Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference? (2023)

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference?

If you’re confused about the difference between software developers and software engineers, you’re not alone. Not only is there an overlap in some of the skills required for both developers and engineers, but experts in the field disagree on whether or not the titles even matter. What’s important to know is that software developers and software engineers aren’t the same thing, and as long as employers keep searching for developers and engineers, it’s worth knowing the difference.

(Video) The Difference Between A Software Engineer And A Software Developer

Skills

Okay, let’s explore the different skill-sets involved with becoming a software developer or software engineer. For instance, if you like working with people and finding creative solutions, you might want to consider becoming a software developer. On the other hand, if you feel more comfortable working with a wide range of engineering principles, software engineering might be better.

That’s because the main difference between being a software developer vs software engineer is mainly in the job function itself. Software engineers may take a hand in development, but developers seldom get too involved in the engineering side of things. Of course, there’s more to it than just this, but this distinction is probably the easiest way to differentiate the two positions.

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference? (2)

More specifically, developers work directly with the client to figure out what they want, then lead a team to implement the design while keeping in contact with their clients throughout the life cycle of the project.

To do this, developers need a working knowledge of the software to be able to balance what the client wants with what the software can actually provide. They also need to have great attention to detail to ensure the project is running smoothly.

Software engineers, on the other hand, are the ones who actually build the software systems. As such, they are much more hands-on during the development process, working to apply engineering principles to the creation and testing of the product.

Where developers might help find solutions to specific problems, engineers are responsible for the system as a whole. Engineers must look for solutions that will work across the entire program, rather than just one area.

It should be noted that because software engineers are required to have a higher level of technical skill than developers, it’s often easier for an engineer to work as a developer than the other way around.

But there’s another way to differentiate between the two as well.

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference? (3)

Developers often work on the parts of code that deal directly with the client’s experience. They’re changing things like the color of the platform, the location of a particular button or data entry field, or what the website or application looks like when transitioning tasks.

They’re working primarily with languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or other forward-facing programming languages.

All of these coded elements will be directly seen and noticed by the client or user.

(Video) Software Developer vs Software Engineer - The Difference

Software engineers are working on problems that won’t be necessarily seen by the client or end user but will affect their user experience.

They’re deciding how user’s data should be collected, where and how it should be stored, how to recall that data when it’s needed later, and the most efficient ways to analyze or manipulate it.

No one is seeing all of this number-crunching going on, but if the code isn’t right, the user is going to see it pretty quickly.

Think of office software. If you worked at a hospital and needed to pull the data for everyone who ever worked with the 20-year hospital veteran, “Dr. Cho,” and you only got two results back, that’d be a major red flag.

There’s just no way that doctor has only ever seen 2 patients in 20 years.

This is where good, backend, software engineering comes into play. And software engineering usually focuses on languages like Python, Java, and ruby.

This is also why there isn’t a huge difference between backend developers and software engineers. There may be a slight difference between client interaction time, but other than that, title choice happens on a company-by-company basis.

Training

Whether they’re looking to become a software engineer or developer, many prospective software professionals feel like their education has to start at the same: computer science degree programs.

A bachelor’s degree that focuses on coding and software – including, but not limited to, computer science – will not only provide the necessary software education, but the degree could help you get your foot in the door when it comes to employment.

That said, while software engineers are often expected to have more education than developers, you don’t need a degree to start working in either field. And if you’re not sure about committing at least four years of your life (and a whole lot of money) to a college education, you should know that you have other options.

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference? (4)

One of the growing trends in tech-related education is coding bootcamps, which can provide a base-level education for a fraction of the cost and time. Some bootcamps offer certification, another way to get your foot in the door. But, again, certificates aren’t the only factor in getting a job, so don’t let that limit your learning.

Coding bootcamps can be a valuable alternative to a college degree. To learn more about what’s available, check out the Devmountain course list.

