Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: Skills, Roles & Responsibilities

If you are confused between software developer and software engineer, this post is for you. In this post, we will compare the software developer vs software engineer and understand what both stands for. If that sounds exciting, keep reading.

Software developers and software engineers may seem almost similar to each other. However, there is a thin line of differences that sets them apart from each other. If you’re from an IT background and not sure which career to choose, you are in a right place.

Being a leading software development company in Canada, we have written this guide exclusively for you to find the difference between software developers and software engineers.

With this blog, we aim to provide you with insights to decide which one is right for you. Let’s start with a software developer.

Who is a Software Developer?

A software developer is a skilled individual who is present for the entire development process (software development cycle) of a software application. They write code, test, and debug software applications/mobile apps. A software developer understands the process of the entire software development life cycle and aims to create high-standard and bug-free software.

Who is a Software Engineer?

Software engineering principles play a significant part in building software from scratch. A software engineer is the ‘builder’ of an application. Software engineers apply engineering principles and a more systematic approach in their jobs. A software engineer knows software development architecture completely, manages complexity, and helps the software to perform faster.

Software engineers are highly skilled professionals trusted for designing, developing, maintaining, testing, and evaluating computer software using software engineering principles.

The skills and traits of a software engineer are on par with that of a software developer. In most organizations, you will find no distinction between the two. The difference lies in their approach to software development.

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Let’s understand some of the essential differences between software developers and software engineers.

9 Differences Between Software Developer And Software Engineer

Comparison ParametersSoftware DevelopersSoftware Engineer
Academic qualificationBachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Sometimes informal training like web development bootcamps and online courses are also accepted in organizations.Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. A Master’s degree in Computer Science or a related field is also preferred.
Focus pointFocuses on developing applications based on customer needs.Focuses on developing applications that form the infrastructure of an entire organization.
SkillsAnalyze complex technical information, ability to deliver complex software systems, understanding of computer architecture, operating systems, and data structures.Knows programming languages, text editors, IDEs, and databases. Can create a custom solution depending on the requirements
Work scopeThroughout the entire software development life cycle and maintenance phase.From the very start to finish; the entirety of a project.
CollaborationTypically software development takes place in solitary.Software engineering demands constant collaboration with other developers and software engineers.
Career Opportunities
  • Lead Developer
  • Full Stack Developer
  • Application Developer
  • Software Architect
  • Lead Software Engineer
  • Principal Software Engineer
  • Solution Architect
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Security Engineer
Other skillsBasic to intermediate math skillsAdvanced mathematical skills
Interview focus pointsTesting knowledge about programming languages, data structures, algorithms, etc.Tests knowledge about languages, system design, databases, architectures, pipelines, deployments, etc.
Salary Range$70k – $100k$80k – $150k

What Does a Software Developer Do?

Here are the basic responsibilities of a software developer.

  • A software developer develops or creates applications that are functional and user-friendly.
  • Since the software developer job requires building customer-facing interfaces, developers tend to be much more creative and deal directly with customers.
  • Creativity in writing code can help with the compactness and scalability of an application. From designing to writing code, a software developer’s job doesn’t end until the deployed product reaches the end user.
  • As mentioned, software developers interact with clients more closely than other programmers. Understanding the customer pain points usually help developers come up with the right solution in a short amount of time.
  • Coding activities form the bulk of a software developer’s job description. Hence, you will likely find a developer developing code from scratch in solitary. Most developers also create reusable tools and components that make development easy and more efficient.
  • Software developers sometimes specialize in certain types of development. Developers only concerned with an application interface and its aesthetic are usually the front-end developers, while those who deal with database querying and data retrieving work at the backend. A full stack developer(typical in smaller organizations) is well versed in doing both easily.
  • Lastly, the median salary of successful software developers in the United States is about $74,000.

