Distinguishing Software Engineering from Computer Science

In today’s world, computers are an essential and inescapable part of our lives. However, we often overlook the inner workings of these familiar devices. Computer science is the theoretical foundation of computer systems, while software engineering is the application of those principles to solve problems and develop software solutions.

Computer Science

Computer science is the fundamental science of computing hardware and software. It provides insight into the mechanisms of both software and hardware components and the theoretical foundations of computation for implementation and application in computer systems.

Computer science consists of various major sub-disciplines. Theoretical computer science includes computational theory, information and coding theory, algorithms and data structure, and programming language theory. Applied computer science sub-disciplines are artificial intelligence, computer architecture and engineering, computer graphics and visualization, cryptography and computer security, computer networks, concurrent, parallel and distributed systems, databases and information retrieval, and software engineering.

Many of these sub-disciplines are based on mathematical theories, while some application aspects are connected to mechatronics and other applied sciences. Additionally, these sub-disciplines extend into minor study areas, such as automata theory, computability theory, complexity theory, cryptography, and quantum computing theory within the computational theory.

Software Engineering

Software engineering can be considered one of the major sub-disciplines of applied computer science. It focuses on building effective software systems using a rigorous engineering approach. It can be described as a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the design, development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches. There is no one accepted definition of software engineering, but an interpretation of its purpose.

Fritz Bauer defined software engineering as “The establishment and use of sound engineering principles in order to obtain economically developed software that is reliable and works efficiently on real machines.”

Software is not physical; it consists of logical entities working within a computer system. Therefore, it must be designed for optimal performance in both hardware and operational aspects. To achieve these goals, software engineers use development models. These models incorporate the main steps of software development, such as designing, coding, troubleshooting, and maintenance, into a cohesive framework that allows the systematic progress of the software throughout its life cycle.

Key Takeaways

  • Computer science focuses on the theoretical aspects of computing, both in software and hardware.
  • Software engineering focuses on the systematic development of software, with coding or programming being a key component.
  • Software engineering can be seen as an application of computational theory, where the most suitable algorithm is selected based on its complexity, a concept explained in computer science theory.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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