the designing, development, testing, and maintenance of software applications.

    So, if you are one who desires to have a career in the technology domain, both computer science and software engineering are good-to-go disciplines. However, choosing between computer science and software engineering is pretty challenging for many individuals.

    Here, in this article, we shall explain the key differences between software engineering and computer science so that you will find it easy to make a choice between them.

    So, let us get started without further ado!

    What is Software Engineering?

    Software engineering deals with employing software engineering principles and standards during the entire software development life cycle . In other words, software engineering involves the application of software engineering principles in the designing, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance of a wide range of applications. These applications include desktop, mobile, and web-based programs.

    A professional who is in charge of leveraging programming languages knowledge and employing software engineering principles through the software development process is a software engineer. Software engineers should have to possess a wide range of skills as they are involved in all the phases of software development. In addition to writing and maintaining code, they must be able to test and debug it.

    Check out the article: How to Become a Software Engineer?

    Why Do We Need Software Engineering?

    Let us now throw light on some of the major reasons that specify the need for software engineering.

    • Improves the quality of software products.
    • Provides job satisfaction to professionals.
    • Enables you to plan, manage, and control software schedules.
    • Reduces the development cost.
    • Lets you create software products that meet customers’ requirements.
    • Helps software engineers to carry out development activities efficiently.

    Best Practices of Software Engineering

    The following are some of the best practices for software engineers:

    • Software engineers should work in such a way it should be beneficial for customers as well as the organization.
    • Make modifications to software products such that they meet the highest professional and quality standards.
    • Follow the ethical approach for the development and maintenance of software products.

    Pros of Software Engineering

    The following are the benefits of software engineering:

    • Flexible: Software engineers are flexible in terms of working. They can either work with a specific organization or can be self-employed. Additionally, they can work remotely or as a freelancer.
    • Transferable Skills: Software engineers typically develop interpersonal skills, such as good communication, teamwork, leadership, time management, and attention to detail, in addition to technical skills. These interpersonal skills are helpful in every job and come in handy when you need to switch a job or accept a new challenge.
    • Job Satisfaction: As the role of software engineers is to provide value to customers by developing high-quality software products, they get job satisfaction in doing so.

    Cons of Software Engineering

    Here are a few major downsides of software engineering:

    • Constant Learning: As technology keeps evolving, it becomes necessary for software engineers to keep themselves up to date. So, as a software engineer, you have to invest half of your time learning new trends and technologies.
    • Stressful: With multiple projects and tight deadlines, you end up taking unnecessary stress.

    What is Computer Science?

    Computer science is a discipline that revolves around the study of the design and architecture of computers and computational systems. It deals with the working of computer systems in terms of algorithms and computations. It is a very broad field. The different areas of study in computer science include artificial intelligence , computer systems, human-computer interaction, databases , bioinformatics, mathematical analysis, programming languages , vision and graphics, and the theory of computing.

    Mathematics forms the basis for computer science. It belongs to the family of five individual yet related disciplines, namely software engineering, computer engineering, information systems, and information technology. All these five fields are collectively known as computing.

    Why Do We Need Computer Science?

    Here are the reasons why we need computer science:

    • Helps you understand the fundamentals of computers and computational systems logically as well as mathematically.
    • Provides you with a comprehensive understanding of the functioning of computers and computational systems.
    • Globally recognized for its research and learning.

    Best Practices of Computer Science

    The following are some of the best practices of computer science:

    • Make incremental changes.
    • Optimize correctly functioning software.
    • Collaborate.
    • Document design and purpose and not mechanics.

    Pros of Computer Science

    Here are some of the remarkable advantages of computer science:

    • Flexible Career Opportunities: As there are numerous fields in computer science, computer science graduates will find a broad spectrum of job opportunities.
    • Sky-High Salaries: Computer science graduates are among the professionals who receive lofty salaries. So, along with professional growth, computer science graduates are rewarded financially.
    • Job Security: Computer science is a field that is in demand today, as well as, it will be in the future, as computer systems and software applications are at the heart of this digital world.

    Cons of Computer Science

    Some of the major drawbacks of computer science are as follows:

    • Long Hours of Working: The working hours for computer science graduates may fall outside of the nine to five structure. Also, sometimes, they need to work on weekends to complete projects by the given deadline.
    • Pressure: Many times, computer science graduates work with high-profile clients and sensitive organizational data. In such cases, they have constant pressure to manage things better with the utmost security.

    Software Engineering vs Computer Science - How Do They Differ?

    Let us now discuss how software engineering and computer science differ from each other.

    1. Code Educational Studies

    The core subjects or concepts computer science covers are analysis, computing, storage, data applications, and data systems of software products and computer programs. On the flip side, software engineering involves applying the aforementioned principles in designing, developing, testing, deploying, and maintaining software products.

    In other words, computer science is all about the science behind working computers and computational systems, while software engineering is applying mathematical and scientific principles throughout the phases of SDLC.

    2. Career Paths

    Software engineering and computer science offer different career options. In terms of career opportunities, computer science grads get a plethora of options to choose from.

