Computer Engineering vs Computer Science

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 22, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Tech
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics has made it clear that STEM careers are going to grow quite a bit over the next ten years. If you’re trying to decide between computer engineering and computer science, you’ll be going into a STEM career. Both of these career options are excellent and growing.

While these can be similar career options, they are also rather different. Deciding between computer engineering and computer science isn’t easy. Let’s look at the differences and what each of these is to help you decide.

Computer Engineering vs Computer Science

What is Computer Engineering?

Computer engineering focuses on the hardware of computers and computing systems. It’s a combination of electronic engineering with computer science. You may work with memory chips, output devices, networking components, data storage devices, microprocessors, and other hardware components.

What is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of computational systems and computers. As a computer scientist, you will likely work with software and software systems. This type of career has quite a bit to do with how the software works with the software systems.

The Main Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

It might be easier to decide between computer science and computer engineering by looking at the differences. The biggest difference is the side of the computer and computer system you will work with.

As a computer engineer, you will focus on the hardware. You will need an in-depth knowledge of computer hardware. This type of career will also include engineering software, along with testing it.

If you go into computer science, you will work with the software of computers and computer systems. You will work to develop software. It’s common for a computer scientist to design information systems, as well.

Similarities Between Computer Engineering and Computer Science

While these two careers work on opposite sides of a computer system, they do have some similarities. Some of the things they have in common include:

While these two career options have these similarities, there are some differences in the similarities, too. For example, both careers require fluency in programming languages. However, a computer scientist will need to be fluent in Java, SQL, and JavaScript, while a computer engineer needs to be fluent in Perl, C++, and Assembly.

Another difference is the type of mathematics each will need. A computer scientist needs to understand statistics and linear algebra. If you go into computer engineering, you will need to understand the mathematics used for software programming and hardware construction.

Computer Engineering vs Computer Science: The Salary

Your salary will depend on the actual job you take. If you go into computer engineering, you will likely work as some type of engineer. The highest paying type of job in this field is one as a firmware engineer. According to Indeed.com, you can earn around $107K per year as a firmware engineer.

Those going into computer science take on several different jobs, as well. The average salary for a computer scientist is about $104K per year.

When it comes to salary, computer engineering and computer science offer similar options. It depends on which type of job you take on in these fields. Some salaries will be much lower than the salaries listed above, but most computer engineers and computer scientists will make more than $70K per year.

Computer Engineering vs Computer Science: The Necessary Education

There are several different paths for your education if you go into computer engineering or computer science. Depending on the type of position you want to take on, you might study IT management, data analytics, computer engineering, or computer science. There are several degree options that fit for these two career paths.

If you specifically want to go into computer engineering, make sure you get a degree in computer engineering. A degree in computer science will often not fit as well for computer engineering.

You may need a master’s degree, depending on the career trajectory you prefer. A master’s degree can help you specialize in a specific area, too. You can get a bachelor’s degree in computer science and specialize in software engineering. This can help you stand out for a computer engineering job.

Most computer scientists have master’s degrees. However, it’s less common for a computer engineer to have a master’s degree. This is one of the reasons computer scientists tend to make more money than computer engineers.

Some of the common computer science courses you may take during a degree program include:

If you decide to study computer engineering, some of the common courses will include:

Both degree options will also include a variety of mathematics courses.

Common Jobs for Computer Science Majors

Common Jobs for Computer Engineering Majors

Whether you choose to go into computer engineering or computer science, you’ll likely land a high-paying job. Make sure you look at both options before you choose the right career for you.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!