Whether you’re in a degree program or a bootcamp, it’s also worth getting to know other coders. You can do this in person with friends or classmates, or you can find coding communities online. Interacting with people can keep you motivated, help you learn outside of a classroom setting, and provide you with valuable advice.

(Video) Software Developer vs Software Engineer, What's the difference - IT Degree Jobs

Furthermore, while learning concepts is important, you’ll also want to spend time creating finished projects for a portfolio. For software engineers, this should include a wide variety of projects to showcase your range.

You’ll want to show you’re not just adept in C++, but also Java, Ruby, Python, etc. On the other hand, software developers are often encouraged to specialize. If you want to do website development, for instance, make sure you have several examples of your website work.

Regardless of how you go about getting a coding education, what really matters is what you learn, what you create, and how you approach problem-solving.

Who Makes More? Software Developers or Software Engineers?

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference? (5)

So what’s the difference in salary between software developers and software engineers?

Isn’t that the question?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a good answer for that.

There are so many variables to take into account.

  • What does the local job market look like?
  • How developed is that department in the company?
  • What kind of work is the person doing?
  • Are they client-side or working internally?
  • Does the company distinguish between backend devs and software engineers?
  • What do other companies in the area pay for these kinds of positions?

All of these questions (and many many more) will affect that end salary.

If you’re wanting to find more information about company pay, we’d suggest you look to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for local and national pay averages and Glassdoor for self-reported salaries from current and former employees.

These numbers won’t be perfect, but they’ll be better than any answer we could share with you.

Interview

Because of the overlap between software developers and software engineers, it should come as no surprise that there are often similarities in the interview process as well. You should definitely come prepared with a portfolio; employers like to see your past work.

And your resume should also reflect the kind of position you’re gunning for. Most people make the mistake of having only one technical resume and applying to both developer and engineering jobs with it.

(Video) Difference between Software Developer and Software Engineer?

But if you’re applying for a software engineering job, your resume should highlight big, across-the-board problems that you solved. If you’re applying for a software developer job, then your resume should feature how you interacted with and solved specific issues in specific instances.

If you’re interviewing, you should also be prepared to tackle questions that test how you think. Developers are often expected to prove they can think creatively, while engineers usually need to prove they can tackle problems using mathematical and scientific approaches.

You should also research what employers are expecting from your work in the posted job position.

Because there’s overlap between the fields of software development and engineering (remember, some experts no longer bother making a distinction between the two), what an employer expects you to do might not line up with what you’re anticipating.

If you’ve trained to be a software engineer, for instance, are you prepared to dip your toe into the world of development? Would you want to?

The best advice for individuals considering software development or engineering is to find their niche. With a little ingenuity and some hard work, making the jump between disciplines is possible so find what you like doing and make it work for you!

Interested In Getting into Development Or Engineering?

Thinking about breaking into tech but not sure what your focus should be?

Try taking our Coding Basics course.

This course is dedicated to helping you get your toe wet in the world of coding. If you think tech might be for you but want to try doing something before fully committing to a different career or learning and an entirely new skill set, this course is for you.

And if you don’t want to commit to a full course, you’re always more than welcome to attend one of our free Devmountain events. Go ahead and give our current events a look.

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FAQs

What is the difference between software developer and software engineer? ›

Software developers design specific computer systems and application software. Software engineers work on a larger scale to design, develop, and test entire computer systems and application software for a company or organization—software development is a subset of software engineering.

Is software development and software engineering the same Justify your answer? ›

While both involve coding and creating programs, the two roles have different aims and goals. Software engineering is more like an architect, planning and designing the blueprints. While development is more like the constructors themselves, building the house that the software engineer dreamed up.

What is the difference between a developer and an engineer? ›

An Engineer oversees the system as whole using engineering principles, whilst a developer focuses on creating functional software.

Which is higher software engineer or software developer? ›

It should be noted that because software engineers are required to have a higher level of technical skill than developers, it's often easier for an engineer to work as a developer than the other way around. But there's another way to differentiate between the two as well.

