profile panorama photo
Software Engineering
Lancaster NY

CS vs. SE

Andrew Bona on Sunday, 19 April 2009. Posted in Advising & Support, Coursework, Majors & Minors

I am a software engineer and I am proud of it. But I didn't always know that I wanted to be a software engineer. As a matter of fact, I was not even sure that I wanted to be a software engineer until the middle of my second year in the major. I had no clue what software engineering was when I was applying to schools. I also really did not know what computer science was when I was applying for school. But now I do! I am here to share that knowledge with you guys! I hope this helps!

Before I start going into the details of the specific programs, you need to ask yourself, what do you want to do when you grow up? Do you envision yourself working for the government, coming out with the next latest and greatest encryption and decryption algorithms? Do you want to work on the next operating system by Microsoft? Do you like studying the theory of computing? Or would you rather manage a software project? Design large and complex software systems? Or follow an organized process while coding?

Well, if you said that you like encryption/decritption, operating systems, and theory, that is Computer Science.  The computer science program has been nationally accredited since 1989 by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. They enroll more than 700 total students at the undergrad level. They have more than 25 full time faculty that "are dedicated to teaching, applied research, and professional development." The facilities on the Computer Science floor include over 120 workstations and more than a dozen servers running Solaris™, Linux, Windows©, and Mac OS X. Some of the specialty labs are available for students that are interested in computer theory, artificial intelligence, and pattern recognition. For more information about the Computer Science department and the Computer Science major please visit

Now the Software Enginnering Department is where I am. SE is more of the design and process management of the software systems. Software engineers do not just write code, but they write code right. They use design patterns, comments, and other tools to help make software programs on time, under budget, and easier to maintain. The SE program is very much team based, as almost every course requires a team project. Communication is essential, and SE majors not only learn the technical side of things, but also how to communicate those ideas to other people, both technical and non-technical. In 1996, RIT became the first university to offer an undergrad prgoram in the Software Engineering field. The SE facilities include several studio labs used for classrooms, and an open lab for student use. Also, there are team rooms that are available for students to work on projects, rehears presentation, and conduct team meetings. For more information about the Software Engineering department and the Software Engineering major, please visit

To sum it up, look at the last word of each major: science and engineering. Scientists typically expand the horizons of a field, while engineers will use that knowledge in creating something in the real world. A computer scientist can in fact become a software engineer, and a software engineer can become a computer scientist. But the main difference right now is what you are learning in school. My recommendation: go into the major that you think suits you. You can always transfer to another major if you think you made the wrong choice!

But is it easy to transfer to a different major? Yes! If you are currently an accepted student, the Admissions Office can help switch your major. Once you are taking classes, the individual departments can help you out. But before you switch, make sure that is what you want to do. CS and SE have very similar first years before they begin to differentiate their programs.

Hopefully, I have helped to clarify things for you guys! If you have any more questions, then feel free to contact either department, or leave a comment here, and I can hopefully help you out!