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Computer Science or Software Engineering?

  1. Dec 12, 2012 #1
    Im looking to do a masters program. Im sort of torn between computer science and software engineering. Im interested in software engineering but Im wondering if computer science would be more reputable and give me more job options. Im looking to get a job in either the space or defense industry. Could someone please help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2012 #2


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    Hey cgoetz86.

    As an aside, have you found out about getting clearance for your work?

    Can you also find projects where defence sponsors your work (if it includes a thesis component)?
  4. Dec 26, 2012 #3
    No I havent found out about a security clearance. Im actually just researching the field right now. I dont have any formal training in computer programmer, however I already found out from the head of the department at the school I am planning to attend that wont be a problem. I just have to four or five pre requisite courses.
  5. Dec 26, 2012 #4
    In Computer Science you will study the theory of computation, algorithms, data structures, complexity, and quite a bit of maths. Software Engineering is more focused on program design and architecture. You will learn programming if you take either course, but neither of them focus on it particularly. You will also touch on some SE in your CS course, and vice versa. In my experience, you are given enough background in a couple of programming languages that you can continue to learn on your own, and your formal studies then focus on theory.

    I just finished a CS undergrad, and most of programming time was spent with C doing fairly low-level things. We programmed a lot of algorithms: searches, sorts, some system programs, database joins, combinatorial stuff, and lots of graphs and trees and hashtables and various other data structures.

    In terms of purely instructional programming courses, learning the syntax, making a few toy programs I took 2 Java courses and 1 C course. The rest of the programming was taught in the context of another subject, for example we learned an assembly language for my computer organization course. Most of my C was learned in algorithms and database theory courses. I picked up more advanced HTML, PHP and JavaScript in a web programming course, and I learned an interesting AI language called JACK that compiles down to Java bytecode in my final year.

    I took 2 SE courses and we learned UML, various architectures and design patterns and some software packages like more advanced IDEs, version control and project management applications.

    Then I had 2 maths courses and a couple of programming electives and a major, which in my case was 4 more maths courses.

    The Software Engineering students took 2 or 3 more advanced SE courses and instead of the maths, low level CS stuff, database and AI courses they have a 1 year industry placement where they work as an intern, which is obviously useful and something I feel the lack of now that I'm applying for jobs - although, I do enjoy all the CS stuff I learned and I'm sure I'll find a job soon enough.

    For a job in Space or Defense, I think CS and maths is probably a better background to have, but you still learn some or even most of that stuff with a SE degree, depending on the university you attend as these courses vary a bit from one to another.

    I've rambled, sorry for the wall of text!
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