Dear Mentor:

How is software engineering different from computer science?

I'm much interested in computer programming and software development stuffs but I'm not sure which course I should select to further my studies. I know that there are computer engineering, computer science and software engineering, but what are the differences between 3 of them? I've read an article written by you stating that computer science is more focused towards software but what about software engineering?

Computer Confusion, Batu Pahat, Johore, Malaysia

Dear Computer Confusion:

You are probably referring to:

In these earlier columns, we addressed the similarities and differences between computer science and engineering. In a nutshell, computer science focuses more on programming and software and computer engineering focuses more on the hardware and systems design.

The fact is that software is becoming a larger part of computer systems. It is becoming complicated and requires large teams of programmers and years to develop. Consequently, the discipline of software engineering has emerged. Software engineering focuses on the design, analysis, and management of large-scale software systems. Some examples of specialized courses include: real-time systems, human-computer interaction, managing the software process, and the economic and organizational environment of software systems.

Here is another way to look at it:

  • Computer engineering is about building computers.
  • Computer science is about programming computers.
  • Software engineering is about assembling large programs.

It is a simplistic view of the differences, but it might help you envision the type of training and work involved in each discipline.

Which one of the three programs - computer science, computer engineering and software engineering - is right for you depends on your personal goals, ambitions, and interests.

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