Is Computer Science Engineering?

Is Computer Science Engineering

For the uninitiated, it may seem like computer science and computer engineering are one in the same. But they actually are completely different disciplines.

Both stem from differing backgrounds. Computer science comes from a mathematics background, while computer engineering is considered by many to have stemmed from (and even still belong to) electrical engineering.

There are many more differences between the two disciplines that are very intriguing, and both are very needed in our daily life. Read on to learn more about computer science.

Computer Science: A Bit Misunderstood

Background on Computer Science

Computer science varies from computer engineering in many ways. Computer science focuses more on computer systems rather than their hardware.

This means that as a computer scientist, you will be delving into the world of software, and dealing with their theories and designs, making them run well via a program rather than with physical hardware.

Computer science also has those who practice it working for the development and the application of said systems, systems which we use in our everyday life and which utilize the hardware of a computer to run.

Computer engineers, on the other hand, focus more on the physical aspect of computers. Constructing and focusing on the hardware of a unit rather than the programs that the unit will utilize to function.

Although both disciplines work in very close accord with one another, they focus on very different aspects of computers and deal in different means of getting computers to function.

Those who decide to enter the field of computer science will find themselves possibly manufacturing artificial intelligence or networks to be used by various corporations and companies around the world.

Starting out as a branch of math, computer science focuses more on the theories behind what makes computers function. Their counterparts, computer engineers, focus more on the physical units themselves, worrying more about getting them powered rather than making them actually compute.

It began as its own discipline way back in the 1960s, decades before any common digital computer ever came into existence. 

Computer scientists utilize binary code, or digits, which is the basest unit of a computer’s storage of data and how it transmits messages.

They do not deal much in the design of circuits, as this is the work of electrical engineers, but instead work to get the signals sent through these circuits to turn into a language that computers can read and understand.

What Makes Computer Engineers Different from Computer Scientists?

While a computer science specialist will focus more on software and programs that will run on the physical hardware of a computer, a computer engineer works to craft that piece of hardware.

Computer engineering is actually quite interesting in that it combines some aspects of computer science with that of electrical engineering.

While they won’t be doing the exact work of either of those two disciplines, they do borrow many aspects and teachings from them. 

For example, computer engineers will need to have the same type of analytical mindset and problem-solving attitude that a computer scientist needs, even if they are working in different specializations.

Computer engineers also use mathematics to great extent, but their mathematics differs from that used in computer science. 

Rather than focus on possibilities and abstract equations, computer engineers deal more in solid evidence and physics, which will make the piece of equipment function as intended.

And as stated earlier, while computer science will handle more of how a piece of technology will “think”, computer engineering focuses more on simply constructing the said technology to be a readily available piece of hardware.

So, in layman’s terms, you may think of computer engineers building the “body” or the shell of the technology, while those in computer science are responsible for making the “brain” of the technology, or what makes it really function.

Computer Science and Computer Engineering: Working Hand-in-Hand

While computer science is not a genuine branch of engineering like some may think, it does contribute its existence to engineering in some way.

If computer engineers did not construct the physical technology that we utilize in our everyday lives, computer science would have no place to function.

Being responsible for giving “life” to computer systems and programs is the work of a computer scientist, and they would not be able to do their job so well, if at all, were it not for the hardware provided to us by engineers.

Both of these disciplines are immensely important to our everyday lives, as they are what make factories function, and even something as mundane as our microwave work.

Closely working together with computer engineers, computer science specialists help to make our lives much better and constantly improve them daily.

One discipline without the other could not function in our current day. Computer science depends on computer engineering just as much as the opposite is true.


So, in the end, computer science is in fact, not actually a branch of engineering. That is not to say that it is to be looked down on in any way.

Although it may borrow some aspects from engineering fields and specialties, computer science deals in different types of mathematics entirely, and their aim is far different than that of a computer engineer.

While a computer engineer focuses on building a physical piece of technology or machinery, a computer scientist will aim to give that technology a “brain”, per se, and make it function as intended.

Computer science majors and those in the profession will aim to produce and create new systems to be used by computers, and software that can make processes much easier and more efficient than previous ones.

Hopefully, this article has helped to teach you the difference between these two very important professions. If you are interested in the field of computer science and wanted to learn more about what exactly it is, this should give you a good idea.

Or if you were just interested to know what exactly computer science is, just remember that it is not actually a part of engineering, but is its own field and specialization that deals more in mathematics, the abstract sort, that focuses on building systems and software for computers.

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is a writer for HKS Siblab, an education and business blog. He has a MSc in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics from the University of Hertfordshire and has been working in the cyber security industry since 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar and spending time with his family.

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