Computer Science VS Computer Engineering: Similarities and Differences

As innovation advances and twists off into exceptionally specific fields, so do the professions and degrees that support it. As these degrees and claims to fame progressively limit their regions of center, it can be useful to see how they play their role in technology advancement by separating them into two subjects: Computer Science and Computer Engineering.

Both of above are important and interesting fields of science, however, they have similarities and differences between them. Some points are briefly mentioned below for the sake of information and clarification that will help you to choose between computer science and computer engineering.

difference between computer science and computer engineering

What is Computer Science?

Computer science is primarily concerned with theoretical portion that deals with data, programming languages, algorithms etc. Computer scientists are focused on things like coding the programs, numerical analysis, database designs, software designs, algorithms and artificial intelligence.

In other words, we can say that computer science is the study of data, methods of processing data to get some results, experimentation on data, storage, communication and access to information.

Computer Science also deals with algorithms for processing data, theory of computation, network security and privacy,  cryptography,  representation of data, organization of data in databases of various types and scales, statistical modeling of data in large databases for supporting inference of trends, different programming languages that are used develop various types of applications to be used for several purposes.

What is Computer Engineering?

Unlike computer science, computer engineering is concerned with a practical aspect or implementation of theories. It takes the theory and applies it practically in real life. It combines various fields of electrical engineering and computer science to develop computer hardware and software.

Computer engineering mostly covers integration of hardware and software, electronic engineering(designing of circuits, transistors and microprocessors etc.) and software design.

It focuses on computing of computers(laptops, desktop and supercomputers) ranging from microprocessors to embedded computing devices. As far as electrical engineering is concerned, the focus is shifted on how microprocessors are designed, how they function, and how data is communicated among electronic components. Basically, the computer engineers are electrical engineers who specialize in software design, hardware design, or systems design that integrates both.

Computer Engineering has two major fields of specialization

i) Computer Hardware Engineering: Computer hardware engineers research, develop and design computer systems like processors, circuits, boards and networking routers etc.

ii) Computer Software Engineering: Computer software engineers mainly uses principles and concepts of computer science and mathematical analysis for designing, development and testing of software application.

While computer science focuses on theories and algorithms and computer engineering focuses on the hardware implementations, software engineering plays a role of bridges to integrate both computer science and computer engineering.

Similarities Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

  • Computer science and computer engineering have similarities as both have overlapping study areas which work side by side. In many situations computer scientist and computer engineer work side-by-side to design, maintain and build computers, software and hardware.
  • Computer science and computer engineering can be talked about without touching software engineering.
  • These two degrees are very similar in a way that both study computer as a whole.
  • Both computer scientist and computer engineer study inner working of the computer as well as hardware and software aspects. They also learn to use computer as tool of modern technology.
  • Both these disciplines are based on good math skills.
  • The job placement programs for both kinds of majors are almost same environment.

Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

  • Computer science is a broader term which is based on the study of programming and hardware parts of the computer while computer engineering is concerned with the application of engineering process for creation and maintenance and design of software.
  • Computer engineers focus on hardware implementation while computer scientists focus on theories and algorithms.
  • A computer engineering is a combination of electrical engineering and computer science while computer science does not deal with the study of circuits, physics but do study programming and theory behind it.
  • Salary of a computer engineer in the United States ranges from $59000 to $106000 annually which is higher than that of computer scientist which starts from $39000 (Source: PayScale)
  • For computer scientists job titles can be Programmer, System Analyst, Business Analyst, Software Developer and Software Engineer. The job titles for the computer engineers can be Hardware Engineer, Software Engineer, and System Engineer.
  • There is a difference in classrooms as students with computer science major get more theory based classes while students with computer engineering majors are not only theory based but also implications of engineering are taught to them.


Students considering a career based on computer science and computer engineering often ask for clarification about the difference between them. Both computer science and computer engineering study programs have their own importance.

If you are feeling it hard to choose between these two categories, the best thing to do is go to the college website of your choice and select these two programs for comparison purpose. View the list of courses offered in these programs. You may ignore the overlapping courses. Write down the negative and positive aspects of all the courses.


You should focus more on the area of your interest. If you are interested more in theoretical concepts, the computer science degree is for you, on the other hand, if you are interested in the practical implementation of these concepts,  computer engineering will be more suitable for you and your career.

You can also compare the salaries and future prospect of both these degree programs.

“Computer engineers will earn slightly more than computer scientists with their graduate degrees.” ~ Robert Akl, computer engineering professor at the University of North Texas

Both computer science and computer engineering degrees and jobs are becoming more and more specialized. For this reason, it is more important than ever to fully research a computing degree program so that you can be certain that the program will provide you with the knowledge and experience that you need for your career.

It is also important to research the graduate program to make sure that the college has faculty and resources that you need to complete your master’s or doctoral project.

Now it is your turn, which field would you like to choose?

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