    As CS involves different specializations, candidates can get employment options in information technology, ranging from working in IT support roles and web developers to working as game developers. Meanwhile, software engineering grads can work in organizations or can be self-employed, where they are completely engrossed in the development, deployment, and maintenance of software applications.

    3. Typical Duties

    Some common roles and duties of a computer scientist working in an organization include:

    • Developing new computer algorithms and revising existing ones.
    • Implementing research experiments to assess new theories.
    • Assessing new computer systems and devices.
    • Designing theories to solve computer problems.
    • Developing new programming languages.
    • Upgrading computer systems by developing new software
    • Optimizing computer systems and hardware to improve their performance and speed.
    • Communicating with software developers and computer engineers to develop new technology.

    The following are some typical duties of software engineers:

    • Produce new software products by applying programming knowledge and software engineering standards.
    • Testing and assessing new and existing software products.
    • Optimizing computer programs for maximum speed and scalability.
    • Writing new software programs and updating existing ones.
    • Collaborating with stakeholders, clients, security specialists, and team members during the development process.
    • Proposing new features or solutions to stakeholders.

    4. Software Design

    When it comes to software design, computer scientists generally deal with theories and algorithms regarding how a software should work, how it should be designed, and what programming languages would be appropriate for developing it. On the other hand, software engineers leverage the aforementioned information analyzed by computer scientists and use it to design a framework for developing a particular software application.

    5. Hardware and Software

    Computer scientists deal with both the hardware and software of computer systems. They are in charge of determining various approaches to make software applications compatible with computer hardware. Meanwhile, software engineers are only concerned with software programs, from their concept initiation to deployment and maintenance.

    6. Computer Coding

    Both computer science and software engineering disciplines are associated with computer coding and programming languages. However, software engineering heavily relies on coding for building software products. In computer science, professionals require coding skills when they need to develop new programming languages or technologies.

    Software Engineering vs Computer Science - A Head-To-Head Comparison

    The following table highlights the differences between software engineering and computer science:


    Software Engineering

    Computer Science


    It is a process of leveraging software engineering principles throughout the software development life cycle.

    It is a field of study that deals with the design, working, and other fundamentals of computers and computational systems.


    Programming languages, operating systems, software design, databases, information systems, and system testing.

    Artificial intelligence, neural networks, programming languages, database systems, machine learning, information systems, and system testing.


    It entails the study of how the software systems are developed.

    It is the study of how computer systems carry out mathematical and theoretical jobs.


    If you wish to study the entire process or life cycle of the development and maintenance of software products, software engineering is the best choice.

    Go with computer science if you want to specialize in any of the fields of computer science, such as AI, ML, security, etc.


    Core Courses: Data structures, software design, programming languages, computer design, and systems programming.

    Electives: Artificial Intelligence, video game design, machine learning.

    Core Courses: Algorithms and data structure, programming languages, operating systems, discrete structures, and logic.

    Electives: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cryptography, databases, computer graphics, and networks.

    Career Paths

    Software engineer, software developer, software designer, information systems manager, project manager

    Computer scientists, mobile application developer, web developer, data analyst, data scientist, cybersecurity analyst

    Job Tasks

    Write and test computer programs, develop fully-functional software, monitor system performance, quality assurance, run simulations, systems maintenance, and write operational documentation.

    Design computer-based systems, develop computer science theories and algorithmic principles, design and develop software, and solve computer-based issues.

    Average Salary (According to Glassdoor )

    The annual average salary of a software engineer is $1.08L.

    The average salary of a computer scientist is $1.1L per annum.

    Software Engineering vs Computer Science - Which is the Right Choice?

    Both the disciplines, software engineering and computer science, are two out of five fields of computing. Though they share common features, we have discussed the major differences between them above. From the above discussion, we can conclude that computer science involves the theories and logic behind computers and computational systems, while software engineering entails practical work.

    Furthermore, computer science is a broad field consisting of a plethora of specializations, whereas software engineering is more career-focused. So, the choice between software engineering and computer science entirely depends on one’s skills and interests.

    Both fields are rewarding and require all your effort and full dedication to excel. You will find a plethora of job opportunities in both fields.


    This was all about the differences between computer science and software engineering. You might have gained a clear understanding of how these disciplines differ from each other. If you have an interest in learning the science behind computers, computational systems, and how hardware and software work together, go with computer science. On the flip side, software engineering is a perfect career for you if you want to delve deep into a hands-on and practical approach to software development.

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    No, computer science and software engineering are two different yet related fields. While computer science involves the theoretical study of computers and computational systems and focuses on algorithms, software engineering is more practical and involves developing and maintaining software programs.

    Yes, software engineers require computer science fundamentals. Though there are a lot of differences in the courses and subjects covered in software engineering and computer science, software engineers must know the fundamentals of computer science.

    As computer science entails a wide range of specializations, such as AI, ML, neural networks, data processing, security, cryptography, etc., you have the flexibility to choose the one that interests and suits you. So, in terms of career options, computer science provides you the flexibility to choose from an array of specializations.

    Choose software engineering if you desire to learn about software development, software testing, and the overall life cycle of software products. On the flip side, go for computer science if you want to master any of the specializations of computer science.

    Yes, you can become a software engineer with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. However, you can also pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, science, and engineering to become a software engineer.

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