1.3. Software EngineeringΒΆ

Software engineering is concerned with developing and maintaining software systems that behave reliably and efficiently, are affordable to develop and maintain, and satisfy the requirements of the users. It has developed to meet the needs of industry for graduates capable of working in teams on large software systems.

There is significant overlap in the skills required in SE and CS - both require a strong foundation in programming fundamentals and some knowledge of computational theory. Where the two disciplines differ is their focus after that. While Computer Science is concerned about learning how to use computation to solve new problems in many different areas, Software Engineering is more concerned with mastering a specific set of skills required to design and develop reliable software projects. If you need someone to design a new way for computers to render more complex graphics in video games or solve new problems in computational biology, you want a computer scientist. If you want someone to help build a new application that is going to be a commercial project and be used by thousands of consumers, you probably want a software engineer.

Typical careers:

  1. Software Developer


A Software Engineering degree will have many of the same programming courses as a CS degree along with the same basic theory classes and supporting math. However, the junior and senior years, while a CS student might take a wider range of more theoretical classes, a SE student will have coursework focused more narrowly on topics like designing and testing software, managing projects, and using industry standard tools.

Although some schools offer degrees specifically in Software Engineering, at most schools it exists as a specialization within the computer science department. Someone who knows they want to become a working software developer thus would earn a CS degree, but focus on the Software Engineering related courses instead of picking a more theoretical area to specialize in.

Knowledge Domains:

This diagram illustrates the knowledge areas required in this field. A 5 represents a very high degree of required expertise while 1 represents a minimal amount.

Click a discipline label to enable or disable it in the visualization.
Materials on this page adapted with permission from from:
Association for Computing Machinery Curriculum Report
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