Generally, a software developer does everything a software engineer does but on a much more controlled and limited scale. They are also more customer-oriented when compared to software engineers, who are more or less business-oriented in their mindset. If you want to know more about the duties of a software developer, here is a blog about what a software developer does.

Let’s understand software engineers.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Here are the basic responsibilities of a software engineer.

  • Software engineering entails more technicality than a simple programmer’s. Since they work with the system’s mindset as a whole, their approach to working is also quite different from that of a software developer.
  • Software engineers also don’t focus on a single aspect of an application; hence their work requires more working knowledge and experience. A software engineer can easily helm the duties of a software developer, but vice versa is quite challenging to achieve without some training.
  • Since software engineers and software engineering often deal with the architecture of a system, they also need to be knowledgeable about maintaining these structures. They also know many programming languages, whereas developers focus on just a few.
  • A software engineer always looks for ways to optimize and scale an application. This way, they are also highly skilled in project management, a skill overlooked by developers.
  • Unlike software developers, engineers need a strong understanding of object-oriented design and databases. Software developers tend to have high mathematical skills to complement their computer programming skills.
  • Besides this, a software engineer will also have experience maintaining large organizational information technology structures.

Overall, software engineering and software engineers tend to hold more control over the software development process than software developers. This reflects in the median software engineer salary. Typically, software engineers in the US receive about $89,000 per year for their skills and expertise.

To become a software developer let’s understand what technologies should they know.

Skills of Software Developers and Software Engineers

Let’s understand the skills of software developers and software engineers in detail.

14 Required Skills to Become a Software Developer

Let’s look at 14 essential qualities of computer software developers-

  1. Extreme professional knowledge in frontend languages/computer programs like HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  2. Familiar with one or more web frameworks like React JS etc.
  3. Deliver applications within a tight timeframe.
  4. Curiosity to build innovative solutions.
  5. Be well-versed in Git and or DevOps.
  6. Understand user needs and develop software accordingly.
  7. Experience in programming languages like Python, C, C++, Java, etc.
  8. Flexibility in approaching solutions.
  9. Focuses solely on the functionality of an application.
  10. Maintaining code.
  11. Be knowledgeable about data structures.
  12. Be more customer-oriented, i.e., have more people skills.
  13. Detail-oriented in terms of code functionality.
  14. Maintain all coding standards.

16 Required Skills to Become a Software Engineer

Here are 16 essential qualities that software engineers must possess-

  1. Have a broad view of software development and software development lifecycle.
  2. Communicate with stakeholders like the project team and leads.
  3. Familiarity with different operating system environments like UNIX, LINUX, etc.
  4. Experience in networking.
  5. Familiarity with automation testing.
  6. Set up deployment pipelines.
  7. Collaborate with other engineers and various software development teams like the project, QA, design, etc.
  8. Thorough knowledge of algorithms and data structures.
  9. A scientific approach to problem-solving.
  10. Maintain coding standards within the entire team.
  11. Ability to handle multiple parts of an application at the same time
  12. Ability to create tools for teams.
  13. Detail-oriented in terms of the project as a whole.
  14. Act as a guide to software developers.
  15. Familiarity with open-source tools.
  16. Identify all essential project components before development.

Since we have understood the skills of software developers and software engineers, let’s understand the roles and responsibilities of software developers and software engineers.

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Roles and Responsibilities of Software Developers and Software Engineers

Let’s understand what the roles and responsibilities of software developers and software engineers are.

9 Duties of Software Developers

Roles and responsibilities that software developers fill in are-

  1. Knowledge of frontend and backend technologies.
  2. Create interactive web applications.
  3. Review codebase and documentation.
  4. Adaptable to different working environments, whether agile software development methodologies, scrum, spiral model methodologies, or any other.
  5. Understands software requirement specifications, designs, develops, tests, maintains, and upgrades software solutions
  6. Understand the security needs of an application and implement them.
  7. Improve the performance of an application by optimizing code.
  8. Maintain version control of application code.
  9. Design responsive applications that scale well on mobiles and tablets.

13 Duties of Software Engineers

Software engineers are adept at fulfilling these roles and responsibilities –

  1. Analyze system and design requirements and understands their feasibility.
  2. Efficiently manage small to medium-sized teams of other software engineers and developers.
  3. Arrange and present meetings with architects and project managers.
  4. Software engineer skills include critical and excellent analytical skills.
  5. Know the internal workings of DBMS and their implementations.
  6. Familiarity with different software methodologies. Implements lean software development methodologies to optimize development time and resources.
  7. Expertise in integration pipeline and CI/CD, including setting it up from scratch.
  8. Delegate appropriate work tasks to direct reports and the project team.
  9. Optimize work, chooses the right software development tools, and make it better each time.
  10. Define the objectives of a project
  11. Prepare project strategies based on requirements specifications.
  12. Integrate different parts of the system into a whole.
  13. Build fault-tolerant software systems.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer: Which One to Choose for Your Career?

A software engineer and a software developer have similar traits to them. They both need to balance their technical skills with logic and creativity. Their skill sets intertwine on numerous occasions.

  1. Depending on an organization’s needs, the title will also change
    • For instance, a startup will benefit from having many software engineers who need dynamic teams that can handle different types of work since engineers can do everything a developer does.
    • In large organizations like Google have several tiers of developers and software engineers. Each higher tier will have significantly more responsibility than the tier below it. In this case, there will also be a more defined distinction between an engineer and a developer.
  2. Important distinctions between software engineers and developers
    • Engineers constantly question the design, asking themselves essential questions like ‘How to design this better?’. Whereas software developers challenge themselves on how to make the code better.
    • Furthermore, software engineers tend to have broadened technical knowledge as their work deals with a wider scope. A software engineer will be the right choice if a situation or a problem requires deep analytical thinking and a long-term solution outline.
    • Another significant difference is that a software engineer needs to acquire a certain degree of education. They must know about system design and software architecture and be well-versed in SDLC. In contrast, a software developer can pick skills through formal and informal training. Many developers have honed their skills through online courses or coding bootcamps. You may not require software development degrees to be a developer, but one is needed to be a software engineer.
    • As a profession, a software engineer has more career freedom. They have more options in choosing a high-paying niche within the tech industry. They can move on to focus solely on system designing and cloud-based architecture or focus more on customer needs and coding.

A software developer and a software engineer essentially solve similar problems. A developer tends to solve these on a smaller scale and quicker, whereas an engineer solves them on a broader scale and with less creativity. Since software engineers can quickly think from the point of view of a developer, they may prove better than a developer.

But again, rather than standing against each other—software developer vs software engineer, these roles complement each other. All in all, in any organization, it is always better to have a balanced team of software engineers and developers to bring about the success of the software project building process and the final product.

FAQs About Software Developer and Software Engineer

  1. Who makes more software engineers or developers?

  2. Software engineers have more responsibilities and get paid more than a developer. Typically, a software engineer can get paid between $80k – $120k. Whereas a software developer usually gets compensated in the range of $70k – $100k.

  3. Is a software developer the same as a software engineer?

  4. In one look, they both may look the same, but there are some stark differences between software engineers and developers. A software engineer implements systematic solutions to more significant problems. Software developers create functional applications for direct consumer use.

  5. Can a software engineer be a software developer?

  6. A software engineer can efficiently work as a software developer. Most software tools that a software developer uses daily are tools that a software engineer will already be familiar with or can quickly adapt to.

Conclusion

Software developers and software engineers work in tandem with each other and the best success comes when you have both to work on your software project. So it’s ideal to not choose one. Does that mean you should hire both in-house? Not really! You could instead rely on experienced teams with proven work experience who already have capable software developers as well as software engineers. That way you onboard experts for your software project without having to drain efforts and cost in hiring in-house employees. You could then get exceptional results using fewer resources.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies. He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311.