Computer Engineering vs Computer Science vs Software Engineering

Computer Science vs Computer Engineering vs Software Engineering
Computer Science vs Computer Engineering vs Software Engineering

Difference between Computer Engineering (CE), Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE)

It is often a quite tough job for students who are done with college (CS) to choose a field among Computer Engineering (CE), Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) because they are not exactly aware of the differences among these fields and they choose to select any field randomly and regret the decision later. There are many aspects of these fields that distinguish one field from another. A student must be knowing all these differences and the different environments these fields have to offer so that he/she could enroll himself/herself in a field/program of desired choice. The salaries of all these fields are nearly equal so don't fall for salaries and choose field of your desired choice so that you can show your potential.
I'm a Software Engineer myself and I had to face the same problem so I thought of writing this article so that students could easily differentiate among all these fields from each and every aspect. The scope of jobs of all these fields vary in different countries. First of all, I would describe all these fields separately and then explain the differences that exist among these fields.
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Computer Science

Computer Science CS Field
Details about Computer Science Program
Computer Science and Software Engineering deals with software part of computer only while Computer Engineering deals with hardware part of computer. Computer Science is the ultimate product of Applied Mathematics and Electrical Engineering. It deals with processing and storage of data and instructions. It further deals with the languages needed to provide instructions, methods for representation of instructions, algorithms to process data, communication of data effectively and securely across networks, well defined organization of large scale data in database using any database-specific language. As a whole, Computer Science is the study of computation in which you create software ideally.

Software Engineering

Software Engineering Program (SE)
Details about Software Engineering Program
Remember that Computer Science is generalized term while Software Engineering is software specific term in which our main focus is on the planning, management, modelling, teaming and development of software. Software Engineering is a young newly introduced engineering field. It could be regarded as the child field of Computer Science. As far as course subjects are concerned, they are almost 80% same as Computer Science subjects, hence large overlap between subjects of both fields exist. SE largely deals with math so if you are interested in financial industry, large scale software development or maths then Software Engineering is the field you are looking for. Software Engineering is a more practical field rather than theoretical.

Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering Program (CE)
Details about Computer Engineering Field
As mentioned earlier, Computer Engineering is hardware based so there is a clear cut difference between Computer Engineering and the other two programs. CE focuses on the modeling of hardware of computer and the interaction between hardware and software. Computer Engineering is the sub-branch of electrical engineering. It could be regarded as the intermediate branch of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. It deals with the model, architecture and design of hardware components keeping their interaction with software in mind. The part of CE related with Electrical Engineering is the function and design of microprocessors and communication of data among different electrical components whereas the part of CE related with software is optimization and compilation of software for hardware platform.

Differences (CS & SE vs CE)

Difference between CS, CE, SE
As all three fields have been well defined above, now we would consider the main points that distinguish these fields. As Computer Science and Software Engineering are software based and Computer Engineering is hardware based along with software implementation on hardware so I would try to differentiate them as CS & SE vs CE.
Remember that Computer Science is mostly theory based while Software Engineering is practical based, so in practical life Computer Scientist also work as Software Engineers and persons of both the field might be assigned same task and job. They deal with the Operating System responsible for operating different software whereas Computer Engineers focus on the construction of computer machine. More specifically, hardware architecture, digital communication and gates is the main focus in CE. The difference could be well defined by an example.
Example: A company wants to create a laptop. Company will hire both Software Engineers and Computer Engineers. Computer Engineers would work with the designation of chips that house the integrated circuits in order to create different components of laptop e.g screen, microprocessor, memory, controls and communication among all these components. The job of Software Engineers would be to create an Operating System (OS) on which all the software of laptop would be based. Further, Software Engineers would develop all other software and applications that are required within Operating System. They would also be required to provide security to all these software to give user a safe experience by securing their personal information by preventing it from cyber attacks.
Lets now compare the programs by percentage of composition of software/hardware part.

Software Engineering: 100% Software based
Computer Science: 90% Software based and 10% related with other theory.
Computer Engineering: 50% Software/ 50% Hardware

Now, we see the composition of these three field/programs at glance.

Software Engineering at glance:

  • Software Planning
  • Software Modelling
  • Software Architecture
  • Software Management
  • Risk Dealing
  • Software Assurance

Computer Science at glance:

  • Algorithns
  • Mathematical Computations
  • Compilers and Interpreters
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Operating Systems (OS)

Computer Engineering at glance:

  • Microprocessor Systems
  • Assembly Language
  • Cryptography
  • Computer Architecture
  • Digital Electronics
  • Embedded software for real-time electronics
I hope all the information provided above must have helped you in your selection process. If there is something you want to let me know, kindly drop a comment. I would love to hear back from you.

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