Dear Mentor:

How different is computer engineering from computer science?

I would like to know how different is a Master's in computer engineering from a Master's in computer science. Further I'd like to know the course contents for both these streams and whether it is necessary to have a science background. I've done my Master's in computer management for 2 years now and would like to study further. However I do not have a science background. I'd also like to know which reputed institutes offer the above mentioned courses in India & abroad. Thanks.

Tell Me All, India

Dear Tell Me All:

The Master's in computer engineering and computer science are quite different. Let us begin with the definition of engineering. Engineering is the application of science for the design, building, and use of machines. For example, electrical engineering deals with electrical machines, and computer engineering deals with computing machines.

The programs for the study of computers basically come in two flavors: computer engineering and computer science. The two fields overlap but the basic difference is that computer engineering has a greater focus on the computer hardware and computer science has a greater focus on computer software. Either way, you would work a lot with computers.

Computer hardware is the physical computers and computing machines. Thus, computer engineering deals with computer design. You would study the design, construction, and testing of computing machines and systems. You would also learn computer communications and networking, including the Internet. You would also learn computer software, but not to the extent you would learn if you were pursuing computer science. This is where the overlap with computer science comes in.

Computer software refers to the programs that make the computer hardware function. Windows 98 is an example of a program, called the operating system, which makes your PC behave in a particular way. Microsoft Word, Netscape Navigator, and ICQ are examples of programs, which are also called applications. Applications exploit the behavior of the computer, after the operating system has been installed, to perform certain functions in a particular and desired fashion. Computer programs are written in many languages, such as C++, Visual Basic, Java, etc. A computer science program will teach you algorithms and techniques for creating these applications. You will also learn some of the basics of computer hardware, which is thus an overlap with computer engineering. But your main interaction with computers will be more as a user and code developer than as a builder of physical devices; that is, you will be trained to be a programmer, not a manufacturer.

Due to the nature of the programs, the requirements for pursuing a Master's in computer engineering and computer science are quite different. For an MS in computer engineering, you need a 4-year bachelor's degree in computer engineering or related field. The MS in computer science in the US requires a bachelor's degree or a combination of Bachelor's and Master's for a 4-year college studies in any discipline. Typically, if such education were not in computer science, you would be required to do one additional year of studies. This "pre-MS" is focused on learning the basics of computer science, before you can start taking classes in the formal MS computer science program. This is general guidance; however, each school has its own unique entrance requirements and program. You should visit its website or study its prospectus to learn the specifics.

The iMahal Education Section offers lists of colleges and universities in various countries. It also includes colleges rankings. You may wish to use the iMahal College Finder to identify colleges that best match your performance and personal needs.

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