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What’s the difference between computer science and computer engineering?

At a glance

  • Computer science typically refers to how computers are used; computer engineering refers to how their systems are built.
  • Those who work in computer science should be familiar with programming, database management, systems management, network architecture and more.
  • Computer engineers typically design, test and optimize hardware, along with integrating systems, implementing updates and more.
  • Learn about online computer science and IT programs at University of Phoenix.

Computer science and computer engineering* both refer to broad computer and information technology disciplines. Although there is an overlap between the two, computer science typically refers to how computers are used, while computer engineering refers to how computers and their systems are built.

Computers and computer networks are ubiquitous today. They form the backbone of everything from modern entertainment to finance. That means understanding their opportunities and limitations is more important than ever. Here’s where to start.

*University of Phoenix does not offer a program that guarantees alignment with career requirements. 

Earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree.


What is computer science?

The field of computer science encompasses various career paths related to information processing and computation. This can include fields such as:

●      Network architecture

●      Database management

●      Machine learning

●      Natural language processing

●      Programming

●      Robotics

●      Cybersecurity

●      Systems management

These fields have small and large-scale applications, from a single network to broader global communications. Industries can use these applications for entertainment, communication, troubleshooting, research, task management and business development.

Computer science roles and responsibilities

Computer scientists’ roles and responsibilities depend on their position. Tasks they may encounter or are responsible for include:

●      Using programming languages

●      Managing networks

●      Reviewing data

●      Structuring data

●      Presenting data

●      Integrating data

●      Cleaning data

●      Developing algorithms

●      Building predictive models

●      Troubleshooting

●      Collaborating

●      Evaluating systems

●      Optimizing systems

●      Simplifying processes

●      Designing models

●      Conducting experiments

Gaining experience with these tasks can allow you to develop skills necessary for common careers in computer science, such as information technology. For example, careers in information technology include everything from consulting to in-house IT support to app development. 

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What is computer engineering?

Computer engineering is a branch of electrical engineering that deals with developing devices and systems related to computer systems. It can include more specific fields such as hardware development, systems integration and network engineering.

Often, positions in this field involve an ongoing development process related to the design, implementation, revision and optimization of devices and systems. Computer engineers typically implement and optimize processes in collaboration with computer scientists.

Computer engineering roles and responsibilities

Computer engineers’ roles and responsibilities depend on their job. Some everyday tasks they may handle are:

●      Designing hardware

●      Testing hardware

●      Analyzing the results of a review

●      Optimizing hardware

●      Integrating systems

●      Implementing updates

●      Collaborating with relevant professionals

Computer engineers work in various roles, with some responsible for larger applications and others focusing on more isolated tasks. For example, one computer engineer may oversee hardware integration with a corporation’s network, while another may build and update individual computer stations.

Degree programs to pursue computer science or engineering

Several degree options are available to develop skills relevant to the computer science and engineering fields. In fact, the skills needed for one are often transferable to the other. Computer science degrees, in particular, have wide applications in technology. That said, two particularly useful bachelor’s degrees for people interested in entering the computer technology industry are in computer science or information technology

Careers to pursue with a computer science degree

The computer science and computer engineering industries have many career opportunities, and the required skills often transfer between roles. Here are examples of some career paths to consider.  

Information technology analyst (IT analyst)

Information technology analysts (computer systems analysts) review procedures to provide reports and optimize performance. They conduct analyses using various information sources, such as direct reviews or input from end users.

Software developer

Software developers design and update software. Often, they work for larger organizations but can be employed at any scale. Depending on your career goals, you might approach your skill development and experience with opportunities ranging from hands-on experience to formal training in software development.

Application developer

Application developers design, create and update applications. Applications are software programs that are designed to operate on mobile devices. This software requires ongoing maintenance and regular updates to maintain quality.

Computer consultant

Computer consultants provide insight and advice about which devices and systems will best support needs. Large entities such as enterprise businesses or government branches typically hire computer consultants. A consultant may be employed for a one-time project or on an ongoing basis.

Technical consultant

A technical consultant advises on various technological processes and devices to achieve business goals. Typically, they conduct this work for larger organizations. They may consult on a one-time or ongoing basis. 

Computer scientists and engineers collaborate to ensure that computer processes are cohesive and efficient. Hardware and software systems must be designed with the other in mind and must be regularly reviewed and updated to function optimally.

Computer science and IT programs at University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix (UOPX) does not currently offer a computer engineering program. However, if you’re interested in pursuing a job in information technology or learning more about computer science, UOPX offers online degrees and certificates in the following fields of study:

  • Advanced Software Developer Certificate — Learn to design and implement software solutions in relation to project scope and stakeholder needs. Study multiple programming languages and software architecture principles while earning this certificate.
  • Associate of Arts in Information Technology — This program introduces you to information technology concepts and principles in programming, data analytics, cybersecurity and networking. Learn the essential foundation of technical skills for the IT field.
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science — This degree program teaches you how to apply information technology theory and principles to real-world business challenges. Advanced concepts in math, programming and computer architecture are covered.
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity — This program teaches top skills such as security policies, network security, information systems security and cybersecurity.
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science — Gain fundamental skills and knowledge to analyze, manipulate and process data sets using statistical software. Learn ETL (extract, transform, load) processes for integrating data sets for business intelligence and more.
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology — This program is designed to teach top skills such as business process, cybersecurity, information systems, operations and systems analysis.
  • Master of Information Systems — Go beyond building computers and managing your queues. Learn technical and leadership skills necessary for developing and managing information systems.
  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity — Gain a deeper understanding of cybersecurity and operations at an enterprise level. You’ll take just one 6-week course at a time, so you can balance work and life on the path to your degree.


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