What is the difference between doing an MS in embedded systems and one in computer science? Which is better?

Embedded systems and computer science, while being part of the same larger field, are vastly different areas of expertise. Embedded systems, as their names allude to, are designed for a specific function within a larger system. A mix of hardware and software, embedded systems can be found in nearly all aspects of modern day life from camera to airplanes to toys.

A Master’s in computer science will focus less on the hardware side – you will learn theory and focus on a variety of computational problems from both a math and computer science angle. Such courses are designed to broaden your understanding of computer science. Courses can include from machine learning to natural language processing to statistics.

Both degrees are highly sought after. An MS in Embedded Systems will make you extremely attractive to companies doing work in Internet of Things (IoT) – organisations are enabling previously analog mechanical machines to be connected to the ‘cloud’ and people who are able to help design and implement systems that enable this will be rewarded lucratively. Roles such as embedded software engineer, system software engineer and even research or design are available to you.

A student holding a Bachelor’s in computer science, computer engineering or electrical engineering can pursue an MS in embedded systems. An MS in embedded systems will focus on a combination of hardware and software design, helping you learn modern tools that control a device, process or system. For example, you will learn in depth how smart phones, pacemakers, and navigation systems work.

Students with a background in computer science (either work or study related) you can apply for a Master’s in Computer Science (CS). Some programs allow people from technical undergraduate degrees to also apply. CS provides a broad information about software development, network operating systems, algorithms programing and more theories that underpin computer science.

At the Master’s level, students can specialise in different streams such as artificial intelligence, mobile and internet computing, biocomputation, information management and analytics and more. A Master’s degree in computer science paves the way for several technical careers. For instance, students might pursue career opportunities that include network and computer systems administrators, computer programmers, software developers and computer information systems managers. The most common role is to become a software engineer – with the world becoming more digitised, such skills are becoming increasingly valuable.

If you are person who wants to know how systems work and learn more about hardware, then an MS in Embedded Systems is the better choice but if you wish to work on software and building architecture for algorithms, then computer science is the way to go. Both courses will provide plenty of career opportunities.

Top universities would in addition to the Ivy League be MIT, Stanford, Rice, Carnegie Mellon, California Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology. On this side of the Atlantic, Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, St. Andrew, Durham, Warwick, Edinburgh in UK and ETH Zurich in Switzerland and NUS in Singapore would be the leading names to offer these programs.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor