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Computer Science/Software Engineering Degree

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In about a month I am going to be a Senior in High School and time to pick a college to go to. Was wondering which degree do you believe is better? Computer Science or Software Engineering. I cant really tell the difference between the two but what I ultimately want to do is become a Game Programmer. I also plan on getting a Master in which ever degree I choose. For being a game programmer which do you consider better? Also what is the typical starting pay for someone with a Master in either degree? Thanks in advance.

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In my opinion SE is a part of CS. Also, I think a broader education is better because game development is such a wide field. Therefore I'd suggest CS. It will teach you basically how to anyalytically identify problems and design solutions to it, along with a number of default approaches and techniques in your toolbox. SE will teach you how to design well. However, if the CS course is good it will also involve SE and design will come with experience.

Greetz,

Illco

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Generally, Computer Science is more about theory and Software Engineering is more about application, but not always. The only way to really tell the difference is to look at the college's description and curriculum.

In the video game industry, the two degree are equivalent. Programmer salaries in the video game industry are typically lower than average, and getting a Master's degree probably won't have much effect.

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Computer Science is more broad than software engineering. Software engineering is a part of computer science, however, any accredited Computer Science program will also involve a course in Software Engineering. Computer Science is concerned with the theories and methods that underlie computers and software systems, whereas software engineering is concerned with the practical problems of producing software. With Computer Science I feel you can do much more with your degree.

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This question has come up a couple of times Supaflyfrank, could you get a course book from the college your looking at and list the classes that are different between the two programs?

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First of all, like everyone said what a university calls "computer science", "software engineering", and "computer engineering" can differ greatly. I got my bachelors in computer engineering at Purdue University last year, and for the past year I've been a master's student of computer engineering at UT Austin. Generally, I've seen computer engineering to be about computer hardware *and* software and how they are applied, and computer science is just software, a tiny smidgeon of hardware, and a bunch of mathematical theory. Choose your poison. [wink]



But first of all, hear me out. After I graduated high school I wanted to design games too. Sounds like the perfect job, right? Well from what I've read it's not. You have to put in countless hours of work each week (and if you work for EA you get no overtime). You might not even end up designing a part of the game you like (ie, you're writing level creation tools instead of game engines). You're so busy that you have no time for your loved ones, or for anything else you enjoy in life (possibly including playing games). IMHO, that kind of life style sucks. I like games (enough to design them), but I want to design the game that I want to design, and I don't want game design to control my life.


Having said that, I'm currently doing research on computer architectures and performance analysis, but I've been making a game on the side for almost a year now, and it's been a lot of fun with it. I wonder if as many "professional" game developers can enjoy it as much as I can (I'm lead to believe not). I'm not saying "don't become a game programmer", I'm just pointing out that it's possibly not the dream job you want. Study hard in college, but be willing to be flexible and don't ignore other paths in life by constantly telling yourself "I'm going to make games, nothing else!". Good luck [grin]

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I would say computer science but thats just me. I'm not sure what the starting pay would be though, maybe google could help with that.

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I would think that computational mathematics would be what your are looking for. Just a question for everone else what is computational mathematics oposed to computer science.

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Most colleges should have available, either online or as a book, a list of courses offered and the requirements for the different majors they offer. That's probably the best place to check. Like everyone has said, the different majors aren't totally standardized across the country (or world, for that matter). Take a look at the different requirements. Is it a lot of math? Is it a lot of classes that seem to deal with theory? Do you have classes available specifically about game programming, if that's the direction you want to take? See what list of requirements and offerings seems to be what you want to spend the next 4+ years doing. Or even better, talk to one of the professors at the university and see what they say about the program.

As for the starting salaries, I'm sure you can find specific data for game programmers if that's what you're really interested in on Google. It's probably going to be a little on the low side as far as programmers go. I did a quick google check for the Computer Science major in general. With a bachelor's in C.S. the average starting salary in 2005 was 51,042. I had a little more trouble quickly finding statistics for a masters, but Jobweb listed an average starting salary in 2003 of 54,000 - 74,000.

