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What are the basic differences between a Computer Science major and a Computer Programming major?

I am interested in majoring in something to do with Computers, whether that be engineering, programming, etc, and I would like to know the basic differences between such majors. #computers #computer-science

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Eric’s Answer

Hi, Jarret!

In brief, they are close enough to being the same thing that you'll need to read the colleges' particular descriptions to be able to tell.

In fact, many colleges don't even offer a specific "Computer Programming" major. "Computer Science" is fairly standard, as they go, and subtle variations on that don't have too much of a specific meaning, which is why I say you'll need to read the course specifics.

In general, "Computer Science" is technically a field of math, but it is almost always used, especially for Bachelor's degrees, to mean "Essential programming, some software engineering techniques, and a little theory." If someone is getting a Masters or Ph.D in Computer Science, then they might actually be a mathematician, but for most people, like me, majoring in Computer Science, it's just the courses for people who want to program for a living.

If you see a degree named "Computer Engineer", that is likely more or less the same, but it might be a little more focused on hardware. Again, check the course descriptions.

To define these terms since I used them and they may come up: Generally, "programming" or "coding" refers to the act of making a computer do what you want with some programming language, while "software engineering" refers to the extra thinking you need to do to go from writing just some functions to a fully-capable application. That might involve planning the program out ahead of time, talking to other experts whether they are programmers or not, and considering tradeoffs. Most undergrad Computer Science degrees include at least one Software Engineering course, which is part of how you know that the degree is preparing you to be a programmer, rather than focusing on the particular branch of math.

Does this make sense? I'm sorry to say that the terms involved here are not as clear as they could be. Weird, for a field so focused on precision and definitions.
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Avrom’s Answer

I agree that few universities offer a major they call "Computer Programming," and if you see one that *only* offers that major (and not "Computer Science") it's probably pretty similar to a Computer Science major.

If the *same* institution is offering both, I'd expect "Computer Programming" to be much more focused on "applied" programming, with almost no focus on the bits of EE, Math, and theory involved in Computer Science. These things can be very useful if you end up working as a full-blown R&D software engineer, and they're absolutely vital if you're going to go deeper into academia, but they may not be necessary for programming jobs that revolve around implementation of business logic.
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Peter’s Answer

my answer is simpler than the others, if you like to solve problems quickly, then you would like to be a programmer. if you like to think deeper part on how computer can assist with human life, then you're thinking computer science. while one is not exclusive of the others but it will drive what you want to learn.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hey there, Jarret!

Let's chat about the differences between a Computer Science Major and a Computer Programming Major.

A Computer Science Major is like a deep dive into the ocean of computing. It covers a broad spectrum of topics from algorithms, data structures, and software engineering to artificial intelligence and computer architecture. If you're pursuing this major, you'll get to understand the nuts and bolts of computers and computer systems, along with the mathematical and theoretical foundations that support them. You'll likely take classes on programming languages, computer networks, database systems, operating systems, and software development methodologies.

In contrast, a Computer Programming Major is more like a focused swim along the shoreline. It's all about the practical side of programming languages and software development. This major hones your coding skills, software design, and the use of algorithms to tackle specific problems. You'll probably learn various programming languages and master writing efficient and maintainable code. Your classes might cover web development, mobile app development, software testing, and user interface design.

So, what's the main difference? It's all about the focus. Computer Science Majors dive into the theoretical and practical sides of computing, whereas Computer Programming Majors concentrate on the practical application of programming skills.

The depth of knowledge also varies. Computer Science Majors usually have a deeper understanding of fundamental concepts like algorithms, data structures, computational theory, and system architecture. They also explore advanced topics like machine learning, cryptography, and parallel computing. On the flip side, Computer Programming Majors might have a narrower but more specialized knowledge base in coding practices and software development.

Career paths differ too. Both majors can lead to software development careers, but Computer Science Majors are often preferred for roles needing strong problem-solving and algorithmic thinking skills. They might become software engineers, systems analysts, or research scientists. Computer Programming Majors are great fits for roles like application developers, web developers, or quality assurance engineers.

In a nutshell, a Computer Science Major gives you a wide-angle view of computing concepts with a focus on theory and practice, while a Computer Programming Major zooms in on developing practical coding skills for software development.

To make sure I'm giving you the best information, I used some top-notch sources like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE Computer Society, and Stanford University Computer Science Department. These are some of the world's leading authorities on computer science education.

May you be showered with blessings!
James.
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