yconic - Software Engineering Vs Computer Science?
Hide Menu

My Feed Money for School Student Help Brands Winners Support Center



Explore yconic
Explore Student Life Topics
Scotiabank
STUDENT CHAMPION
yconic proudly recognizes Student Champion Partners who are providing our community with superior support for their student journeys. Learn More
Student Help Brands

Software Engineering Vs Computer Science?

A photo of iRamie iRamie
What is the difference between both of them?
How about the jobs that are there for both of them?

Was this helpful? Yes 0
28 replies
 
A photo of Anonymous Anonymous
I'm still in undergrad software eng, so my view may be a bit biased.

From what I know, software eng and compsci both have a big focus on programming, but the purposes of the programming are quite different.

A compsci student might find himself writing programs to determine the winning strategy of a board game, or to calculate the number of units in some patterned structure - this tends to involve a lot of recursion and heavily theoretical and discrete math based. They'll do a lot of practical yes but accompany it with the theoretical math to fully explain it in depth.

A software eng student is going to have a more direct and practical goal, i.e. he might write a program to go to a website and extract certain data, or to control a robotic arm at an assembly line. A lot less theory/discrete math, a lot more "real world" kind of stuff. Software eng students are going to be tested mostly on knowledge of syntax and steps, and not so much on theory.

Of course, paths can intersect, nothing prevents the two students from doing each others' jobs in the future, but for undergrad assignments, that's what the difference is like.
Was this helpful? Yes 1

 
A photo of arviny arviny

@machoTS wrote
I'm still in undergrad software eng, so my view may be a bit biased.

From what I know, software eng and compsci both have a big focus on programming, but the purposes of the programming are quite different.

A compsci student might find himself writing programs to determine the winning strategy of a board game, or to calculate the number of units in some patterned structure - this tends to involve a lot of recursion and heavily theoretical and discrete math based. They'll do a lot of practical yes but accompany it with the theoretical math to fully explain it in depth.

A software eng student is going to have a more direct and practical goal, i.e. he might write a program to go to a website and extract certain data, or to control a robotic arm at an assembly line. A lot less theory/discrete math, a lot more "real world" kind of stuff. Software eng students are going to be tested mostly on knowledge of syntax and steps, and not so much on theory.

Of course, paths can intersect, nothing prevents the two students from doing each others' jobs in the future, but for undergrad assignments, that's what the difference is like.



If I want to become a software engineer, what would you recommend, taking software engineering through electrical and computer engineering at UofT where you specialize after 3rd year into software engineering OR through the department of computer science (Faculty of Arts&Sci BSc degree) and apply for the software engineering specialist in 2nd year where i still continue studying through the dept.of CS. Also what would be the difference? Positives and negatives of each choice?
Thanks =D
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of Anonymous Anonymous
If you want your major to be strictly on computers and programming, take the compsci-to-software-specialist path.

U of T's ECE faculty is really a lot more E than C, at least in the first two years. You'll spend more time looking at circuits than typing up programs. If that's not your thing, avoid ECE (and engineering as a whole). Hell, in your first year, you'll only do ONE programming course, and that's introductory C which is a piece of cake for anyone who did programming in high school (the course assumes EVERYONE is a noob, and paces itself that way).

No real positives or negatives. I avoid comments about how "this won't get a job, this gets a guaranteed 100k job, etc". Any major can get you a job, you just have to take the right steps. All I can say is, go to compsci if you want the majority of your work time to be on programming.

I'm an ECE, and I do like programming more than I like circuits, but I'm also having fun with the circuits, so I wouldn't say I regret choosing it over compsci.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of thePurpleEngineer thePurpleEngineer
A "Software Engineer" is to a "Computer Scientist" as a "City Planner" is to an "Architect".

Software Engineering
A lot of Software Engineering programs focus more systems design rather than specific algorithms.

Computer Science
Computer Science programs focus on algorithms.

If you have a city that you have to plan out, you'd have the city planners at the top designing the overall city layout (figuring out where a park should go, where the sports stadium should go, where the city hall should go, etc..), and the architects would design the buildings in that city (like the park or stadium or the city hall).

Same goes for Software engineering and Computer Scientists. If you have a big program that you have to build, software engineers would usually be in charge of designing the overall system, and the computer scientists would develop an efficient algorithm for parts of that overall system.

