Difference between Software Engineering and Computer Science

Key Difference: Software Engineering is the field of studying, devising and building a practical solution to a problem. The objective of a software engineer is to understand a problem within a computer and create software that eases the problem. Computer Science (CS or CompSci) is a field that deals with the scientific and practical approach to computing and all of its applications. A computer scientist focuses on the theory of computation and its applications.

The popularity of computers has resulted in greater interest in computer-based courses. These include dividing the computer into hardware, software, programming and many other fields. These courses divide the many different aspects that make a computer. Software Engineering (SE) and Computer Science (CS) are two different fields that are used in computing. Many people that even perform jobs in SE field often attain CompSci degrees. Because of such instances, many people confuse both the branches.

Software Engineering is the field of studying, devising and building a practical solution to a problem. The objective of a software engineer is to understand a problem within a computer and create software that eases the problem. This could include either manipulating existing software or creating a new one from scratch. Software is required to make computer function. This job is mostly a team effort. Engineers group together with programmers in order to build a software that works with the system at hand.

Many subjects that are learned in SE is similar to the ones learned in Computer Science, but it also includes additional subjects such as requirements engineering, software architecture, software testing, and software deployment. Other areas that play an importance in this field include leadership, communication, time management, people management, etc. The engineers must plan out the best way to tackle the situation at hand and create a step by step process on how to accomplish this task. They may require to code in certain time, but most of the coding is done by programmers. A software engineer requires a background in software creation, programming languages, mathematics and computer hardware.

Software engineers when developing software go through a software process. This software process model is an abstraction of software process and is also known as process paradigms. The first published model for the software process is known as the Waterfall model. When a software is being made it must first be conceptualized on the paper, following which the program is designed and then asked to be written. The software then goes through vigorous testing and a soft release before it is made public. According to Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge, a widely accepted standard; software engineering can be divided into ten subdisciplines: Software requirements, software design, software construction, software testing, software maintenance, software configuration management, software engineering management, software engineering process and software quality.

Computer Science (CS or CompSci) is a field that deals with the scientific and practical approach to computing and all of its applications. Believe it or not, computer science came long before the development of computers. Computing was done since the time of the abacus. A computer scientist focuses on the theory of computation and its applications. The study of computer science began even before the development of the first computer; it started with the development of machines for calculations such as the abacus. When it was clear that the computer were being designed for more purposes than just normal mathematical calculations, the field of computer science was broadened to study the computer systems that we have today. The first accredited degree for computer science was offered by the University of Cambridge in 1953 in the UK and by Purdue University in 1962 in the US.

Computer science has more to do with theory of the computer and its computing abilites rather than hands-on applications. Computer science is basically the ability to solve a problem or getting the computer to do something without the help of a human. This field of data is not directly affected by the humans. Computing can also be done by hand and is used by many fields that are not related to primarily developing computers.

Scientists focus on developing algorithms that can create, alter and change the data depending on what they would like. The commands that the computer follows are done by certain algorithm that tells it what to do. Computer science can also be divided into two specializations: theoretical computer science and applied computer sciences.  The theoretical science focuses on the classical theory of computation, along with other more abstract, logical, and mathematical aspects of computing. The applied computer sciences cover topics such as artificial intelligence, computer architecture and engineering, graphic designing, computing science, etc. It deals with mainly applications or additional programs.

Computer science requires a strong mathematical and scientific background. Depending on colleges, the courses may vary in teaching subjects. While some collages prefer teaching theoretical aspect of computer science, others focus on advanced programming. Courses include Theoretical computer science, Theory of computation, Information and coding theory, Algorithms and data structures, Programming language theory, Formal methods, Concurrent, parallel and distributed systems, Databases and information retrieval, Artificial intelligence, Computer architecture and engineering, Computer graphics and visualization, Computer security and cryptography, etc.

The major difference between the two subjects varies depending on the people and who they look at it. While some claim that there is not difference between SE and CS, other claim that the differences are only limited to Software Engineering has a more practical approach, while Computer Science has a more theoretical approach. Computer Science has a lot to do with how the computer functions and which algorithms will provide what result. This basically tells the computer what you want it do with data that is being inputted. Now, software engineering deals mostly with software and how it can be designed to make systems more user friendly or software that would solve problems automatically.

Image Courtesy: my.stdirectory.sg, nytimes.com

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