What to study? part 5

A student wrote to me: “I will go to the U.S. and plan to study Computer Science but my friends said that there are many people studying Computer Science already but Computer Engineering is better. What is the difference between these two fields? I need your help to make a decision on which one to study. Please advice.”

Answer: As a “soon to be” college student you need to learn how to research the field that you want to study to find which one would be best for you. Do you know how to “Google”?

Your friends are wrong. There is no such thing as one field is better than the other. Both Computer Science and Computer Engineering are an excellent field of study. Computer Science is the study of computer technology. It is a fast-growing and diverse field that includes four major categories: Computing theory, algorithms, programming languages, and architecture. As students, you will learn the general topics across these four categories. Computer Engineering is the study of the integration of hardware and software. It is a combination of computer science and electrical engineering. As students, you will learn both hardware and software theories and how to design some products such as circuits, electronic devices, and optimize them for performance.

You select a field of study to prepare for a specific career in your future that match your interest. Some students choose a field because they like the subject but others by the influence of friends or family. If you like what you study, you probably spend more time to learn which means better grades, and a better chance to succeed. If you do not know what you want but follow some friends ‘ advice, you may not like what you are learning then you are wasting your time and effort.

Most U.S. schools do not require students to declare what they want to study until the second year. Therefore you have time to investigate which is the best field for you. I do not know whether you like Computer Science or not but my advice is to do some research on the field, check out the program offering, read some books on the subject, asking the counselor, talk to your advisor, and talk to students who study in that field in the school. Make sure you are ready for the coursework required for the field that you have selected.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University