Difference between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Published on December 30, 2016

As degree programs, computer science and computer engineering have both become highly specialized as technology advanced through the years. These computer degree programs can lead to very rewarding careers. Know which one to choose by discovering the skill set needed to succeed in each.


Computer Science vs Computer Engineering
A computer programmer working on lines of codes

Computer science fundamentally deals with the study of how electronic data and commands are processed, communicated, and stored by computing devices. In the simplest terms, it deals mainly with computer software and simple to sophisticated software systems. It draws many principles from other disciplines such as electrical engineering and applied mathematics. Computer science covers a broad scope and a regular undergraduate program usually includes courses in computer architecture, studying algorithms for data processing, software writing techniques for different computing platforms, organizing data in databases, artificial intelligence, and more. Post-graduate studies generally involves specializing in a specific area.

Computer science requires an analytical mind that can deal with abstract and concrete concepts. An effective computer scientist is a complete problem solver. In addition to being able to creatively model and analyze problems, he/she must have the capability to design solutions with laser precision and careful reasoning.

A computer science graduate can work as a software applications developer ($95,510 average annual salary), a computer systems analyst ($82,710), or a network systems administrator ($75,790). Web developers, computer programmers, and business intelligence analysts are usually computer science graduates.

Computer engineering
A computer engineer working on a motherboard

Computer engineering usually deals with designing, developing, researching and testing computer systems and components. These are microprocessors, circuit boards, networking component (i.e. modems, adapters), memory chips, data storage devices, or input/output devices. Computer engineers design supercomputers as well as laptops and desktop systems.

Computer engineering integrates computer science with electrical engineering. A computer engineer designs electronic components that allow data communication. This is why most computer engineers have an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering prior to earning a post-graduate degree in computer engineering.

A computer engineering graduate may specialize in computer hardware engineering and can initially earn an average annual salary of $66,750. A mid-level hardware engineer can make anywhere from $73,631 to $109,108.

Computer Science vs Computer Engineering

So, what’s the difference between computer science and computer engineering? It goes without saying that both usually go hand in hand as their functions often overlap. However, some clear distinctions between them can still be drawn.

While computer science focuses more on how data is electronically processed, communicated, and stored by computer systems, computer engineering deals more with designing hardware and software, including systems that combine both. In the simplest terms, computer science touches more on writing programs and designing algorithms, databases, or graphics. Computer engineering is typically concerned with designing and building optimized computer hardware from the smallest microprocessor to the most powerful supercomputers.

Comparison Chart

Computer ScienceComputer Engineering
Deals with computer software (programming, language, algorithms)Deals with computer hardware integrated with software
Draws principles from applied mathematics and electrical engineeringIntegration of computer science and electrical engineering
Usually taken as an undergraduate courseUsually a post-graduate course


Here’s a YouTube clip showing the differences between computer science and computer engineering.