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Let's start off strong. Web development is not computer science. They are not the same. Some might say that web development is an application of computer science and that is a bit more accurate but still not totally correct. There are just some major differences between the two that need to be discussed.

Computer science is more math and hardware based.

If you've taken a CS class before then you know how much math is actually involved. You have to make sure that the algorithm you're designing doesn't increase the Big O to some ridiculous number and to do that, at the bare minimum you need to know some algebra 2.

This is where most of the complex machine learning algorithms come from and believe me, they take way more math knowledge than just algebra. When's the last time you really had to do complex math in web development? It's extremely rare that a web developer will ever have to deal with Bayesian statistics.

Take this with a grain of salt because there is way more to computer science than just math. You have to create the architecture for your programs and that could be dependent on the hardware you're using.

Web development is more application-based.

There's no way you can be a web developer without putting your hands on an IDE and laying down some code. No amount of theory will ever build a website. Actually, you can't even learn web development without writing code. There are a few theoretical things that will help you as a developer, but they aren't always related to computer science.

A computer scientist might never touch a piece of code if their algorithms and architectures get passed on to a developer. Most computer scientists know how to write code, but there is a large chunk that aren't very good at it. As a web developer, writing and debugging code is just a regular part of your life.

Again, take this with a grain of salt. Web developers are focused on making applications that people use every day. All of the code you write is centered around how people will use your app and how to keep them from breaking it. Sometimes the way you have to do it won't be the most efficient, but you need it to work before a deadline.

Most of the time a computer scientist can become a web developer easier than the other way around because of the degree requirement although it does happen. Then there's the thing with web development being a subset of software engineering which goes into a completely different argument.

Just remember that web development is more specialized than computer science in general. The main thing you probably want to know is about the pay. Depending on experience level and specialization, yes, computer science does typically pay more.

The catch is that you still need a degree to be called a computer scientist. If you're looking for a job that pays really well and doesn’t technically require a degree, then web development might be what you're looking for.

Another thing to keep in mind is that one isn't necessarily better than the other. They both have their uses and they both have their challenges. At the end of the day though, we're all still tech people.

I know this can start some intense debates, so I want to hear what you think. Is the difference between computer science and web development closing or are they still worlds apart?

Hey, I'm running a giveaway for the next few weeks. You can enter for a chance to get into my coveted (just kidding) class. All you have to do is put in your email address and on December 17th you'll find out if you won or not. What do you have to lose? Enter here

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Computer science is a very broad subject. There cant be a direct contrast of cs and web development. Web development is one of the area that involves computer software, networking, machines, protocols and many more i don't know of.

Web development is not entirely limited to css, html and a bunch of images on a website. Web developers mostly are programmers and they can code both for almost all platforms. There is no limit to what a programmer can do with machines. For instance bitcoins is implemented in c++ and has good enough algorithms to make a difference in the world.

computer scientist! bleh!!

Yeah, by this definition of CS, pretty much every programmer wouldn't be in CS. It's actually a decent argument, but the main issue comes when you realize most colleges lump all this together.

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I'm glad I never went to uni for computer science lol! My brain overheats when I see numbers! Good article though web development is so true!

Just for the record, that's what I always thought too - and as a developer, for a long time I was of the opinion you really only needed general algebra for coding. (Per the article, yes, I started as a web developer.)

There's a lot of really cool - and really complicated - "math" that has little to do with number crunching though, and while you can get by perfectly fine without it, it can put things in a whole new perspective. Set theory, for example - heavy stuff, but can also put relational databases in a new light, and gives birth to relational algebra which is all about databases. Category theory turns functional programming into something that's more than just a syntax tweak for lambda functions. Every language has some basis in type theory - even dynamically typed languages. Stuff like graph theory has more direct applications, and you can even squint really hard and find uses for it in stuff that doesn't look like graphs at first - linked lists, trees, etc. Process calculi for parallel processing, queuing theory, all sorts of mathematic laws and proofs and stuff. And by one discussion - the Curry-Howard correspondence - you can even look at a well typed program as a mathematic proof.

There's so much more to math than numbers! Again, you can have a great career without knowing the foundation of a monad (or even what it is), but it can also make things so much cooler - "if it builds, ship it" becomes more of a reality than a joke!

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Web developer, owner, teacher


Oct 24, 2018