Computer engineering and computer science have a lot of overlapping characteristics, but the major difference is found in how the obtained skills are used. While computer engineering focuses more on hardware and electronics, computer science focuses on computer programming and software design. Both areas involve the study of advanced mathematics, physics and programming, but computer engineers are more likely to use those skills to build hardware than to build programs. Computer scientists, therefore, use their knowledge to understand how programs and operating systems work and how to create better software solutions for hardware.
Students in computer engineering and computer science degree programs take several courses that overlap between the programs. Both programs usually require multiple calculus, linear algebra, physics, computer architecture, networking and programming classes. The major difference is that computer science students take many more classes in software design, data algorithms and operating systems than computer engineering students do. Computer engineering students take several courses in electronics, artificial intelligence, digital logic circuits and digital hardware, and they tend to study more physical concepts. Both computer engineering and computer science students usually end their studies by completing a major project that demonstrates their learned skills.
Computer engineering involves a much more physical approach than computer science does. Computer engineers build computer networks, assemble hardware and embed computer systems into many kinds of objects. They might assemble circuit boards or even work in a lab to find a way to make computers more efficient or more portable. Computer engineers might also work with computer scientists when scientists are creating the programs that will be used with the systems computer engineers create. A small difference between the programming used in computer engineering and computer science is that engineers might create the program that makes the system work correctly and let the computer scientists create various programs for the main operating system.
A computer scientist focuses more on the abstract details of software engineering but also has much of the hardware knowledge that computer engineers have. They know how hardware and software work together and know how to design programs that take advantage of the hardware's features. When creating their programs, computer scientists use their knowledge of numerical analysis and algorithms to ensure that a program computes its values correctly. They create software patches, complete programs and even entire operating systems, and usually work on a team within a company that includes software engineers and other computer scientists.