Who makes more software engineer or developer? ›

Who earns more: software engineer or developer? Software developers are in charge of developing applications. They make more money—an average base salary of $107,000 per year—but their education takes longer, as many software engineers have advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in computer information technology.

Do software engineers do coding? ›

Software engineers use the scientific method and have advanced mechanical skills in addition to basic coding skills. Programming typically requires earning a degree or completing a coding boot camp, while software engineering requires that plus several years of experience.

Does software developer need coding? ›

For a career in software development, you'll need a solid foundation in programming languages. Four you might consider mastering include Java, Python, C++, and Scala. Java is an all-purpose programming language used for developing server-side applications.

What software developer can do? ›

Software developers design, program, build, deploy and maintain software using many different skills and tools. They also help build software systems that power networks and devices and ensure that those systems remain functional.

Can software developers be called engineers? ›

A software engineer is often called a developer, but IT professionals and tech recruiters know there is a difference between engineers and developers. While there tends to be overlap between the two roles, the key distinction is the formal training engineers receive.

Why is IT called software engineering? ›

It is called "engineering" because early practitioners wanted to call it "software physics," but that term was already in use. They wanted to call it software physics because they believed that the process of producing software could be formalized with such rigor that it would be on all fours with physics.

Who is a software engineer? ›

Software engineers design and create computer systems and applications to solve real-world problems. Software engineers, sometimes called software developers, create software for computers and applications.

Which type of software developer is best? ›

We'll also explore some of the most sought-after software engineering roles with the highest salaries.
  • AR/VR Engineers. ...
  • NLP and Machine Learning Engineers. ...
  • Big Data Engineers. ...
  • Cybersecurity Engineers. ...
  • Gaming Engineers. ...
  • Embedded and Application Engineers. ...
  • Mobile Engineers. ...
  • Site Reliability Engineers.
8 Jul 2020

What is the highest level of software developer? ›

Chief technology officer (CTO) is the highest executive position within the technology or engineering department of a company. This person often has a bachelor's or master's degree in software engineering or computer programming.

Is software development hard? ›

Yes, software engineering can be somewhat hard to learn initially – especially for those without programming or coding skills or any background or knowledge of tech – but there are many courses, tools, and other resources available to help people learn to become a Software Engineer.

How long does IT take to become a software developer? ›

How long does it take to become a software engineer? Most software engineering jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, which takes four years of full-time study. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's, which requires an additional two years of study.

Do software developers use math? ›

Despite its name, software engineering does not require math. At least, it doesn't require as much math as you might think. There are numbers and problem-solving, but you won't have to break out your AP Calculus certificate or trigonometry textbook to program—or engineer—software.

Do software engineers use Python? ›

Python is open-source and features a standard library that programmers use worldwide to create websites, software, task automation, data analysis, and data visualizations. Software engineers use Python to support and collaborate with software developers. Major companies like IBM, NASA, and Pixar use Python.

Who is the highest paid software engineer? ›

So what are the highest-paying software engineering jobs, and how do you get them?
  • System Engineer. ...
  • Software Engineer. ...
  • Full-Stack Developer. ...
  • Cloud Engineer. ...
  • Mobile Developer. ...
  • 6. Development Operations Engineer. ...
  • Site Reliability Engineers. ...
  • Software Architect.
9 Jun 2022

Can I become a software engineer without maths? ›

Yes you can become a software engineer if you have not taken maths in your class 12th. But you must understand that without maths you will not be able to pursue Bachelor of technology course as this course requires physics, chemistry and mainly mathematics. So, mathematics is a must subject.

Can I become a software developer without a degree? ›

Becoming a good software engineer without an associate's degree, bachelor's, or master's degree is not impossible. If you're interested in learning computer science fundamentals or want to add computer science skills to start your software engineering career, explore industry-aligned courses and programs on edX today.

What language do software developers use? ›

Python and C++ are two of the best programming languages for software development, though each language has its ideal uses. Python is versatile in its practical applications; developers often use it to power artificial intelligence, machine learning, web, and development.

