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Difference between a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in CS

Computer Science Educators Asked by kanayt on February 24, 2021

I have just graduated from university with a B.S. in Economics. I am looking into changing fields into something less abstract and more practical, Computer Science.

I have the choice between a couple options.
Either a two year bachelor’s degree with a two year master’s degree in computer science.
Or a four year bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering. You can call it software engineering.

I’m wondering if there are any concrete differences between the options.

2 Answers

From my experience in Canada, a master's is about specializing and focusing on a particular topic within the field while a bachelor's is about becoming a practitioner within the field.

If, as you state, your goal is to obtain a more practical degree then both options can do that but in different ways:

  1. A four-year bachelor's degree will provide you with breadth in CS;
  2. A 2-year split master's will teach you the basics of CS to allow you to focus on a particular area within CS in your master's.

If you are looking to leverage your existing Economics with CS somehow then the master's is what you are looking for because you are adding CS to Economics. If you are looking to become a computer scientist or programmer / software engineer, then the bachelor's is what you are looking for. You will still learn (or be expected) to program in a master's in CS but you will be less focused on that in a master's than a bachelor's.

Note that at the end of either program you will have a CS degree, but you will have different skills and its which skills you are looking to obtain that should help with your choice.

Correct answer by Chris Kerslake on February 24, 2021

If you're trying to get away from the abstract to focus on tangible, demonstrable topics, software engineering is likely a preferable option. In the US, a good computer science program will have much more theory as well as getting into the nitty gritty of how computers work. You can expect courses like compiler design, operating systems, as well as a healthy dose of math. Software engineering will likely offer courses more suited to developers entering the workplace, like structured systems analysis & design which talk about SDLCs. You'll come out of both programs knowing how to program but the focus will be pretty different.

I would be wary of a two year bachelors into a masters program because you may not have an adequate amount of time to find that thing to focus on.

Answered by guitarcat on February 24, 2021

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