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Software Engineering vs. Computer Science

Jesse Torres
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2004
Posts: 985
I am contemplating returning to school part time for an MS in either Software Engineering or Computer Science. I honestly don't know which one to select. I already have a BS in CS.

From a career investment standpoint, which one should I select?
Amit Saini
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 20, 2004
Posts: 280
i think pure software engg can get monotonous if theoretical.
in most schools software engg is offered as a specilization within computer science.
i storngly prefer a general CS degree in which you can take courses from several areas...databases, networks, graphics, software engg. gives you an broad exposure to everything. but again, there are ppl who prefer narrowing down on just one thing. decide which one are you !!
all the best.
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
Jesse,
I was just passing through the Ranch and read your post, which sparked an immediate deluge of both painful and grandiose memories of three years past, when I began my MS degree...in Software Engineering. My academic path was short-lived however, after I interviewed with a local Mathemetician for a job at my university. He was an asshole, yes, but he made me think twice about the Software Engineering path. He thought I was taking the easy way out, that was his error, but my error was I really had no clear definition of what software engineering really was. To be short, I wanted to be a programmer, plain and simple, so I did my research and switched to CS and after seven semesters of caffeine-induced headaches, insomnia and bloody all-nighters in the Unix lab, I knew I made the right decision (call me a masochist). I've since graduated with my MS in CS and have been happily coding ever since.

See, at my University, Software Engineering is geared more towards managing large scale software projects, which certainly warrants its own degree path. But you lose the ability to express your creativity and innovation through code, as you really won't be writing much. This would not have made me happy.

It comes down to the type of job you want to do. Managing software projects is a demanding task, especially if your company is on par with CMMI recommendations. Programming is certainly an art form, as well as a science, and if you enjoy writing code, solving problems via established algorithms or developing your own, maybe CS is for you. There is glory and recognition to be had in both fields, if you are willing and motivated to be the best at what you do.

Funny thing is, my official title...Software Engineer, hahaha.

:good luck.
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

I suggest CS, always!

- Manish
thomas wilson
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 21, 2004
Posts: 24
How about Computer Information System, or CIS? It deals with databases a bit too and I think you can apply almost all of what you learn in CIS in most IT jobs
Jesse Torres
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2004
Posts: 985
Thank you all for you suggestions and advice.

So generally speaking, do most Software Engineers hold CS degrees?

Thanks,
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
In my organization (part of the Department of Defense), the Software Engineering/MIS/CIS degrees usually get you a job title of Technical Specialist or some related technical mumbo-jumbo title. CS is on par with engineering degrees, so you will be a Software Engineer or Computer Scientist, ergo, more $$$$ on your paycheck. Of course you have to realize the term Software Engineering is dubious at best...as you can see. If I had went through with my Software Engineering degree, I would not be a Software Engineer, I would be a Technical Specialist. Most of what you need be concerned with is the mathematical/physics requirements for the degree. These form the foundation for all engineering degrees...so if you don't have these, you probably will not be considered a Software Engineer.

Naturally, Acme Computer Services might hire you as a software engineer with little more than a technical degree from some community college. But chances are, the major players in the industry will look for those mathematics and physics courses.
Saliya Jinadasa
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 21, 2003
Posts: 49
I think you are wasting your time doing a CS or Soft Eng masters degree. You’ve already got a bachelors in CS. What do you expect to learn from the Masters? You can pick up most of the IT related skills from the job. I even know a friend who started an IT degree and got frustrated with the course content and dropped out. According to him there was nothing new that he learned from the course. Why don’t you consider doing a business degree?
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
Originally posted by Saliya Jinadasa:
I think you are wasting your time doing a CS or Soft Eng masters degree.


Unless you're planning on going to some chop-shop fast-food university, the MS is never a waste of time. A serious Master's program affords you the opportunity to do your own research, refine your own abilities and network with other academics and professionals to produce some serious, worthwhile work. It is much more demanding than a BS, and you're not going to be spoon-fed linked-lists or Big-O complexity so you can regurgitate what you've learned on some silly multiple choice exam. Some of us will excel and reap the benefits of an advanced degree, while others will achieve glory and recognition without any advanced education. The ultimate choice, of course, is yours to make. But don't go making the mistake of assuming an MS is a waste of time. The same could be said about a BS. Some burn-boy straight out of high school whose been at it for ten years could code circles around your BS education, while puffing on a joint and sipping on his Miller Lite.