As for the person who replied that there wasn't going to be much effect in getting a Masters over a Bachelor's, I'd disagree. Even if the pay doesn't vary too much (which those two statistics I found seem to refute. Granted though, statistics aren't always accurate), it still makes you a stronger candidate for a job. All else being equal, if you're willing to take the same pay why would they hire a person with a bachelor's over a person with a masters? With a bachelor's you do have an extra year to get some work experience to make yourself desirable, but I'm not sure that one year will outweight the potentially better starting job you could land with a masters.

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Quote:
Original post by Orron
All else being equal, if you're willing to take the same pay why would they hire a person with a bachelor's over a person with a masters? With a bachelor's you do have an extra year to get some work experience to make yourself desirable, but I'm not sure that one year will outweight the potentially better starting job you could land with a masters.


I don't think you want to look at with all else being equal, the person with the masters spent an additional two years in school accumulating debt and learning instead of making money and gaining experience. So with a master's you're not competing against a fresh graduate, you're competing against someone with a BS and 2 years of experience. And two years of experience is widely regarded as more valuable than a master's degree with no work experience. Some CS master's programs even require work experience as a prerequisite. Why take on the extra debt and loss of potential income, if you can get the job with a BS?

Now if we start talking about BS with 5 years of experience vs an MS with 3, things are about equal, and with more experience I think the master starts giving you an edge. Also, many employers will reimburse a significant portion of your education cost if you go to school while working. So for the general case, I think getting the BS, getting some experience, then getting the master’s is the best approach.

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There are some cases like John Carmack, as said in his wiki
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Carmack)
he didn't even finished his BS... he only attended for two semesters and then he started working as a freelancer programmer. Now he's one of the most respectful programmers in the world. He's quite a genius, at least for me...

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Hope you don't mind me reviving a semi-dead thread, but from what I've seen, the main benefit of SE vs. CS is the engineering experience (and, I thinks you can get a P. Eng with it too around here, which is handy). Looking at the Masters vs. Bachelor's example applying to SE, you spend an additional year of courses, and earn an additional ... 1000$ per year.

I guess it's all how you use it, (and whether you opt for Co-Op in the final year, or Honours). I suppose the only other way to earn the same advantage would be to become a well-respected OSS contributor before you get your Degree.

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IMO CS is the way to go if you're not sure. SE may actually have more real-world practical value, but the type of degree you always see mentioned on job descriptions is CS, in my experience.

Also, if you go with CS, you're probably going to get a more versatile education. If you decide in a year you want to switch to some other area such as Computer Engineering or Networking, I think you'll be in a better position to do so with CS.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
i got a bs in computer engineering in 2004, right now i've got a job that pays $52,000/year

it took me about 10-11 months after graduating to get the job though. the jobs are out there but they're not easy to find

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
i got a bs in computer engineering in 2004, right now i've got a job that pays $52,000/year

it took me about 10-11 months after graduating to get the job though. the jobs are out there but they're not easy to find


The Defense industry is booming now, that would be a good place to look for high paying CS jobs.

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If you like the techy side of stuff then go for CS. I've just finished my second year and we had a double module in SE, was dead boring. If you like to have to remember lots of facts and stuff then SE is the way forwards (some of our exam questions were stuff like 'what are the 5 tasks of configuration management') but to me it just seems a lot like common sense and not worth doing a degree in.

Also, at my uni at least (Durham) doing SE seriously limits what you can do in the final year. We do 6 modules total and in the final year 2 of those are a final year project, which leaves 4 left. In CS you can choose loads of stuff for your extra 4 modules (including an SE module) but in SE you are forced to do 3 SE modules, leaving only one to choose yourself.

Above all though check with your uni. At mine you don't really choose whether you want a CS or SE degree until the final year anyway since in the first two years the courses are identical, and you can change at any point up until you choose your final year modules. If your uni allows this then just pick either, get a taster of both and then decide when you need to, though to be honest if you want to be a programmer then CS will suit you best in my experience

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hi. well, i'm studying cs (a 5 years university program, 1 more to go) and i can tell that half of it is software engineering, and half hardware engineering. I can say that it helps to know how stuff works in hardware if you wanna be a good programmer.

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I'm just wary that the need for technical people in America is dwindling. A lot of companies are going to India and China where the cost is cheaper. They are booming. It may make it difficult to find a job in the end (you never can predict the future well though) unless you go the academic route.

