Computer Engineering vs. Computer Science: Education, Job Outlook & Salary


Are you one of those people who is constantly in awe when thinking of the pervasiveness and significance of computers in today’s society? Who can blame you? Compare the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) device from 1946, which occupied over a thousand square feet and weighed almost 50 tons, with today’s computers that can be just a few cubic millimeters in size. It is fascinating to think about the development of hardware and software, how they operate, the design, and much more.

With the continuous development of technology, computer devices, and systems, there are many distinctive disciplines that one can pursue as a career. Among the most popular ones are computer engineering and computer science. Are you confused about which one to pick? Then continue reading as we compare computer science vs. computer engineering to determine the best choice for you.

What is Computer Engineering?

Computer engineering is part of applied sciences that cultivate and use knowledge to unite hardware with software through electrical engineering and computer science elements. The primary responsibility of this branch of engineering is to design and strengthen the hardware and software in computer-based systems, ranging from general personal computers to systems present in appliances or vehicles.

Computer engineering is also crucial for today’s use of computers since it helps create operating systems that serve as a bridge between hardware and software. Nowadays, computer engineering is applied and found in various industries and fields, including manufacturing, robotics, transportation, and other areas that use automated computer systems.

Studying Computer Engineering

To join the field of computer engineering as a professional, you will need to be well trained and equipped with knowledge of programming languages and hardware. Generally, the minimum requirement for computer engineers is a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. However, some employers also seek to find professionals who have a master’s degree under their belt.

BA in CE

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, you will have a broad understanding of hardware, various programming languages, theories of computing, design, and software engineering, among many other aspects. Generally, some typical courses you are obliged to follow when enrolling in a computer engineering BA program include:

  • Computer Graphics and Visualization
  • Engineering Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry
  • Graph Theory
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Computer Architecture
  • Data Mining
  • Software Operating Systems
  • Programming Languages
  • Database Applications

Typically, it takes around four to five years to accumulate the required 120-150 credits and graduate from a computer engineering bachelor’s degree program. However, depending on the university and the study modes they offer, you can shorten or extend the duration of such a program.

MSc in CE


Suppose you are seeking a promotion or want to apply to more specialized, lucrative positions in the computer engineering field. In that case, you should consider obtaining a master’s degree in computer engineering. Such a program can help you advance your knowledge and skills through a more in-depth approach to subjects related to computer engineering. Some advanced courses you can expect to encounter in a master’s program include:

  • Computer Architecture
  • Operating System Design
  • Performance Evaluation of Computer Systems and Networks
  • Advanced Web Design
  • Software Engineering Methodologies
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Internet Programming and Tools
  • Network Security
  • Computer Networks Engineering and Management

To prepare for management and other high-paying positions, you need to complete a master’s degree by earning around 30 credits. Generally, full-time students complete the program in two years, whereas it can take up to four years for part-timers.

Employment Outlook for Computer Engineers

Reports show that computer engineering is expected to experience a 2% growth from 2020 to 2030. Although this percentage is lower than the average for all occupations, around 4500 job openings are projected each year. So, if you are determined, you can still make it in the computer engineering market.

Salary Prospect for Computer Engineers

In the United States, the average salary for a computer engineer is estimated to be $81,866 per year. The lowest registered salary is $60,733 per year, whereas the highest salary reaches $127,949 per year. If you want to be part of the higher end of the spectrum, it is best to pursue a graduate degree, such as a master’s in computer engineering.

What is Computer Science?

As Edsger W. Dijkstra, a Dutch computer scientist, said, “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”

Although the name might suggest otherwise, as an academic discipline, computer science is much more than just the science of computers and computation. It also focuses on studying information, automation, algorithms, and their implementation in various systems. So, computer science is a term that refers to a field of study centered on the theoretical and practical aspects of computational processes, hardware, and software. The advancements made in this area have completely transformed and improved businesses, healthcare, education, and how we generally go about in our everyday lives.

Studying Computer Science

Similarly to computer engineering, to become a professional in computer science, you need to follow the general academic path of at least obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science. If you want to raise chances of employment and receive better compensation for your work, then a master’s degree is the way to go.

BA in CS

A bachelor’s degree in computer science will equip you with a general understanding of data structures, computer architecture, programming, and algorithms. This degree will help you dive into the field of computer science via entry-level jobs. You will have gained and developed the necessary skills and theoretical knowledge to fulfill the responsibilities that accompany such roles through the diverse curriculum of the BA program. Some of the courses you will follow and learn from are:

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  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Graphics
  • Systems and Visual Analytics
  • Computer & Network Security
  • Computing Systems
  • Information Management & Analytics
  • Human-Centred Computing
  • Software Theory
  • Computer & Network Security

Generally, you need to dedicate around four years to your studies to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. The duration can differ if you utilize another study mode, such as pursuing an accelerated program or a part-time one.

MSc in CS


A master’s degree in computer science offers you the opportunity to do an in-depth analysis of the fundamental areas of the field. A bachelor’s degree helps build a general understanding of computer science, whereas the master’s degree goes in detail into its main domains, including programming, mathematics, database administration, etc. Once you complete the master’s program, you will most likely move to higher positions and enjoy the benefits of promotion. Although curriculums vary from the school, some characteristic courses you can expect to follow in the master’s program include:

  • Advanced Software Development
  • Programming Languages
  • Building Scalable Distributed Systems
  • Information Science & Management Information Systems
  • Advanced Computer Systems
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Foundations of Cryptography
  • Theory of Computation
  • Cloud Computing

A master’s degree in computer science typically takes around two years to complete for full-time students. You will have to earn 30-45 credits throughout those two years or do so in less time through some other mode offered by the school.

Employment Outlook for Computer Scientists

According to reports, employment in the computer science and information technology professionals is projected to reach a 13% job growth from 2020 to 2030. This percentage is much higher than the average for all occupations, with about 667,600 job openings.

Salary Prospect for Computer Scientists

According to recent data, the average salary for computer science professionals in the US is $119,537 per year. The lowest salary associated with entry-level roles is around $60,000 per year, whereas the highest salary earned by the top senior professionals is $149,823 per year.

Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering: What’s the Difference?

To summarize what has been said so far, computer engineering and computer science are interrelated yet very different. The two deal closely with computer devices and systems through hardware and software, but their focus and application differ. While computer engineering deals with building hardware and incorporating software, computer science focuses on creating algorithm models that help with problem-solving.

According to this comparison, there is a more remarkable similarity when analyzing computer science vs. software engineering. As a component of computer engineering, the latter is more preoccupied with the software, its implementation, and maintenance.

Of course, there is also a significant difference when looking at the curriculums, job prospects, and salaries for each career option. However, you should always consider these elements after thinking about which sounds more enjoyable and exciting overall.

Final Thoughts

Now that we went through the essential characteristics of pursuing computer science and computer engineering, compared the two, and even briefly discussed software engineering vs. computer science, it is time to choose. Hardware or software? Computer engineering or computer science? 1 or 0? You decide!

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