Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering

With salaries and workforce demand for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates at an all-time high, two red-hot majors that prospective students must be familiar with are Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Unfortunately, due to overlapping coursework and the wide leeway schools have in developing IT curricula, many prospects are confused about what these programs entail.

I'm often asked "what's the difference between CS and CE degrees?" Both majors are heavy in theory and practical application, which is vital for building a strong knowledge base for a range of IT careers, however, the key difference is that computer science focuses on software, while computer engineering is more about the hardware.

Use this side-by-side comparison for a deeper look at the CS and CE majors:

Computer Science Major

Core Curriculum:

  • Advanced Software Development
  • Computational Problem-Solving
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Operating System (OS) Design
  • Advanced Mathematics inc. Calculus,
    Logic, Probability and Algebra
  • User Interface/Experience (UI/UX) Design
  • Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
  • Data Security/Defensive Programming

Marketable Electives/Concentrations:

  • Mobile Application Development
  • Data Mining and Business Intelligence
  • Web and Multimedia Design
  • Digital Security/Cryptography
  • Cloud Computing
  • Software Testing
  • Virtualization
  • Game Theory

Popular Career Paths:

  • Software Engineer
  • Mobile App Developer
  • UI/UX Designer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Wed Designer
  • Data Scientist
  • Systems Analyst

Avg. Starting Salary:

  • $64,400 per year (U.S.)

Computer Engineering Major

Core Curriculum:

  • Electronic Circuit Design
  • Principles of Modern Physics
  • Artificial Intelligence & Robotics
  • Essential Software Development
  • Computer Architecture and Design
  • Very-Large-Scale Integration (VLSI)
  • Microprocessor Design & Interfacing
  • Embedded Computer System Design
  • Digital Signal Processing

Marketable Electives/Concentrations:

  • Computer Aided Drafting & Design (CADD)
  • Mobile Device Engineering
  • Sustainable “Green” Energy
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Game Hardware Design
  • User Interface Design
  • Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems
    (MEMS) Engineering

Popular Career Paths:

  • Electrical Engineer
  • Electronics Architect
  • Computer Hardware Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Microchip Architect
  • Mobile Device Engineer
  • Quality Control Engineer

Avg. Starting Salary:

  • $70,400 per year (U.S.)
 

Notes: Computer science/engineering wage data courtesy of the National Association of Colleges & Employers' 2013 Salary Survey.

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