But both of them can pretty much do each others' jobs. Only difference is, you can't get the title "Professional Engineer (P.Eng.)" with a computer science degree.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango
^ This pretty much covered everything I wanted to say. BTW Software engineering and compsci students compete for the same jobs still @ waterloo.

Some can say that CS majors do more theoretical things, SE do more practical, which is partially true - SE students are required to do a long-term project throughout their 3rd-4th years. In the end though, CS and SE students take pretty much the same courses in 2nd-4th year, just that CS students have much more flexibility.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of Anonymous Anonymous
I've been going back and forth between SE and CS for quite a while now. I like how SE is more practical and the long term projects sounds like fun but I also like how CS is more flexible which gives me room to explore. I'm also a little anxious about the amount of work I hear Engineering has. Is it manageable, is there some breathing room to relax and is it enjoyable?

I think I might just go into SE if only because it's easy to transfer into CS. Am I making the right decision?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of iRamie iRamie
Which ones do Google and Facebook hire?
And which ones make you more money :D
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango

@Impasse wrote
I've been going back and forth between SE and CS for quite a while now. I like how SE is more practical and the long term projects sounds like fun but I also like how CS is more flexible which gives me room to explore. I'm also a little anxious about the amount of work I hear Engineering has. Is it manageable, is there some breathing room to relax and is it enjoyable?

I think I might just go into SE if only because it's easy to transfer into CS. Am I making the right decision?


Engineering isnt really meant to be enjoyable. : P Only on coop terms and Midterm/Finals aftermaths and weekends.

I was a hard worker in HS, so I didnt have too hard of a time adjusting, my classmates think otherwise. This term for me, theres a lot more breathing room compared to last term, the content is harder though. The thing is, they make you take 6 courses a term sometimes (MANDATORY) while CS students normal load is 5, but youre allowed to drop 2 and still be considered full time (mindfuck).

Of course hard work pays off though.

iRamie: Facebook and Google hires both CS and SE students, they give technical interviews and test you on your technical abilities and of course your personality too. The thing about CS is that it's less coop intensive. Theres a lot of prep handed to engineers just because it's easier to schedule it in.

FB and Google jobs are posted for intermediate and senior students, so unless youre exceptional, dont even bother applying in 1st year. PS. not everyones going to get a job at FB or Google. Usually 200-300 people apply and theres only 1 position.

And what do you mean which ones make more money.. Salary depends on which work term youre on (1st, 2nd ... 6th), the type of job youre doing, and the company.

sidenote- Most people here label CS/Math undergrads as the geeks/nerds, engineers are supposed to be work hard/play hard so we're outta that zone : P
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup
Hi, currently I am in Gr. 11 and am only eligible for the CS programs.
I haven't taken any science or computer science - only a bit of programming in computer engineering 10/11.

Say if I go into CS, would it be possible for me to learn just as fast as others ? I "think" I am a hard worker and I believe I could learn. Would I be at a disadvantage here or not? Is it physics/chemistry intensive because I do not like science, but physics seems fine as I love math.

Great thing I found this thread. I thought comp sci was lower than software engineering - but apparently they are on the same level - am I correct?

Anyways, thanks and please reply to my questions if you can!!
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango

@waazup wrote
Hi, currently I am in Gr. 11 and am only eligible for the CS programs.
I haven't taken any science or computer science - only a bit of programming in computer engineering 10/11.

Say if I go into CS, would it be possible for me to learn just as fast as others ? I "think" I am a hard worker and I believe I could learn. Would I be at a disadvantage here or not? Is it physics/chemistry intensive because I do not like science, but physics seems fine as I love math.

Great thing I found this thread. I thought comp sci was lower than software engineering - but apparently they are on the same level - am I correct?

Anyways, thanks and please reply to my questions if you can!!



Hey, well from a waterloo perspective - if you enter the CS program, you will not need to take any physics (not mandatory at all). you will definitely not need to take chem. cs is under the math faculty, after all. you can still take phys/chem as your electives, though.

if you enter computer or software engineering, you will definitely face physics, which BTW can be tough. chemistry you only take once in 1st term, and it isnt that hard anyways.

