Saleh Hamadeh's Blog

Sharing my knowledge, thoughts, and actions

12 Jan 2014

Computer Science VS Software Engineering

I could not count the number of times that I have been told, "You got accepted in Georgia Tech, and you are studying Computer Science. You must be crazy. Go major in some kind of engineering instead. Georgia Tech is one of the top universities in that." At the same time, I hear people praising a person at another university who is majoring in Software Engineering. The sad thing is, people do not know what any of these majors really is. They also do not know that Software Engineering and Computer Science are different words used to identify the same thing.

Using two different words to identify the same degree creates confusion and misunderstanding. What do you think is the more suitable word? Computer scientist or software engineer. To be able to answer these questions, let us consider what the words science and engineering.

What is science?

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, science is "knowledge about the world, especially based on examining, testing, and proving facts."

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, science is "knowledge about the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiments."

What is engineering?

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, engineering is "the work involved in designing and building roads, bridges, machines etc."

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, engineering is "the activity of applying scientific knowledge to the design, building and control of machines, roads, bridges, electrical equipment, etc."

What do Computer Scientists or Software Engineers do?

Computer scientists and software engineers build new things. They plan an application, a website, or a database and build that thing incrementally. Occasionally, they need the help of graphic designers and writers to make their products look good. Finally, they publish their product to the internet for end users to use it.

The answer

What do the steps above remind you of? They remind me of a civil engineer working on a skyscraper. They remind me of electric engineers creating escalators, lighting, and computers for a shopping mall. I believe that computer scientists should really be software engineers since they "design, build and control."

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