Comparing Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Historically, the discipline of computing draws its roots from two separate disciplines:

  • Electrical engineering: the development of devices that depend on electricity and magnetism
  • Mathematics: the study of the properties and interactions of idealized objects, such as numbers and symbols

Computing lies at the intersection of these two disciplines; it is the study of a particular class of electrical devices (i.e. computers) which can perform mathematical, logical operations (i.e. software).

The computer engineering and computer science programs have a common core of classes. Students in both programs study programming, the design of digital systems, computer architecture, and operating systems, as well as a solid foundation in mathematics, science, and general education.

The computer engineering program emphasizes the design and development of physical computer systems. In addition to a common engineering core, students in computer engineering study topics such as the analysis of electrical circuits, and electronics, with an emphasis on electronic and digital design.

The computer science program emphasizes the design and development of software and software systems. Students in computer science study topics such as algorithms and data structures, compiler designs, database systems, software engineering, networking, and the theory of computation.

Both programs prepare students for work in the computer industry, though with emphasis on different subjects. Students should select the program which fits their skills and interests best. Both programs offer minors, so students may take additional courses in these areas and have it designated on their transcript.