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I'm asking here so since you all have experience in or around game programming, that's what I want to do, and I’m trying to find as many options as I can before my senior year, which is next year. So do you have any opinions on the matter of which would give me a better education in programming?

Please no talking about anything other than the two degrees because I know of game programming degrees out there but I like to see which of these would provide the best alternate choice.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Josh Petrie Jun 28 '13 at 14:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

"Which is better" is a very subjective question, especially since many of these degree programs can vary somewhat in their composition. Additionally, opinions are not what we want our answers to be based on here (see the faq) for more, and finally, there isn't very much here that is specific to game development. Consider re-wording your question to eliminate those characteristics. –  Josh Petrie Jun 28 '13 at 14:25
@JoshPetrie The question is from 2010 :/ Probably better to protect then close. –  ClassicThunder Jun 28 '13 at 15:28
@ClassicThunder That would imply the question is desirable for the site; protection is for good questions that we want good answers to (as opposed to spammy or trivial answers). This question is asking a lot of things that don't have clear objective answers and aren't particularly on-topic anyway. –  Josh Petrie Jun 28 '13 at 15:35
@JoshPetrie If all of the old questions are going to abide by the current rules you have a ton of clean up on your hands. Make more sense to me to accept the desision to close or not made when the question was asked. –  ClassicThunder Jun 28 '13 at 15:38
An answer was posted to this question two hours ago, which bumped it to the front page, that's the only reason it got any visibility. –  Josh Petrie Jun 28 '13 at 15:41

8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Since you're asking on the game development forum, I'm assuming you're interested in a game development career. Both programs would be fine. They have some overlap, but they also would lead you in different directions.

A traditional computer science program is aimed at the more theoretical aspects of computing. You'd generally work in more traditional languages (C/C++/Java) and you'd spend a lot of time contemplating data structures, algorithms, and efficiency. CS majors typically are required to take a great deal of Math and Science. (I encourage our students to get a Math minor, because they're only one course away by the time they take our requirements.) The focus on math and theory are good preparation for certain kinds of game programming (say building game engines and creating lighting models.)

Software engineering has a different focus. Software engineering programs are typically more focused on business applications. The emphasis is on working with large teams of developers and building large software projects. Games are a form of business application, so the skills would be applicable.

Plenty of CS majors move into software engineering as they gain experience, but fewer people seem to move into CS after they've studied software engineering.

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The best way I have had the difference described to me is this: Computer scientists tell you how you can do something, while Software engineers tell you what you need to do. Its not a perfect analogy, obviously, but it illustrates the main difference between the two disciplines. –  Chewy Gumball Nov 12 '10 at 6:41
Yeah thanks for reminding about saying that I was interasted in it. My mom wanted me to go to bed and I wanted to type it real quick. –  Shadow wolf Nov 12 '10 at 15:02
And also what your saying, in the last paragraph, is that Software engineering kinda of gives you a overlay of what you need from computer science? –  Shadow wolf Nov 12 '10 at 15:04
I actually think it goes the other way (though I'm biased - I'm a CS teacher) CS gives you more than adequate preparation for SE after you have some experience. It doesn't seem to go the other way very often. –  Two pi Nov 13 '10 at 3:00
Ok I see what you mean now. –  Shadow wolf Nov 15 '10 at 0:45

Both will give you a good education in programming. The primary difference is that Comp Sci will enable you to solve problems that no one else can, whereas Soft Eng is geared more towards delivering products to customers.

Both are necessary for good development, and will round out a good dev team. It depends on whether you are more science minded (answer questions) or engineering minded (design solutions).

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Computer Science and Software Engineering should be different courses of study, but you'll find that most colleges only offer one. Most schools only offer a Computer Science program, which is essentially combining the two.

I attribute this to the relative youth of computer science as an area of study. Just a decade or two ago most Universities didn't have a computer science departments. The computer scientists where just part of the mathematics department.

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Often, Software engineering is considered a discipline within computer science. (It is in our program.) As I've said in my other post, CS folks often also move into SE. –  Two pi Nov 13 '10 at 3:02

The question that should really make your decision is "which is the better school?" When I'm reviewing resumes, I typically consider CS and SE degrees to be pretty much equivalent. I know the curricula differ, but not in any standard way between schools, and a high GPA in either degree serves the same purpose of imbecile-filtering.

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I point you to my popular answer in the CS vs. Game Dev degree question.

Basically I feel it really doesn't matter all that much as to which degree you choose. Pick whichever one has courses that seem most interesting to you, take advantage of electives in your major that seem pertinent (i.e. algorithms, numerical analysis, etc) and learn game specific programming or do some mod work on the side.

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The answer will depend on the school it is being offered at. My university offered both programs, but the software engineering major focused on embedded systems design. That meant a number of traditional programming and design course as well as some electrical engineering courses too.

The computer science major had two emphases, one in general programming and design, and one that focused on accounting (a lot of COBOL).

So, in the end, when looking at a school, also look at the emphases offered and you can always ask the people there on career paths that the major can lead to.

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CS majors tend to have a better understanding of algorithms and other mathematical processes while being able to explain it to others. Engineering will actually put it to practical use and do things with it. The CS will spend two days hand making their own code. The engineer will take two hours copying it from a book of algorithms. The CS will either do research or try to go into an "engineering" job; however, the ENGINEER will always be better at an ENGINEERING job. The engineer will be making much more money. Too many people major in CS hoping to get a job right after graduation.. CS was originally made to go into grad school in Phd. Engineering was made to take the science and put it into practical use. Would you rather spend your life learning, or spend your life doing? That's what it comes down to. I haven't declared a major yet, but I'm probably going to declare computer engineering.

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Since you're not talking from personal experience, some citations and references would be appropriate. –  Alex M. Apr 9 '13 at 16:13
Computer engineering and software engineering are not the same thing at all. –  Leng Feb 26 at 19:38

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