Software Engineering Degree vs. Computer Science DegreeSoftware Engineering Degree vs. Computer Science DegreeSoftware Engineering Degree vs. Computer Science Degree

Now more than ever, technology drives change across industries, intensifying the need for leaders with advanced skills who can manage computer systems and help businesses innovate. Candidates with in-demand expertise in computer programming languages and cloud computing, as well as in emerging areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, are poised to take on important jobs in this growing field.

The question is, which degree program will best prepare future technology professionals to succeed: a software engineering degree or a computer science degree? Students who understand the similarities and differences between these degree programs can make informed decisions about their career goals.

Definitions: Software Engineering Degree vs. Computer Science Degree

Software engineering and computer science degrees take unique approaches to computer programming and software development. Each offers specific technical acumen to students.

Software Engineering Degree

A software engineering degree program teaches students to apply engineering processes to computer software and hardware. With a focus on mathematics, modeling, and analysis, software engineering programs prepare students to build and manage computer systems.

Courses typically cover software design, engineering fundamentals, and software quality and security.

Computer Science Degree

A computer science degree program offers students comprehensive knowledge of computer theory, architecture, and applications. Covering both technical and abstract computing skills, this program offers courses in programming languages, computer architecture, data science, and algorithms.

In addition, computer science degrees typically explore emerging computer applications such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing.

Similarities Between Computer Science and Software Engineering Degrees

Computer science and software engineering programs both provide students with in-depth knowledge of basic computer architecture and software systems. Students develop the skills to design software and work hands-on with computer systems, using programming languages such as Java, Javascript, C++, Python, and SQL.

Graduates of either program might pursue careers as computer programmers, software developers, software engineers, computer information researchers, or computer systems analysts.

Differences Between Computer Science and Software Engineering Degrees

Computer science and software engineering degree programs differ in their approach to computer software.

Software engineering takes a more technical approach while computer science takes a more abstract, theoretical approach. Software engineers learn to use available tools and processes to design and maintain computer software. On the other hand, computer scientists learn to become leaders who develop and advance those tools and processes.

A software engineering degree focuses on the practical skills professionals need when designing and maintaining software systems. A computer science degree emphasizes computation theory and a wider range of subjects, including coding, algorithms, machine learning, database management, and information security.

Software engineering courses delve into the mathematical knowledge professionals need to build computer software. Meanwhile, computer science courses cover a wider range of subjects, such as machine learning, computer security, and artificial intelligence.

Both degree programs prepare students for careers in computer programming and software engineering. A computer science degree, however, can equip students to pursue a broader range of careers and leadership roles in fields such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, computer architecture, and project management.

Choose Your Career Path

Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program allows students to take a personalized approach to planning their education, with six concentration options in AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, data science, software development, and user experience. Students develop the practical and academic skills to pursue advanced leadership positions as technological innovators and change-makers. The modular curriculum adapts to the latest technologies and techniques, preparing graduates for relevant careers in this fast-moving industry.


Business2Community, “Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering: What’s the Difference?”

CNBC, “These Will Be the Top 10 Most Popular Tech Skills of 2020”

Forbes, “How Technology Is Driving Change in Almost Every Major Industry”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Research Scientists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers

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