Programming vs Computer Science

There is a huge difference between computer programming and computer science . Computer science is the study of computation, and computer scientists learn deeply about algorithms, computability, AI, data structures, compilers, operating systems, graphics, and much more. A BS or MS in CS isn’t supposed to train you to be a systems administrator or a Java programmer, and that’s the main problem. People enter CS majors thinking that CS is about “Java or Unix programming” and about learning how to fix computers, yet get disappointed when they realize that CS only tangentially discusses those topics. If you want to spend your time programming and fixing computers, get a MIS degree. If you want to know the science of computation, get a CS degree.

A computer programmer is to a computer scientist as a mechanic is to a mechanical engineer. Computer programmers and mechanics do know quite a bit about Java/Unix/Win32 programming and about various different auto parts, respectively, and we cannot live without these people. A computer scientist and a mechanical engineer might not know the latest programming language/methodology and might not know everything about every car, respectively, but a computer scientist knows the theory behind those programming languages and tools, and a mechanical engineer knows how to engineer a vehicle.

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3 Responses to “Programming vs Computer Science”

  1. Katy says:

    FYI, Chris is majoring in CIS at Cal Poly Pomona. So now we know the difference.

  2. Anonymous says:

    O__O I…was not aware of those differences. Now I know better.

    (Oh, hi! by the way. This is Renee (Saito) from RHP)

    And I must say, yours is the most educational blog I have *ever* read. ^^;;

  3. Sayed Khalaf says:

    Excellent article :)

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