This post will show you the differences between computer engineering and computer science and help you to decide which would be a better major for you.
At a glance:
|Ease of finding a job
|Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Embedded software engineer
Computer hardware engineer
|Difficulty of the
|Key things to note
|A very employable
High average pay.
High job satisfaction.
Can qualify you for many
roles as well as engineering
Lower predicted job growth
for computer hardware
engineering when compared
with software engineering roles.
|A very employable
degree with just a
bachelor’s degree. A
master’s degree can
help in obtaining more
The jobs typically pay
very well, have reasonable
hours and high satisfaction.
A good major if you are
interested in remote work.
Can give you access to
data science and
machine learning roles
if you choose the right
Source for computer science salary and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees and there are many similarities between them. Below are details about each major, their differences, and reasons to choose one or the other.
Details about the computer engineering major
Below are some of the key details about the computer engineering major.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering is $87,240. This makes computer engineering one of the best paying majors available. It is also roughly equal to the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. This could be because computer engineering involves many computer science classes allowing people with computer engineering degrees to qualify for software engineering roles.
According to the BLS, it is predicted that computer hardware engineering will only grow in demand by 2% by 2029.
This represents much lower job growth than for software engineering which is predicted to grow by 22%. This is probably because it is much cheaper to start up a software company as opposed to a hardware company. With that being the case, it would likely help you a lot to make sure to take a number of additional computer science classes in your electives.
Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering includes:
Embedded software engineer
Computer hardware engineer
Something to consider is that the more research-based roles will usually require at least a master’s degree.
Computer engineering includes a number of math classes including linear algebra, calculus, discrete math, and differential equations. Also, many of the electrical engineering classes can be difficult. This means that computer engineering is not an easy degree. When compared with computer science, you can expect computer engineering to be slightly harder because it is slightly more math-heavy.
Examples of the types of classes that you can expect to take can include:
- Calc 1,2, and 3
- Discrete math
- Differential equations
- Linear algebra
- Circuit analysis
- Introduction to electronics
- Digital electronics
- Signal processing
- Embedded systems
- Algorithms and data structures
However, the classes can differ a lot depending on the university. Some will require you to take more electrical engineering classes while other universities will require more computer science classes.
Things to consider
On average the required classes will be 50% electrical engineering and 50% CS. However, some universities will be much heavier on electrical engineering while others will be a lot heavier on computer science. It would help to consider what you are more interested in and to take that into consideration when applying to universities if you are not already in university. If you are already in university, you could still take electives from the side that you are more interested in. Alternatively, you could major in CS and minor in electrical engineering or major in electrical engineering and minor in CS.
While computer engineering is a degree that can qualify you for many jobs at just the bachelor’s level, a master’s degree can also help you a lot when getting more research-based engineering roles. If you are interested in the more research-based roles, it would help to consider whether or not a master’s degree would be worth it for you.
Details about a computer science major
Below are some details about a major in computer science.
According to Payscale, the average salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree in computer science is $85,235. This makes computer science one of the best paying degrees available right now. With that being said, some of these salaries may be slightly inflated since a lot of computer science jobs are in very high cost of living areas such as San Francisco.
Many of the alternative degrees to computer science, such as statistics or applied math, will also have high average salaries. However, not only is computer science one of the best-paying degrees, but it also puts you in a good position with just a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, many of the alternatives require a master’s degree to be competitive when seeking a job.
Also, many people that get alternative degrees to CS actually end up finding themselves in CS type roles. For example, it is not uncommon for applied mathematics or statistics majors to find themselves working in programming roles after graduating. This is why computer science can also be a very good minor.
Types of jobs the degree will qualify you for
There are many different types of jobs that a computer science degree will open you up to. These can include:
- Software engineer
- Database administrator
- Data scientist
- Machine learning engineer
- App developer
- Web developer
- Computer systems administrator
Most CS majors will end up taking jobs as a software engineer which is one of the highest-rated jobs available. When interviewing for these roles, you will be tested mainly on algorithms and data structures that you’ll learn about during your time in the major. Make sure to be very comfortable with algorithms and data structures when interviewing.
Data science is another career that is becoming popular among CS majors. If you want to get a job in data science, it would help to take classes in data analysis and machine learning, to learn Python programming, and to complete data science projects. A CS degree combined with classes relevant to data science should put you in a good position to get data science and software engineering jobs.
It would also help to try to get internships during the summer since that will also help you a lot in getting into big tech companies that have very high salaries.
How difficult it is as a major
Computer science can have some difficult classes. Most CS degrees will require you to take calculus 1,2, and 3; linear algebra; and discrete mathematics as well as a number of computer science classes that can be difficult. When compared with computer engineering, you can expect computer science to be slightly easier since computer engineering is slightly more math heavy.
Types of classes you will study
Some classes that you can expect to take include:
You can also expect to take some mathematics classes including:
If your university does not require that you take those math classes, I would strongly recommend that you take them as electives. This is because they are key classes for machine learning and, if you want to go to grad school, they will be important classes to have on your transcript.
Some classes that you might have the choice of taking could also include
Important things to be aware of when taking the degree
Before you start taking the degree, it would be very important to consider what you think you would like to do with the degree. By doing so you will be able to optimize your classes to be suited towards what you want to do after graduation.
If your goal is to get into data science or machine learning type roles, it would be important to make sure to take machine learning classes, to do machine learning projects, to take classes in data analysis and to take some statistics classes. It would also be important to make sure to take calculus and linear algebra as a freshman or sophomore if they are not required in your major.
Whereas, if your goal is to get a job as a software engineer, it would be more important to take classes that focus on algorithms and systems architecture type classes.
If you think that you want to go to grad school, it would be important to take up research opportunities and to take classes related to what you think you would like to research as a grad student. It would also be important to look at what classes graduate schools want to see when accepting CS master’s applicants.
More details about the computer science major
Differences between computer engineering and computer science
While both majors require a lot of math, computer engineering will generally require more math classes.
Also, computer engineering requires classes from electrical engineering. Whereas, computer science does not require any electrical engineering classes. However, computer engineering will require fewer computer science classes and is less focused on designing software.
Computer engineering can qualify you for more jobs since you’ll be eligible for engineering jobs as well as software engineering type roles. However, a CS major should qualify you for more software engineering type roles overall. With that being said, getting a minor in CS would likely be sufficient when combined with a computer engineering major.
Reasons to choose computer engineering
When compared with computer science, you can expect computer engineering to qualify you for slightly more jobs. This is because it requires you to take electrical engineering classes that you are not required to take with a computer science major.
Also, the jobs that a computer engineering degree can qualify you for tend to be very interesting jobs that have high levels of satisfaction.
Overall, if you have an interest in both computer hardware and software, a computer engineering degree will likely be the better option for you.
Reasons to choose computer science
If you are more interested in software, it is likely that a computer science degree would be more appropriate since it is more software focused.
Majoring in computer science should also make you more competitive for software engineering roles because it is more specialized towards software engineering. These roles are predicted to have strong growth in the coming years so this could make up for the engineering jobs you wouldn’t qualify for with a CS degree.
Also, a CS degree can be a good option if you are interested in remote work because you can work on software wherever there is an internet connection.
Overall, they are both two of the best degrees to get right now in terms of pay, job growth, and job opportunities. It would help to consider what you find interesting and what types of jobs you would be most interested in doing.