The MS is more about the experience, and maturing into a professional capable of producing professional-grade work.
Lenny Leon
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 21, 2005
Posts: 3
Very well put
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
Yes,the course material the University/collge offers for MS is important.Suppose you want to specialize in Graphics,its very difficult to do it on your own and come up with current working level unless you take courses in that subjects.Same is true for many specialized areas.So if somebody wants to work in core areas where subject knowledge is equally important then one should go for MS.


MH
Saliya Jinadasa
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 21, 2003
Posts: 49
To me going for Master in Soft Eng of Com Science is still a waste of time and money if you've already got a bachelors in one of those fields mentioned. For someone without much engineering or com science back ground, these masters degrees can help them to move into IT careers. So you have to carefully consider what are your objectives and how this degree will help you in your career.

I talk from experience that I had with my firneds who started masters degrees in com sceince. Their frustration in not learning anything new made them just quit their courses without a second thought.
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
I would think all these degrees are pretty useless without at least few years of experience


BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
Oracle Certified Master Java EE 5 Enterprise Architect
Jesse Torres
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2004
Posts: 985
I applied on Wednesday to DePaul�s CS Graduate program. I don�t know if I should follow the CS or the SE path? DePaul is located in Chicago, Illinois.

I have a Bachelor of Science in CS from also DePaul. I graduated during the summer of 2001 and began working in January of 2002 for an insurance company. I worked as a Web Programmer / Developer utilizing J2EE. I was then laid-off in June 30 2003. That left me with only 18 months of experience (1 � years).

After I lost my job, the job market was dreadful. I couldn�t find anything. So I searched for the remainder of 2003 to no avail. Since I love working with J2EE so much, I decided to pursue the SCJP. I purchased SCJP for 310-035 by Sierra and Bates. I took my time studying the book, inside and out. I finally took and passed the SCJP exam in early 2004. Since I was still out of work, I then decided to take the SCWCD exam. I took and passed the SCWCD exam later in mid 2004.

So now comes my predicament. Now that the market has been improving, I have received tons of calls from recruiters. As soon as I tell them that I have been out of work since mid 2003, they abruptly end the telephone call and say, �please send us a copy of your resume and we will get back to you.� I never hear from them again.

I have even tried applying for numerous entry level positions. Unfortunately, since I have been out of school for so long and have 18 months of experience, I am not even considered. I am also not considered for positions that require from 3 � 5 years of experience since I only have 18 months of experience and have been out of work for 20 months. That leaves me in limbo.

I think that returning to school might help my job prospects upon graduating. But then there are no guarantees. So I am confused on what to do next. I really want to jump back into programming / developing. I am currently refreshing my skills at home by rereading my notes from SCJP and SCWCD exams. I will then commence preparing for EJB Certification.

Does anyone have any advice as to what I can do to help my job prospects? Should I join an open source project? Should I create my own project?

I am confused about returning to school. After all, I already have a BS degree.

Thanks to all,
[ February 25, 2005: Message edited by: Jesse Torres ]
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
Well, first let me remind everyone who thinks the MS is a "waste of time" that, in essence:
  • your BS was a waste of time
  • all those certificates are a waste of time
  • learning new recipes is a waste of time
  • Grand Theft Auto III is a waste of time
  • posting on the Ranch is a waste of time

  • And who knows, your whole life can be one big waste of time.

    It is up to the individual to determine what is and what isn't a waste of time. I myself think higher education is not a waste of time, as it relieves you of the ordinary responsibilities of working for a living and allows you the time to devote to learning and producing and contributing to your field.

    Now, Jesse, it seems you might want to look into the CS program. You are a developer and have a passion for creating something out of nothing, as do I. You will study algorithms and techniques and quite possibly come up with some of your own. As far as getting a job, you need to market yourself. Some tips:
  • start a personal web site complete with resume, contact info, bio and portfolio
  • your portfolio should contain descriptions of programs you've written (with screenshots if applicable)
  • get letters of recommendation from past professors
  • place quotes from the letters of recommendation on your web site

  • And most importantly...be confident in yourself and your abilities.
    [ February 25, 2005: Message edited by: Jeffrey Hunter ]
    jim gotti
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 02, 2002
    Posts: 36
    Quote by Jesse:
    "Now that the market has been improving"

    They are? I was under the impression of the complete opposite with no real major turn around in sight. Actually, I have been in a major funk thinking that I am killing myself (newborn, working full time, part time CS, trying to be mr family man) drudging through my current CS degree for nothing in the end (mainly no job security)....so please, if this statement is true, enlighten me!

    Quote by Jesse:
    "I really want to jump back into programming / developing"

    based on this sentence alone, personally I dont think that pursuing a MS degree in CS will be a waste of your time. As Jeff said, its more or less up to the individual on how they perceive their time and ONLY THEY can put a 'measure' on if it is being wasted or not.

    I think Saliya is saying that you would be better off going the business route to make yourself more marketable and well rounded prospect for a company to consider. I agree, to an extent. Going the business route, imo, take you further away from the design aspect of coding and more on the management path. It seems, according to the sentence I quoted above that Jesse really wants to stay on the developer side of the fence.
    [ February 26, 2005: Message edited by: jim gotti ]
    Jesse Torres
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 25, 2004
    Posts: 985
    Originally posted by Amit Saini:
    i think pure software engg can get monotonous if theoretical.
    in most schools software engg is offered as a specilization within computer science.
    i storngly prefer a general CS degree in which you can take courses from several areas...databases, networks, graphics, software engg. gives you an broad exposure to everything. but again, there are ppl who prefer narrowing down on just one thing. decide which one are you !!
    all the best.


    Thanks for your advice. I am leaning towards CS
    Jesse Torres
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 25, 2004
    Posts: 985
    Originally posted by Jeffrey Hunter:
    Well, first let me remind everyone who thinks the MS is a "waste of time" that, in essence:
  • your BS was a waste of time
  • all those certificates are a waste of time
  • learning new recipes is a waste of time
  • Grand Theft Auto III is a waste of time
  • posting on the Ranch is a waste of time

  • And who knows, your whole life can be one big waste of time.

    It is up to the individual to determine what is and what isn't a waste of time. I myself think higher education is not a waste of time, as it relieves you of the ordinary responsibilities of working for a living and allows you the time to devote to learning and producing and contributing to your field.

    Now, Jesse, it seems you might want to look into the CS program. You are a developer and have a passion for creating something out of nothing, as do I. You will study algorithms and techniques and quite possibly come up with some of your own. As far as getting a job, you need to market yourself. Some tips:
  • start a personal web site complete with resume, contact info, bio and portfolio
  • your portfolio should contain descriptions of programs you've written (with screenshots if applicable)
  • get letters of recommendation from past professors
  • place quotes from the letters of recommendation on your web site

  • And most importantly...be confident in yourself and your abilities.

    [ February 25, 2005: Message edited by: Jeffrey Hunter ]

    Thanks very much for your advice.
    Amit Saini
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Oct 20, 2004
    Posts: 280
    My experience has been that fresh MS students command atleast 8-10k more than fresh BS students.
    Billy Tsai
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 23, 2003
    Posts: 1304
    what about a postgraduate degree like Master Of Commerce from Commerce department in Information System or MIS?
    scott dawson
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Jun 30, 2003
    Posts: 18
    A Masters Degree is always a big plus.BUT.....I'd really think about your motivations and what area's are you interested in. This may help align what advanced degree to go after...Do you want to do applications development, software tools, or what. There are many emerging technologies that you could focus on. GIS (Geographic Info Systems), Bio-informatics, Data Mining (read Google) are all unique areas which have differing requirements. I'd really look at what interests you and what specializations are available at the school you want to attend. A vanilla MS in CS or Software Engineering might be the ticket. But this is a committment of time and money, so I would not start an MS program without goal more refined than "I want a job writing software".

    Hope this makes since and I haven't offended anyone.
    Jesse Torres
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 25, 2004
    Posts: 985
    Originally posted by scott dawson:
    A Masters Degree is always a big plus.BUT.....I'd really think about your motivations and what area's are you interested in. This may help align what advanced degree to go after...Do you want to do applications development, software tools, or what. There are many emerging technologies that you could focus on. GIS (Geographic Info Systems), Bio-informatics, Data Mining (read Google) are all unique areas which have differing requirements. I'd really look at what interests you and what specializations are available at the school you want to attend. A vanilla MS in CS or Software Engineering might be the ticket. But this is a committment of time and money, so I would not start an MS program without goal more refined than "I want a job writing software".

    Hope this makes since and I haven't offended anyone.



    It is a very difficult decision. For now, I am going to continue to debate my options. I am leaning towards MS / CS. I have until August to decide though.

    Thanks,
     
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