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Hardware vs. software: What's the difference? – ZDNet

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Hardware consists of the physical components of a computer. Software tells those parts what to do and how to do it. Simply put, without software, your hardware would not do anything. Without hardware, your software wouldn’t have anything to do. 
Hardware includes monitors, keyboards, speakers, printers, and any other tangible computer part. The operating system and programs installed on your computer are software.
Below, we’ve broken down hardware vs. software, plus jobs and skills related to each. 
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Hardware includes your computer’s internal and external parts you can touch and see. Hardware lets you type into a computer, see images, hear sounds, and move your cursor. You also store data on hardware.
Internal computer hardware includes motherboards and CPUs. These are, essentially, your computer’s heart and brain. Random access memory, or RAM, gets cleared when your computer shuts down, while hard drives and solid-state drives keep long-term data. 
External hardware connects to your computer to control input and output. Think keyboards, mice, headphones, and flash drives. Monitors, speakers, webcams, and printers are common external computer hardware.
Hardware jobs sit at the forefront of building, designing, and repairing internal and external computer hardware. Hardware roles include:
Computer hardware jobs require knowledge of different types of hardware, their uses, and how they function. Technical skills for computer hardware professionals include:
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To enter a hardware role, a bachelor’s computer and information technology or computer engineering degree provides foundational knowledge and skills. (Degrees in related fields also work.)
You should have a background in mathematics, science, and computer software systems. 
Earning a degree from a program accredited by ABET demonstrates to future employers the quality of your education. Some advanced jobs may require a computer engineering master’s degree.
Computer software tells your computer how to function. System software directs your hardware, while application software carries out tasks for specific purposes.
System software includes operating systems like macOS and Microsoft Windows. System software controls your computer’s speed, memory, security, and overall efficacy. 
Word processing and spreadsheet programs, databases, multimedia and communication applications, and internet browsers are application software. 
System software runs whenever your computer is on, while application software launches when you open it. System software functions independently of application software, but application software needs a software system to accomplish tasks. 
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Computer software roles range from entry-level coding to advanced software engineering careers. Software developers design, test, and maintain computer systems and applications. 
Common positions include:
Software careers require knowledge of programming languages, software design and testing, and how software and hardware relate to one another. Skills for software careers include:
A software engineering degree teaches you how to design, maintain, and integrate computer software in the ever-expanding technology field.
You can take many paths to a software role. You could teach yourself programming, attend a bootcamp, or earn a computer science degree or a degree in a related field.
In addition to computer programming, you’ll benefit from understanding cloud computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services and database software like Microsoft SQL.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for computer hardware engineers in May 2021 was $128,170. Computer software engineers earned $110,140 on average.
Earnings aside, the job opportunities for software professionals outnumber those for their hardware counterparts. 
The BLS projects 2% growth in employment for hardware engineers by 2030. Meanwhile, software developers are projected to see 22% employment growth.
What you earn as a hardware or software professional depends on many factors. Education and experience, location, and the type of company you work for all count. 
To help increase your earning potential, consider: 
To decide if hardware or software is right for you, you should take stock of your interests, strengths, and career goals. 
Unless otherwise noted, job growth and salary data are drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of July 1, 2022.


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