The Main Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering Majors

Computer screen with data on it for computer science engineering students

Computer Science and Computer Engineering are two excellent majors. They cover an array of fields, giving graduates considerable job opportunities. The employment growth is fast and in demand as they are some of the most sought-after and highest-paid.

Both majors are considered to be hard majors. They are math intensive. Engineering is one of the most dropped-out majors because students have a math class almost every semester. But don’t let math scare you away from these majors. With a few good strategies and study habits, you can get through those math classes and be on your way to a very lucrative career. According to a study on the educational background of the billionaires on the Forbes list of, The Richest People In The World, engineering was the most common college major that makes the most millionaires and billionaires. Just another reason to consider computer engineering as a major.

The Main Differences Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

It can be hard to tell the difference between the two disciplines because they share many similarities. In college, many of the same classes will overlap which can be confusing for students. I think the easiest way to differentiate between the two majors is software and hardware. If you are more interested in software, data, and algorithms, then Computer Science may be the perfect major for you. If hardware and firmware appeal to you more than software does, then Computer Engineering will be a better major.

Regarding classes, as I stated before both majors are heavy in the field of mathematics. Therefore, each will have many math classes. Once the math foundation and some basic computer classes are taken courses begin to branch off and differ. Computer Science majors study coding, technology theory, data security, algorithms, and data transport. Computer Engineering students study circuits, microchips, conductors, and processors. Both majors require students to have skills in, analytical thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving, programming, and technical writing. Attention to detail is a must to be successful in these fields.

While I don’t like to say whether one major is harder than the other because that is dependent on each student’s strengths and weaknesses. A Computer Engineering degree is considered more difficult than a Computer Science because more math classes and electrical engineering classes are required.

What Types Of Careers You Can Peruse With A Computer Science Or Computer Engineering Degree

A graduate beginning their career in Computer Science might pursue a career in one of the following areas:

Computer Science Careers

  • Computer Programming
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • General Computer Science
  • Cybersecurity
  • Scientific Computing Applications
  • Web Development
  • Computer Graphics
  • Software Development

A graduate beginning their career in computer engineering might pursue a career in one of the following areas:

Computer Engineering Careers

  • Data Scientist
  • Firmware Engineer
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Information Systems Manager
  • Database Administrator
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Game Developer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Multimedia Programmer
a close up of circuit board. computer science and engineering students will lean about circuits

Which Major Pays More

While both Computer Science and Computer Engineering degrees have great salaries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Scientists typically make a little more. The average salary of a Computer Scientist is $131,000 while a Computer Engineer’s average salary is $128,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer-science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. This is a great time to break into this business as you will be in demand.

If you want to major in computer science this list of schools will get you started, 2023 List Of Best Colleges For Computer Science Majors.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Majors

STEM majors will stand the test of time. They have strong employment growth in all fields. With technology changing at such a fast rate it’s smart to pursue a degree that’s in a field of cutting-edge innovation. I encourage you, with each of the above majors to look through the fields of study and see what’s the best fit for you. Look at the required classes.

If there are a few courses like calculus, data structures and algorithms, operating systems, coding, or physics that you think will be difficult, create a plan. Don’t take all the difficult classes in the same semester, take them with easier courses. Make sure you find a good tutor. Above all, don’t stress out, mentally prepare for the extra time and effort you are going to need to pass the class. And if you happened to fail the class, it’s not the end of the world.


Sensei Side Note:

There are several different acronyms that refer to Computer Science and Computer Engineering. It can get a little confusing when searching for majors or when job hunting. Here are a few of the more common: CompScience vs. CompEngineering, CpS vs. CpE, and CS vs. CE/CEN.