The Dilemma of Computer Science, Software Engineering & Computer Engineering

By Muneeb Ahmad on
April 28, 2016
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I have always hated Mathematics. I wanted to get away from it as soon as possible – those boring sums and the multiples. The other option was Biology, which I did not like either. I thought the fight would never end and I would have to choose Arts but luckily, Computer Science came to the rescue (as far as I thought) and I happily opted for it as my major. I got myself an offer and had peace.

The lazy days passed just like grazing cattle and then there was my orientation. As I was moving towards the Engineering Department where I was hoping to find Computer Science along with Software Engineering. I knew, there was Software Engineering there but I was taken aback as I could not find Computer Science anywhere there. Later I found it to be as ‘Department of Mathematics and Computer Science’.

That was a personal narrative just to show that how the terms ‘Computer Science’, ‘Computer Engineering’ and the ‘Software Engineering’ are being constantly confused. Even I wasn’t sure at the beginnings.

So actually,

  • Computer Science is the study of computing which utilizes theories to describe how computers work.
  • Computer Engineering, on the other hand, is more related to the functioning of Computer Systems formed with electrical components.
  • Software Engineering follows a complete software development cycle to develop, test and maintain a computer program/application.

But all these definitions don’t offer enough explanations. What throws off a lot of people are the words ‘Science’ and Engineering. What is the difference between Computer Science and Software Engineering?

Conceptually speaking, the aforementioned areas are the overlappings of Computer Studies with areas of their implications or applications in some particular contexts.

  • Computer Scientists question the underlying principles of computational systems.
  • Computer Engineers then amalgamate those principles with real-world knowledge and business constraints to create/modify real world systems made of actual electrical and mechanical components like smartphones, computers etc.
  • Software Engineers amalgamate the concerning Computer Science principles with the real-world knowledge and business constraints to create/modify explicit real world systems in the form of applications, games, databases, operating systems etc.

If you would like to know what would you be better suited for, you should ask yourself would you love understanding a problem from its core concept or you would just like to be good at solving them?

  • If the answer to the question is former, go for the Computer Science.
  • If you accepted the latter, then opt Computer Engineering or Software Engineering provided your interest in the nature of the problems you would love to be good at solving.

A supposition here would be handy.

Let it be that you are head of a team building a Computer-based project. Under a well-curated system of execution, he will be doing steps in the following order to bring out best product:

  • The leader would first need to forward his idea to the Computer Scientists in the team, who would employ all their knowledge to understand and comprehend the program and its solution.They will design necessary algorithms, define usage of languages, classify the hardware architecture, systems software, applications software, and tools.
  • The team lead will then be forwarding the developments to the Engineers(Computer/Software).
  • If the project under construction is software-based, the basis formed by the scientists will then be transferred to the Software Engineers so that they can code, test and optimize it.
  • If the project required expertise in computer hardware or firmware, their evaluation and/or their construction would be handed over to Computer Engineers.

In any case, both the engineers will spend a lot of their time initially using their education of computer science to assess and architect the system in an optimal way. Ignite research and development efforts, beta development and solving tough scale and data problems making it a perfectly engineered multi-tiered solution according to any business and/or other real-life constraints and that’s what exactly engineering is.

All the confusions initiated due to the marriage of curriculums of Software/Computer Engineering with the Computer Science which was done partially due to the closeness of all three courses. This was also done, partially, to cope with the demands of job openings or simply could be due to poor know-how on part of the decision-maker.No matter whichever course you end up choosing, you will learn a little bit of the other two courses. However, make your decision based on where your actual interests lie.

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