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Computer Engineering vs Computer Science

  1. Jul 18, 2012 #1
    This question has probably been asked numerous times on this forum. I've tried searching those related threads but haven't really found the answers I need. I will be attending a 4 year university in California and I am stuck between these two majors and am not sure what suits me:

    http://catalog.csus.edu/12-14/programs/csc.html#Faculty [Broken]
    http://catalog.csus.edu/12-14/programs/cpe.html#Faculty [Broken]

    I've been incredibly interested in computers since I was young but there's just one problem... I really do not like math, or should I say I struggle in it quite often. Some may say that if I'm not interested in math then I should just disregard the computer route as my major, but I strongly desire for my major to be something computer related. Right now I'm leaning towards Computer Science because of it's vast amounts of opportunities after getting a BS degree, and the fact that it requires less mathematical courses than Computer Engineering.

    Can someone outline the key basics of each major? Which is more likely to have a better salary? What should I do?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2012 #2


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    Hey unilliterate and welcome to the forums.

    The computer engineering degree will have a tonne more required mathematics than the computer science degree. Engineering requires physics and physics is basically applied mathematics in the purest sense. Computer science theory is also math but its a different kind of mathematics (which you will learn when you do discrete mathematics).

    You will have to do some mathematics by doing Computer Science, but you won't become a mathematician as a result: the focus is completely different.

    Also what I imagine will happen, is that by coding you will understand mathematics in a different way since you will be writing code to implement various algorithms and data structures which can be analyzed mathematically: you won't see your code as math, but in some sense it will be.

    The other thing that you should tell us is the kind of work you are thinking of pursuing: you may change your mind but it's good to get an idea of where you are heading.

    There are many different kinds of programming for example: you get scientific computing, business applications (involving lots of database work), web-applications (web-page creation, tool and app creation, dynamic web programming), games programming, mobile computing (like iOS, Android stuff), network programming, theoretical analysis (the theory side of creating algorithms and testing them in say a software company like Google or Microsoft or in a university), and others.

    Just a quick note though: if you want to become a games programmer, you should double major in mathematics and computer science: games programming for the most part (especially the 3D stuff) is applied mathematics.
  4. Jul 18, 2012 #3
    Hey there unilliterate!

    I am a 3rd year Computer Engineering student so hopefully I help you make a decision.

    Computer Engineering does require more math than Computer Science, but that is not to say that Computer Science math is any easier. It is pretty rigorous in its own light when it comes to programming. It is very logical and when dealing with algorithms, it just goes crazy.

    As for opportunities, you shouldn't worry. Both Computer Science and Computer Engineering (any engineering really) is in demand right now.

    One thing that separates Computer Science from Computer Engineering is that Computer Engineering deals more with programming and software. Computer Engineering is more hardware oriented. Meaning you will deal more with circuits and such. Computer Engineering is more closer to Electrical Engineering than Computer Science.

    I wish you luck!
  5. Jul 19, 2012 #4
    You're debating between computer engineering and computer science. Does your school offer a major in information sciences or information technology? To echo what chiro said, for better advice you'll need to try to tell us what you're looking for.
  6. Jul 21, 2012 #5
    They both contain lots of mathematics, if you really don't like math I would suggest studying software engineering, or computer information systems. Computer science, is extremely rigorous in math once you do true computer science stuff, complexity theory, theory of computation, and algorithm design are some minor examples.

    That is not to say you can't study computer science without taking the math heavy courses, many people do and they end up as software engineers with a degree in computer science. You will have to take at least discrete mathematics and basic algorithm courses.

    However if you avoid the mathematics heavy courses, your missing the entire point of computer science. If you really just want to produce software, become a software engineer.

    Computer Science is not the same as being a programmer or a software developer. Many people who do those jobs do have computer science degrees but rarely would you call them a computer scientist.
  7. Jul 24, 2012 #6
    I would imagine it depends on the school, but for Sac State Computer Engineering is considered a more challenging degree by employers. Basically, with a Computer Engineering degree you can go after all the same jobs as a computer science major, but you can ALSO go after more hardware oriented jobs that deal with computers. Intel, in Folsom, for instance, tends to hire more Computer Engineering grads into better jobs than computer science grads.

    Bottom line, though, is choose what you really enjoy, because if you like something, you'll be more likely to be good at it, and that is what really matters.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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