Software Engineer vs Computer Scientist – Understanding What Both Take

Wondering what the difference is between software engineering and computer science? Maybe you’re trying to figure out which subject to major in at school, or deciding which career to pursue.

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In this article, we’ll go over the similarities and differences between software engineering and computer science.

What is software engineering?

Software engineering involves the design, development, maintenance, and testing of software applications. This field includes working with software systems, network control systems, and operating systems.

Applying engineering approaches to the development of software is the focus of software engineering. It involves a practical perspective and developing real-world uses for applications.

Software engineering can include things like quality assurance, applications, and games. It involves creating software to solve problems. Software engineering focuses on figuring out what the user needs and creating a software application to address those needs.

Topics in software engineering include distributed systems, software architecture, web technologies, scaling, software testing, software design, and software development lifecycles.

What is computer science?

Computer science is more abstract and theoretical when it comes to the study of computers. It also involves taking a mathematical perspective of how computers work.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, and robotics are all examples of computer science areas. Other topics include advanced mathematics, operating systems, concurrent programming, and computer graphics.

Computer science helps you understand how computers work and how data is processed. It involves the design of both computer hardware and software.

What are the similarities between software engineering and computer science?

Software engineering and computer science have a lot in common when it comes to what you will study in school as well as what you will do on the job.

Both computer science and software engineering start with learning the basic foundations. This includes courses in programming fundamentals, data structures, algorithms, linear algebra, and calculus.

Computer scientists and software engineers will both work with data structures, data management, logic, computation, algorithms, and operating systems.

What are the differences between software engineering and computer science?

There are some differences when it comes to what university courses you take after learning the fundamentals. A computer science program will require that you study things like machine learning, object-oriented software development, and cyber security.

A program in software engineering will include courses on electrical engineering, user interfaces, software design, quality assurance, and software testing.

Which route should I take?

It can be difficult to choose between studying computer science and learning software engineering. Computer science is the best option if you like math and logic, or if you want to have a career that involves machine learning, artificial intelligence, graphics, or security.

On the other hand, if you prefer having a hands-on approach or if you want to focus on the overall life cycle of how software systems are built and maintained, it is best to study software engineering.

Which is better: computer science or software engineering?

Both software engineering and computer science are excellent choices for careers or fields of study. One is not inherently better than the other and they both offer a great way to get into the industry.

Computer science may be a better option for people who enjoy working from the abstract or theoretical side of things, whereas software engineering may be the best choice for those who prefer a practical, hands-on approach.

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What pays better: software engineering or computer science?

The average salary in the United States for a software engineer is $115,756 per year. For a software engineer with less than one year of experience, the starting salary is $108,164. For software engineers with over 10 years of experience, the average salary is $145,622.

The highest paying cities for software engineers in the United States are San Francisco at $143,379 per year, followed by Seattle at $124,869 per year. Approximately 63 percent of software engineers in the United States think their salaries provide enough money to cover their cost of living.

The average base salary for a computer scientist in the United States is $104,474. The highest paying cities in the United States for computer scientists are Patuxent River at $135,386, and Princeton at $129,354.

About 75 percent of computer scientists believe that their cost of living is adequately provided for by their salary.

Can a computer science student become a software engineer?

Even if you don’t major in software engineering, you can still get a job as a software engineer or software developer. Computer science degrees cover a lot of the same material that a software engineering degree covers.

With a computer science degree, you can find jobs in software engineering. You can also take additional courses to increase your knowledge in the area of software engineering to become more appealing to an employer.

What companies hire software engineers?

Some of the major companies that hire software engineers include Apple, Meta, Samsung Electronics, Juniper Networks, and Visa. Other employers include Lockheed Martin, GE Healthcare, Zoom Video Communications Inc, Tesla, and TikTok.

The demand for software engineers in the United States is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2019 and 2029.

What companies hire computer scientists?

Major companies that hire computer scientists include Apple, SM&A, EY, Adobe, and SRI International. Other employers include the United States Army, CACI, Columbia University, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency, and Voss Scientific.

There is expected to be a 22 percent increase in the demand for computer scientists in the United States between 2020 and 2030.


Computer science and software engineering are both lucrative careers that have a lot in common. The main difference is that computer science focuses on theory and abstract principles, while software engineering involves more of a practical approach.

As well, computer science is better suited to people who want to focus on artificial intelligence or security. Software engineering is a better option for people who prefer to be involved in the overall lifecycle of software systems.

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