Computer science and computer programming; one in the same?

computer programming

Are computer science and computer programming the same thing? The answer is no. But do you know how they are linked?

Think about it this way: computer science is the study of all things related to computers. That means understanding everything from hardware, chips, circuits, processors and storage, to programming languages and theory.

“A computer science degree can lead to a career as a software engineer,” says start-up investor Ben Metcalfe. “It means understanding design patterns, designing and architecting a system, and knowing what information and functionality should occur within the system.”

A software engineer also deals with different ways of building functionality, problem-solving, which technologies to use, how to use them and why.

Computer programming is understanding the set of languages used to talk to computers. Learning to code is like learning a new language, but instead of talking to other people, you’re instructing computers instead. A programmer – or coder – is given instructions and assigned parts of a system to build.

“Computer science requires computer programming but it’s possible to learn how to program, and be good at it, without a foundation in computer science,” says engineering manager Stef S, who learnt programming and computer science through web development boot camps. “Just like driving a car, you can make a computer do things without fully understanding what’s happening under the bonnet.

“Many of today’s popular programming languages are disconnected from the mechanics of the computer, but basic computer science concepts like patterns, algorithms and techniques are part of every programmer’s life, whether they realise it or not.”

Today, tech powers practically every industry in the world, so there are plenty of different careers on offer. Design, product and program management are just a just a few core roles needed that don’t involve writing code.

“If you decided you want to try coding, there are many ways to learn – and you don’t have to be someone who’s been coding since you were six,” says Group Nine Media VP of product management, Lehua Sparrow. Her computer science degree took her down a different path: “I started in engineering, then discovered product and people management is where my passion lies.”

“While programming and computer science aren’t literally the same thing,” Stef explains, “if you study one then you’re probably touching the other. Then the question should be: ‘What do I need to learn next, to do it better?’”

– Sukhjit Ghag

Liked this article? Check out 7 paths to computer science careers.

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.

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