Institutes of higher education still disagree with what is meant by many technical degrees, such as computer and software engineering. These fields, along with information technology, information systems, and computer engineering, are simply too new. Therefore, what one school or employer perceives as a requirement of computer science may be interpreted by another as software engineering.

There are many similarities between the two fields. Both are expected to understand how computers work, how programs are structured, and what the user is entitled to expect. However, computer science is usually supervised by the mathematics department, while software engineering is normally included in the engineering school.

In the early days, computers were programmed to perform a certain function. The user did little more than press a button. Allowing more user control led to the development of programming languages ​​and compilers to translate “normal” language into computer language. The tapes or punch cards allowed the user to write their own routines. The actual keystroke was often performed by someone else, usually someone with administrative skills. An out of place period, a missing bracket, or a transposed letter meant the entire program would crash. Often there was no idea why, leaving the programmer to peruse the cards and the program.

Computer programming began to gain momentum with the development of the personal computer. Simplified languages ​​like BASIC gave the average user more control. A few minutes spent on a book allowed the user to start building rudimentary programs. Many times, however, a lack of understanding of what a computer could and could not do led to failure. This laid the foundation for the software engineer, who not only understands the program, but also the physical capabilities of the hardware.

One method of examining the differences between software engineering and computer science is to consider how most printers were controlled by early personal computers. In most cases, changing printer features such as font size, number of copies, or paper size requires entering the appropriate printer string in DOS. Today, these functions are controlled from an interface on the desktop. The user can enter the information in the software or in the printer dialog box. In a simplified statement, you could say that the creation of the dialogs and the code behind was provided by a software engineer. The computer scientist provided the printer’s ability to understand the commands and comply with them.

In the most basic terms, CS focuses more on the hardware, circuits, and networks involved. An SE is usually more concerned with creating a program that is efficient in terms of size and speed and optimizing the user interface. However, neither area has a patent in one area. Building a reliable and efficient network or computer requires understanding the demands that will be placed on it. To write a powerful and “bug-free” program you need to know how compilers work, what processor speeds mean, and how much memory is required.

With little standardization between universities, the quality of the degree can vary greatly. Some colleges require computer science students to take Microsoft Office as their first programming course. In some cases, this can be followed by Pascal, COBOL, or RPG, none of which are in high demand today. They can also teach Visual Basic, Visual C ++, or Visual J without first teaching the underlying language. Similarly, software engineers can graduate without a basic knowledge of wireless technology. Those seeking a degree, as well as employers, could best benefit from ignoring the title and examining the required courses.

Not many years ago, positions in computer science used to be filled by people with other degrees, such as electrical engineers. Software engineers used to be people with programming skills, many of whom had no degrees, but were self-taught. As technology became more complex, greater specialization followed. Only by considering the objective is it possible to differentiate between them. For example, if the goal is to produce the best game of all time, a software engineer is likely to be the one to overcome the challenge. However, if the goal is to produce the next generation of gaming systems, a computer scientist will likely make the biggest contribution.

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