You will not be at a disadvantage for having less experience. At waterloo, there are 3 entry points for CS students for their 1st CS course, so if you feel like youre a real beginner, you can go for the most introductory one.

as for soft eng, the program director EXPECTS all entering students to have at least some programming knowledge. your first CS course isnt that hard to deal with. it is actually a pretty fun course, if youre taught by c. clarke.

also, the first 3 terms of softeng requires you to take circuits courses. which i dislike simply because ... i dont like hardware. but you'll be fine with your compeng background.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup

@aimango wrote


Hey, well from a waterloo perspective - if you enter the CS program, you will not need to take any physics (not mandatory at all). you will definitely not need to take chem. cs is under the math faculty, after all. you can still take phys/chem as your electives, though.

if you enter computer or software engineering, you will definitely face physics, which BTW can be tough. chemistry you only take once in 1st term, and it isnt that hard anyways.

You will not be at a disadvantage for having less experience. At waterloo, there are 3 entry points for CS students for their 1st CS course, so if you feel like youre a real beginner, you can go for the most introductory one.

as for soft eng, the program director EXPECTS all entering students to have at least some programming knowledge. your first CS course isnt that hard to deal with. it is actually a pretty fun course, if youre taught by c. clarke.

also, the first 3 terms of softeng requires you to take circuits courses. which i dislike simply because ... i dont like hardware. but you'll be fine with your compeng background.




Thanks for the reply. The thing is, I would go for software - but I didn't take physics/chem! I'm more of a business guy, and will most likely go there but having this as a possibility is great (my father actually wants me to do software). After finding out that CS and Soft eng. intersect and have almost identical jobs, it seems fair right? Do you think any is better than the other? The only thing I am debating is which is better from either soft eng. or comp sci - but I can only go into comp sci! haha, confusing I know. Comp sci is also more algorithm and mathematical based - which would be good for me. But looking forward to your input. thanks.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango

@waazup wrote

@aimango wrote


Hey, well from a waterloo perspective - if you enter the CS program, you will not need to take any physics (not mandatory at all). you will definitely not need to take chem. cs is under the math faculty, after all. you can still take phys/chem as your electives, though.

if you enter computer or software engineering, you will definitely face physics, which BTW can be tough. chemistry you only take once in 1st term, and it isnt that hard anyways.

You will not be at a disadvantage for having less experience. At waterloo, there are 3 entry points for CS students for their 1st CS course, so if you feel like youre a real beginner, you can go for the most introductory one.

as for soft eng, the program director EXPECTS all entering students to have at least some programming knowledge. your first CS course isnt that hard to deal with. it is actually a pretty fun course, if youre taught by c. clarke.

also, the first 3 terms of softeng requires you to take circuits courses. which i dislike simply because ... i dont like hardware. but you'll be fine with your compeng background.




Thanks for the reply. The thing is, I would go for software - but I didn't take physics/chem! I'm more of a business guy, and will most likely go there but having this as a possibility is great (my father actually wants me to do software). After finding out that CS and Soft eng. intersect and have almost identical jobs, it seems fair right? Do you think any is better than the other? The only thing I am debating is which is better from either soft eng. or comp sci - but I can only go into comp sci! haha, confusing I know. Comp sci is also more algorithm and mathematical based - which would be good for me. But looking forward to your input. thanks.



okay heres what i have to say about the difference- for SE you will have classes with the same 80-100 people for 5 years (minus coop). this may be good or bad, in my view it is good. IMO - to do well in school you have to have a good source - someone or something that provides all the answers. you also need to have good access to that source. what im saying is that being in soft eng just gives you a greater ease for that since all your classmates have the same classes - people help each other out.

you might view it as bad since you might meet someone you really dislike. but that has actually never happened to me here yet. drama doesnt really happen when the guy:girl ratio is so high : P

also, once you get into your upper years, your class will also be your network for coop jobs. during interviews you can say "oh i know so and so who worked at your company..." always a good convo starter.

CS is of course different, you get a ton more electives for customization. you still meet people and theres more girls in CS if you care about that, but since you only meet people if you make contact with them, its more difficult to make friends, have that warm connection between classmates, etc. you also tend to have a much better prof-class relationship in engineering due to all the reasons above.

cs benefits - flexibility, room for doing ECs, meet people from a variety of faculties. you can do a business minor if you want to, seeing that youre into that stuff. and yes cs is slightly more algorithmic only because you are required to take a little more math than SE, but actually in 2nd year and beyond, SE and CS students take many of the same courses.

dunno if ive mentioned this already - employers KNOW softeng requires more work ethic. so they do take that into account, although i have seen cs students get great jobs, too. but it takes skill to get great jobs in your early work terms.


Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of noxx98 noxx98

@aimango wrote

dunno if ive mentioned this already - employers KNOW softeng requires more work ethic. so they do take that into account, although i have seen cs students get great jobs, too. but it takes skill to get great jobs in your early work terms.



Mind explaining where youre getting this idea from?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup
^ + 1,

which is more preferred by employers after grad, and which do you prefer?
Do you guarantee that both are considered just as good, if not, which one is considered "better" and why?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of SOCCERFAN SOCCERFAN
we have to admit that the com sci is relatively easier to get in than the computer/software eng;
but in the other hand: through internet: I saw some super smart people
(such as math olympic team member/guy got euclid 90+...), they finally choosed com sci instead of computer/software eng:
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of Haru Haru
i know that the male:female ratio is pretty high in SE. what about in CS (at UW)?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of plato plato

@Haru wrote
i know that the male:female ratio is pretty high in SE. what about in CS (at UW)?



In general, engineering is a sausage party... and CS is not much different. Choose psych electives and do fun ECs and you'll meet plenty of girls.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup
Is it possible to switch from a CS program to SE program in university?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango

@noxx98 wrote

@aimango wrote

dunno if ive mentioned this already - employers KNOW softeng requires more work ethic. so they do take that into account, although i have seen cs students get great jobs, too. but it takes skill to get great jobs in your early work terms.



Mind explaining where youre getting this idea from?


which idea? the work ethic idea? its entirely true if youve seen our schedules. engineers have packed schedules, containing mandatory tutorials and labs along with lectures. cs students have a ton of flexibility, unmandatory tutorials.. as for labs it depends on your electives.

of course im not saying cs students dont work hard, but engineers are pretty much forced into it or they will easily fall behind. i guess all i was really saying was that due to the high work load, it is more reasonable for engineers to have low marks. i hope you guys can understand that.



@waazup wrote
^ + 1,

which is more preferred by employers after grad, and which do you prefer?
Do you guarantee that both are considered just as good, if not, which one is considered "better" and why?


it really depends.. i mean what employers truly look for is a person that can blend well with the company. they dont just look @ your degree, skill set and experience is a great factor.

as for girl:guy ratio, CS isnt as bad, i know a LOT more first year CS girls than SE girls, mostly because the program gives out more acceptances anyway. engineering usually is a sausage party, yep its pretty true. you kinda get used to it i guess.

It is entirely possible to switch from CS to SE, but its a lot easier the other way around. Theres actually a guy who switched from CS to SE this term in our class, but thats cause he took Phys 111 (the physics elective) last term so he didnt have a lot of issues with the transfer. The difficult thing for him is that he didnt take the circuits type of courses last term so its a lot harder for him to catch up for those courses and do the labs too.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup
Ok, well, if I were to go into CS w/o physics/chem from high school, and want to switch to SE, does that mean I gotta take both physics/chem in first year? Or only one of em?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango

@waazup wrote
Ok, well, if I were to go into CS w/o physics/chem from high school, and want to switch to SE, does that mean I gotta take both physics/chem in first year? Or only one of em?


you gotta take both. and you need a certain university term average to go into SE too. you cannot just transfer because you feel like it.

so please, when making your choice of program and university, please make the right choice.
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of waazup waazup
^ I havent taken chem/physics.

Hmm, so I gotta take physics + chem and maintain a good avg in first year to transfer to SE, I see. Would it be hard, since I never did individual chem or physics?
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of blurX blurX
bloody hell, never take chem/physics if you don't like them...
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of SOCCERFAN SOCCERFAN
if you are good at math,take com sci:
if you love games: take software eng:
if you are good at math and love games: I don't know.P
Was this helpful? Yes 0

 
A photo of aimango aimango
^ well no... you dont have to love games to be in SE. you can love math and still be in SE. no one really loves physics here, even if you love physics you wont by then end of first year.

and waazup - that is a ridiculous idea. if youve never taken chem or phys in HS you will be at a great disadvantage if you have to take it in uni. and it will be even worse taking the physics that SE students have to take. i am going to be straight up with you - theres a very high chance of doing very poorly or failing if you dont get the basics and fundamentals down in high school. so please, i advise you to take them in summer school/night school or whatever if you still plan on going into SE. Youre still in 11th grade so you still have time to get the requirements.
Was this helpful? Yes 0