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Bhavana Chamoli examines the core differences between computer science and software engineering

Although computer science and software engineering have an established history and legacy, we are really just barely scratching the surface of what’s possible

person using apple computer while drinking coffee at wooden desk
Image: Unsplash

To many individuals outside of the technical world, computer science and software engineering are viewed as similar professions. However, within the technical world, there are fundamental and critical differences between these two fields of study and expertise. However, the good news is that grasping the core differentiator between computer science and software engineering doesn’t require an advanced degree. 

According to academic research and data modeling expert Bhavana Chamoli, computer science and software engineering essentially boil down to purpose and paradigm. She takes the time to provide a brief outline of both computer science and software engineering. 

Exploring Both Fields 

Computer science is about discovering, advancing, and exploiting the theoretical possibilities of computing technology at a fundamental level, comments Bhavana Chamoli. 

Software engineering is also about discovery and development, but the focus is solving practical problems in a commercial or corporate environment, such as a system that helps employees track tasks or empowers firms to measure, monitor, and forecast financial performance. Another way to look at it is that computer science leans more towards research and algorithms, while software engineering leans more towards entrepreneurship and testing. They both, however, are deeply rooted in theory, practice, programming, and design.

With this fundamental distinction in mind, aspiring students who pursue a degree in computer science or software engineering can look forward to a dynamic, lucrative, and essentially recession-proof career — which is especially important given the unprecedented economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and its legacy that will last for years, and probably decades. 

Talented computer science and software engineering graduates are in high demand by employers in both the private and public sector, comments Bhavana Chamoli. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in both fields are expected to grow at around 20% through 2024. And in areas where demand for graduates is very high, starting salaries can initially or quickly surpass the six-figure mark, which is far higher than many other professions.

The Bottom Line, According to Bhavana Chamoli

Ultimately, despite the important differences between computer science and software engineering —those pursuing a computer science education should have a very strong interest in and aptitude for math. They both strive to make the world a better place or at least more efficient and predictable, which can sometimes be exactly what is required to find clarity amidst the chaos.

“Although computer science and software engineering have an established history and legacy, we are really just barely scratching the surface of what’s possible,” comments Bhavana Chamoli. “There are still far more questions than there are answers, and progress is inherently iterative — which means that the more we discover, the more we uncover that is yet to be discovered. It is a very exciting time for both computer scientists and software engineers.”

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