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Quote:
Original post by NickGeorgia
I'm just wary that the need for technical people in America is dwindling. A lot of companies are going to India and China where the cost is cheaper. They are booming. It may make it difficult to find a job in the end (you never can predict the future well though) unless you go the academic route.


I/O Interactive tried to move some of the production of the game "Hitman" from Denmark to Poland in order to cut cost. But it did not seem to work, because game development is more than just coding. What they had trouble with was transforming ideas (created in Denmark) to code (produced in Poland).

AVP, a danish company that produces water pumps also tried to outsource their software development to Estonia. Same thing, but what they learned was that testing of their software could be outsoursed and good times were had but all :)

I think the jobs that are going to India, China, Pakistan and so on, are the kind of jobs that are of a more trivial kind.
And those kind of jobs are not the "money-generating"-kind of job.

But what about the people who get laid...off ?
Due to the fact that companies saves money om production, prices are lowered, more products are sold which again creates added revenue to invest in new products, which means more people needs to be hired.
But hired for more interesting jobs.

At least...that the way it seems to work in Denmark.

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often a misconception that computing degrees are the be all and end all...

If you want to be in games development, then having a software degree is a bit restrictive.

Basically, programming is easy. If you find it difficult, then dont bother even thinking about being a professional developer. You should pick up enough programming knowledge to cut it as a grad level employee in roughly 2 months if your on it (maybe quicker). Snooty nosed comp sci grads will be huffing by now, but just stand back and admire the simplicity of it. Look through any code from a game, hell, people shout about carmack so much, look at his code from Q2. Its nothing special, just straight laced, clean code. I agree he is a talented guy, but not for his programming rather for his executions/design of the algorithms.

The programming part is simply the cumbersome interface between your ideas and realising them on a computer, nothing more. Often graduates will design themselves into a corner, which is extremely annoying :P

I did get a computer science degree, however, in retrospect if i could do it all again, i would have done physics or some mathmatical/interesting subject. Fortunatly I have extremely good math ability, but colleagues generally do not, although they are very keen computer...nerds. Thier computing knowledge, intimacy with unix, java, fortran, thier constant spouts about the delicious aspects of c++. Turns to crap really because you use very little of that in games programming. Better to be a whiz with AI/physics or whatever than a run of the mill generic programmer.

The world will go round though, and companies will continue to employ "bright" computer grads, what we need is talented creative thinkers, who can program as a bonus.

When i started in this industry many (too many) years ago, the scene was vastly different. People, many of whome had no higher education, blasting out code, crammed in a tight room, programmers making design desicions. Pretty rough and ready really, but christ it was fun. Many problems were solved, efficiency was paramount. Nowadays, people dont seem to understand these things. Programmers are there to program, not design or do art. Grads dont know the first thing about compiler options or makefiles. Everything is cleanly designed to be generic and flexible, which usually means its crap and unusable for anything other than what its first job was. Its becoming quite sterile, hard work too. You can bet your backside that when these silly quotes of $10 million budgets come along programmers are going to have that choke chain pulled real hard.

The thing that gets me is that you can not go to a dev house now and not see a "designer". Now, yes, i know many debate over thier worth, and good ones are pretty valuable to a team. However, when you look at games that are complete ripoffs of other games, you have to wonder, just what did the designer do that the dev team could not have done as they went along?

sorry for the rant, hard day at the office, getting tired of it all for the last time! Anybody want my job :)

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I'd go for Computer Science, I suspect that you will mainly doing things like Feasibility Study for a Software Engineering, which IMO isn't technical enough for me, but then again, neither is CS, that's why Maths > all.

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Refer to http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~sahilt/research/SEMyths.html for some insights

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When I first started college I didn't know which degree to go for either, and the school didn't make much of an effort to tell you the difference. The first two years were pretty much the same classes. Then it became apparent that I would have to choose. I liked the CS degree because of its freedom, and I could take the classes that interested me. But the SE degree courses were important to me too, because in the end, I do want to create large-scale software applications. This summer I found a degree that was a good compromise and allows me to finish school in 4 years, taking the classes I wanted to, but still getting a strong foundation in software engineering. It was Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering. Look for that. For me it proves to be quite flexible.

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