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Demystifying computing degrees verses software engineering

11 December 2017
A guide to the best degree for your desired career in computing

If you’re a school leaver looking for a qualification that best prepares you for a future-focused career in computing or information technology, you may be a little confused as to the differences between the various degrees. 

The University of Sydney has replaced its Bachelor of Information Technology with arguably Australia’s most innovative computing course: Bachelor of Advanced Computing. People who loved coding and app development at school might also look at the Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Software) – both are four-year degrees, so what’s the difference and why would you choose one over the other?

The Bachelor of Advanced Computing is a computing degree (obviously!) The focus is on the technologies that underpin our digital work and how we use these technologies to create new computing systems and solutions. It will allow you to focus in different areas of computing: underlying theories and algorithms (computer science); analysis and management of data (data science); design and management of business solutions (information systems); and the process of designing solutions (software development). What makes this degree so innovative is that you can choose a second major and increase your employment prospects while pursuing your passions in other areas. You can do a second computing major or one from a shared pool of more than 100 cross-disciplinary majors across the University.

“You can combine software development with music and revolutionise sound production,” says Professor David Lowe, Associate Dean – Education at the University’s Faculty of Engineering and IT. “Or combine data science with genetics and genomics, and help fight antibiotic-resistant viruses. Taking a second major in business, languages or any one of the cross-disciplinary majors will add value to your resume.”

If you decide to complete your studies after three years, you can complete one major and opt out of the Bachelor of Advanced Computing and graduate with a Bachelor of Computing.

The Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Software) is an engineering degree rather than a computing degree. The focus is on the overall lifecycle of software solutions and the engineering contexts in which these solutions are applied. The degree is more highly structured, drawing strongly on the underlying concepts of engineering: analysis and design; development processes; project management; and integration with wider systems.

Put simply, the two programs have much in common and significant overlap, but the differences have more to do with the disciplinary culture. Advanced Computing has greater flexibility and focuses on underlying technology. Software engineering has more structure and focuses on application domains. Advanced Computing is more likely to lead you to work as part of a software team, whereas Software Engineering will lead into jobs working as part of wider team where software is one part of a system.

Both paths will allow you to work across a large field of industries from banking and finance, defence and retail, to healthcare and telecommunications. With Australia’s number one university for graduate employability[1], you’ll be in a good place to take advantage of our strong industry connections to get your dream job no matter where you go for Advanced Computing or software engineering.

[1] QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2017.