Computer Science vs. Software Engineering: What’s the Difference?

Computer science and software engineering are two very different fields, though they both revolve around computers in some way or another. However, their differences can seem subtle to the untrained eye, so here’s a quick guide that should clarify which career path is right for you! We’ll also look at where each field came from and the possible futures of each profession.

What is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of computation and its applications. Computation is the manipulation of data according to a set of rules. In computer science, these rules are called algorithms. Algorithms are instructions that computers follow to perform tasks. Computer scientists develop algorithms to solve problems. A problem solver uses computer science to find solutions to problems.

There are many different types of problems that people use computer science to solve. These include business problems, math problems, and even social problems. Some examples of issues that computer scientists work on every day are finding ways to protect your personal information online, developing methods for you to shop or bank online more efficiently, developing software systems for companies so they can more efficiently run their businesses, or making websites easier for you to use. To be successful in this field requires strong analytical skills and creativity.

What is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is a discipline of computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and evolution of software systems. Software engineers work closely with business analysts, project managers, and end users to create products that meet customer requirements.

It can also be broken into two categories; low-level and high-level programming. Low-level programming is concerned with designing logical structures such as loops or files, while high-level programming involves the creation of user interfaces such as icons or dialog boxes.

Differences Between Software Engineering and Computer Science

The main focus of these jobs is web development, user interface development, database administration, web design/development, and game development. These jobs typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Systems Management, or a similar field.

1. Comparison of Job Titles

Are you interested in a career in computer science or software engineering? Both fields are involved in developing and maintaining software applications, but there are some critical differences between the two. Computer scientists typically focus on designing algorithms to make computers more efficient, while software engineers work with developers to create working code for an application.

In general, computer scientists spend less time writing code than their counterparts in software engineering. However, both professions involve fixing bugs and programming new features. The skills required for each profession also vary; computer scientists need knowledge of mathematics, statistics, and programming languages like Java or C++, and software engineers need knowledge of design patterns and databases like SQL Server.

2. Comparison of Coursework

Though both computer science and software engineering programs include coursework in programming, database design, and systems analysis, computer science programs place more emphasis on theory. In comparison, software engineering programs place more emphasis on practical application. In addition, computer science programs may include more mathematics coursework than software engineering programs.

The two majors are different enough that students unsure of their career goals should explore both options before deciding which to pursue. Some careers for those with a degree in Computer Science might be mathematicians, statisticians, or information security analysts. Careers for those with a degree in Software Engineering might be technical architects or quality assurance analysts.

3. Comparison of Positions Available

There are many different types of jobs in computer science and software engineering. Computer science jobs focus more on the theoretical aspects of computing, while software engineering jobs focus more on the practical applications of computing.

Both fields require a strong understanding of computer programming, but computer science also requires a strong knowledge of mathematics and algorithms. Computer science jobs are more research-oriented, while software engineering jobs are more development-oriented.

A person with a CS degree might work as an academic or researcher or work for government agencies such as NASA or NSA. A person with an SE degree might work as a programmer, system analyst, database administrator, project manager, or team lead.

4. Comparison of Career Opportunities

If you’re interested in a tech career, you may wonder what the difference is between computer science and software engineering. Both fields are proliferating and offer great career opportunities.

Computer scientists create programs that help computers run more efficiently or provide new ways for people to interact with them (e.g., by making games).

They typically work with programming languages like C++ or Java and can have careers as an application developer, systems administrator, web developer, or even data scientists. Software engineers also develop software, but they focus on designing and building it from scratch.

They design how the program will work, break it down into manageable pieces called modules, and then use various coding languages to code those modules so they come together as one coherent piece of software.

They also take care of how their programs interact with hardware or other types of software, so everything works seamlessly together, including networking and security.

Critical Differences Between Computer Science and Software Engineering

  1. Computer science is the study of algorithms and programming languages.
  2. Software engineering is the application of computer science to software design and implementation.
  3. Computer science is about how computers work.
  4. Software engineering is about how people work together to create products.
  5. Computer science deals with the theory behind what makes things work.
  6. Software engineering deals with the practicalities of making something work.
  7.  Computer science is concerned with building systems.
  8. Software engineering is concerned with building solutions.
  9. Computer science is about abstract concepts.
  10. Software engineering is focused on real-world problems.
  11. Computer science is about logic.
  12. Software engineering is based on human emotions.
  13. Computer science is about solving complex problems.
  14. Software engineering is all about finding simple solutions to complex problems.


In conclusion, the main difference between computer science and software engineering is that computer science focuses on the theory of computation and algorithms. In contrast, software engineering focuses on design and development. Both disciplines are essential in computing, but they have different approaches. Computer science is more theoretical, while software engineering is more practical.

About Alisha John

A Nature Lover and Freelance Writer! I write about daily practices for optimizing both happiness and health.

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