Computer Engineer vs. Software Engineer- Which is Better?

The tech industry offers many prospects for people looking to go into engineering. Knowing the difference between different tech-based engineering careers will help you choose the one that suits you best. Computer engineering vs software engineering are the two careers you will likely look into.

Engineering creates a bridge between science and technology and has many sub-disciplines and subfields, the leading ones being software engineering and computer engineering. Differentiating them can be challenging; in fact, they are usually interchanged.

However, these careers differ, and this article explains how computer engineering and software engineering compare. 

Who Is A Computer Engineer?

A computer engineer develops new technology by fusing computer science with electrical engineering. They are responsible for designing, creating, maintaining, and testing network, software, and hardware systems. Computer engineers work to ensure the developed technologies satisfy the client’s needs.

Who is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer designs, creates, maintains, and tests software applications. They work on various products, including games, business applications, and operating systems. A software engineer can either be a systems software developer or a software developer.

The work of software engineers usually entails collaborations which is why these professionals usually work in teams if they work in companies.

Computer Engineer Vs Software Engineer Compared

Before getting into deeper details, here is a summary of how computer engineering and software engineering compare.

 Computer EngineeringSoftware Engineering
DefinitionIt entails the study of practical and theoretical aspects of computer use and principles. It involves designing, creating, implementing, and monitoring hardware and software componentsIt features the design, maintenance, development, and testing of software applications
ScopeDeals with hardware and software aspectsDeals with software aspects
Depth of the FieldIt’s a broader domain that has many sub-disciplinesIt’s a narrower domain
Study Duration4 to 7 yearsAt least four years
Career ScopeWide career scope in various industriesWide career scope in various industries
SuitabilityIdeal for individuals who wish to explore domains such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and machine learningIdeal for individuals keen on front-and-back-end development, web design, and web development
Base Salary$76 554$92 218

1. The Scope

Computer engineering deals with hardware and software aspects. It uses a more general computer understanding, usually entailing practical and theoretical approaches, to create computer systems. On the other hand, software engineering focuses solely on software.

A computer engineer can choose to specialize in network engineering, hardware engineering, or software engineering, thus making them quite versatile. This also makes computer engineering a pretty broad field. On the flip side, software engineering is a much narrower field of study, equipping learners with the knowledge and skills to be software engineers.

2. Education

Typically, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field to become a software engineer or a computer engineer. However, some people create a career in any of these fields without going to university.

If you pursue a course in computer engineering, you will attend software classes focusing on hardware-related software such as operating systems and drivers. Moreover, you will learn how to build computers and how computer hardware functions. Electrical engineering and computer science departments usually teach computer engineering classes.

On the other hand, software engineering students take similar classes as computer science students. However, you will have additional courses handling topics such as software deployment, software testing, and software architecture. You will also take a software engineering capstone.

Computer engineering students continue taking science and math courses like they used to in high school. Moreover, software engineering students take math courses like algebra and statistics.

3. Career Outlook

Computer engineering applications span various industries, so a degree in this field allows you to work in different areas. You can become:

  • Database programmer
  • Hardware engineer
  • Software engineer
  • Database administrator
  • Help desk analyst
  • Systems analyst

Software engineers can also work in various disciplines and fields like healthcare and automotive. The interesting roles you can hold are:

  • Network architect
  • Computer programmer
  • Game developer
  • App Developer
  • Senior software developer
  • Web developer

4. Important Skills Required

A career in computer engineering or software engineering is competitive and technical, so you need certain unique skills to remain relevant in your industry. Below are some of the skills you should strive to possess.

  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Detail oriented
  • Computer networks and systems expert knowledge
  • Coding skills
  • Computer algorithms knowledge
  • Flexibility
  • A growth mindset and the zeal to keep learning
  • Logical reasoning and analytical skills

5. Income

Both professions pay well, but software engineering pays higher than computer engineering. The average annual base salary for a software engineer is $92 218, while that of a computer engineer is $76 554. However, you will earn more if you hold a more senior position and have more work experience.

Reasons To Become A Computer Engineer Vs Software Engineer

You must explore the benefits of pursuing a certain career before committing to it. Software engineering and computer engineering offer similar perks, so here are the advantages of getting into these careers.

1. High Salaries

You can make a decent income as a software engineer or computer engineer. The amount of money you earn will depend on your position, employer, location, work experience, and credentials.

2. Many Job Opportunities

The world heavily relies on computers and computer networks. Therefore, a career in computer engineering or software engineering accords you many opportunities. You can specialize in different aspects, such as computer systems and robotics.

3. Meaningful Work

In line with reliance on computers today, software engineers and computer engineers’ work impact the world positively. For instance, information systems have led to better diagnosis and treatment in the healthcare industry.

4. Travel Freedom

If you love traveling, consider consultancy in software engineering or computer engineering specializing in areas like security.


Computer engineers and software engineers are important and in demand. The choice between them will depend on your interest. Become a computer engineer if you enjoy working with hardware and physical systems. On the other hand, you are better suited for software engineering if you prefer building software and systems and working with data.

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