Is software developer an IT job? ›

Software developers typically work in office settings, and many also serve as information technology specialists in addition to their software development roles within a company.

How many hours does a software developer work? ›

How many hours do computer programmers work per week? Typically, computer programmers work an average of 40 hours per week, which comes to eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. They usually work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m or comparable work schedules that are typical to office culture.

What is another title for software developer? ›

Software engineer, developer, and programmer are certainly the most common ones. However, there are more exotic titles out there, such as software artisan and even software gardener.

What is above a software engineer? ›

Level 1 - Software Engineer. Level 2 - Senior Engineer. Level 3 - Staff Engineer (alternate: Senior Staff Engineer) Level 4 - Principal Engineer.

Are all programmers software engineers? ›

No. A computer programmer writes an entire program. Software Engineer develops a software system part which will be combined with parts written by different software system engineers to create a system. Programming is primarily a single person activity.

Is software engineering an engineer or IT? ›

Software Engineering is a subset of IT. IT covers a lot of different disciplines. Architects, Data Scientists, Business Analysis (sometimes), Database Administrators and various Managers some of who may actually be able to code.

What qualifies you to be a software engineer? ›

Formal qualifications for software engineers

Building a career as a software engineer has a minimum entry-level education, which typically involves a bachelor's degree. The most common of these are awarded in computer software engineering or within the fields of computer science or mathematics.

Who is the first software developer? ›

Ada Lovelace: The First Computer Programmer | Britannica.

What are the 3 types of software? ›

There are different types of software that can run on a computer: system software, utility software, and application software.

Which field is best for software engineer? ›

22 examples of the best jobs for software engineers
  • 15. Development operations engineer.
  • Backend engineer.
  • Software engineering lead.
  • Application security engineer.
  • Data engineer.
  • Software architect.
  • Computer vision engineer.
  • Machine learning engineer.

What type of person is a software developer? ›

The average Software Engineer tends to be pragmatic, reliable, and very organized, and may take a long time to analyze things before making a decision. The average Software Engineer tends to be confident and insightful, enjoying deep discussion to understand a particular issue.

Which is better IT engineer or software engineer? ›

TLDR: A software engineer understands design, implementation, and management of software information systems and hardware processes. Whereas, an IT support engineer works on installation, development, and implementation of computer systems and applications.

Do software developers write code? ›

Not only are software developers in charge of outlining and creating the code and design for a program, but these types of careers generally involve a lot of collaboration between various stakeholders.

Which field is best in software engineering? ›

22 examples of the best jobs for software engineers
  • Video game designer.
  • SQA engineer.
  • Cyber security engineer.
  • Applications engineer.
  • Software project manager.
  • Software test engineer.
  • Full stack engineer.
  • Javascript engineer.

Is software engineer an IT job? ›

Though Software Engineers are within the "IT sector", which confuses the matter slightly in the job market. Save this answer.

Which is harder computer or software engineering? ›

Computer science is a broader subject and allows students to select from a wider variety of specializations and concentrations. However, computer science is more theoretical and has a greater focus on math and science, which some students might find harder than the practical learning of software engineering.

Who gets paid more than software engineers? ›

Yes, software engineering managers make more than software engineers. On average, software engineering managers make $129,000 yearly compared to software engineers at $86,000.

Does Elon Musk write code? ›

Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971, to a working class family. As a precocious 10-year-old, he bought his first computer and taught himself to code. At 12, he sold his first computer game, “Blastar,” for around $500. It was at that moment that one of the world's greatest coder-preneurs was born.

Are software developers happy? ›

Based on a small survey of 350 respondents, some 70.3 percent of developers said they were happy at work, versus 14.4 percent who said they were unhappy, and 15.3 percent who claimed indifference.

What qualifications do you need to be a software developer? ›

You'll need:
  • analytical thinking skills.
  • maths knowledge for understanding programming.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things.
  • complex problem-solving skills.
  • excellent verbal communication skills for sharing ideas.
  • persistence and determination.

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