Full-Stack Developer vs Software Engineer: Which One to Choose?

According to Evan’s Data, the demand for full-stack developers and software engineers is increasing every year. The skills of both are the same but they are quite different from each other. This results in the confusion of choosing one between both.

Are you confused between hiring a full-stack developer and a software engineer? Or wondering who would be the perfect fit for your project? If yes, we’ve got you covered.

We know these are the most common questions that come to mind. And to clear this confusion a thorough explanation is needed. Keeping this point in mind we have come up with this detailed article on full-stack vs software engineer for your rescue.

In this article, we have highlighted what is a full-stack developer and a software engineer? What is the difference between both of them? And lastly, whether you should choose a full-stack web developer or a software engineer? If you’re interested in any of these questions, keep on reading!

What is a Full-Stack Developer?

what is a full stack developer

A full-stack developer manages the front-end as well as the back-end development of a web app (or a website). They’re accountable to the client, design, system, and database engineering.

A full-stack developer possesses varied skillsets and thorough knowledge of web application development. They can work on a web development platform, a native application platform, or a mobile app development platform, it largely depends on the project and client requirements.

The required skills of a full-stack developer are maintenance of databases and the life cycle of web development, creation of powerful UX/UI using striking graphics for web pages of an application, and interactions with clients.

As they are well-versed with both server-side development and client-side development, it is easier for them to monitor a project and keep a check on the overall progress. Also, they can assist others in finishing their tasks on time as they are pro in handling multiple tasks altogether.

Organizations need full-stack web developers as they are experts in handling multiple responsibilities and giving a boost to the productivity of their fellow teammates.

The high demand for full-stack developers is due to their mastery in the development of web applications and extensive skill set. The lucrative packages of full-stack developers justify this point well.

What is a Software Engineer?

what is a software engineer

Contrary to full-stack developers who highlight the entire process to build a web application from scratch, software engineers only focus on building desktop-compatible applications which can be installed on desktops easily to execute specific tasks.

A software engineer points out native applications that you download on your computer system. Mostly, software engineers are aware of the system architecture for which the software is being utilized and ascertain the same for their teammates. Primarily all software engineers are experts, and they emphasize a single element of software development.

Full-stack development comes under software development. The former deals with client-side and server-side development handle databases, and the latter covers broader aspects of development, including all the mentioned ones.

Starting from games and business applications to operate and control systems, software engineers are equipped to handle all the mentioned things. As a result, there is a huge demand for software engineers and software engineering.

The software engineering field demands high technical expertise and to develop that level of expertise, a software engineer either has to go for a computer science bachelor’s degree or any other engineering education.

It wouldn’t be wrong if we say full-stack development is a subcategory of the process of software engineering.

Many skills of a full-stack developer and software engineer overlap each other too when both the fields are opposite. Not to mention there is a huge demand for both fields.

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Key Difference Between a Full-stack Developer and a Software Engineer

Wondering about the differences between a full-stack developer and a software engineer? Well, we got you covered. It can be tricky to distinguish between both these roles as nowadays there’s some crossover going on. However, there are many areas of opposition between the two.

Let’s go through the key differences between a full-stack developer and a software engineer one by one.

BasisFull-Stack DeveloperSoftware Engineer
WorkAt a point in time, they can work on multiple technologies as they have expertise in developing different steps of an application.

Full-stack developers can take care of the client-side and the server-side development which means they can write program databases, APIs, and build the blueprint of a website too.

While software engineers can only work on those technologies that directly contribute to building a computer application software. Their goal is to build applications that run on a computer.

In a nutshell, their role includes writing code for an application, testing it, and making sure that the product works without any errors. A software engineer is only answerable for a specific element of an operating system.

AccessibilityThey have access to all resources which are used in creating a web application. They assist their mates in resolving related issues.Here, the access is limited to only those resources that are utilized at a specific stage of the cycle of software development.
DomainFull-stack developers build a prototype design before jumping to the implementation part. They precisely follow a comprehensive approach to solution development.On the other hand, software engineers create steps to build an application.

Mostly, they are accountable for a particular element in the development process of an application. They have to make sure it’s error-free and runs smoothly.

SkillsPrimary skills required are database management, client application development and server application development, server management, system engineering.

Full-stack developers need to be familiar with the programming languages (as a programmer) related to these domains. They should be well-versed with front-end development languages encompassing CSS, HTML, JavaScript as front-end developers as well as back-end languages like PHP and Python as a backend developer.

While a software engineer has expertise in different programming languages as their selection is based on the requirement of a project.

They should emphasize programming languages like Java, Swift, C++ (as a programmer) that could build operating system applications. Additionally, they should be aware of Computer Engineering’s fundamental concepts.

Role (in a team)Generally, full-stack developers lead a project team. They assist their team members in finishing their duties appropriately.Whereas software engineers have a share in the development team and work on a particular aspect only. They work with fellow team members to design independent steps of an application.
ProductTheir goal is to develop web applications. Everyone and anyone can use the products developed by them if they have a web browser and internet connectivity.

All web applications are developed by full-stack developers. Their products can serve a single purpose (like Hemmingway) as well as multiple purposes (like Ahrefs).

On the contrary, software engineers build computer’s native applications. The developed products stay installed in a device.

These kinds of applications can only be assessed after installing them on a computer. Their products only serve a single purpose like MS Word, Adobe Illustrator.

CareerFull-stack developers/ software developers become an integral part (technical support/partner) of start-ups. As start-ups have a huge demand for them.

Full-stack developers are hired as they can easily take care of the server-side and client-side applications. Due to the diverse skill sets, a full-stack developer can turn into an entrepreneur too.

Big organizations have a high demand for software engineers. As they can emphasize specific elements of an application and coordinate with the respective team to resolve problems.

They work in teams and supervise the IT requirements of an organization.

Hiring CostA full-stack developer’s average package is 9.2 lakhs per annum in India. The lowest package can be 4.6 lakhs per annum and the highest can go up to 17 lakhs per annum.
Startups and companies provide lucrative packages to full-stack developers as they handle multiple responsibilities simultaneously. Also, full-stack developers help these companies to improve their productivity game and reduce overhead expenses.
Here, a software engineer’s average package is 5.1 lakhs per annum in India. The lowest package can be 3.5 lakhs per annum which can go up to 10 lakhs per annum with time and experience.
Generally, with experience the package of a software engineer increases.
Learning PathIf a full-stack developer has web development skills, he is good to go. There’s no need to possess a tech degree.

Take a course consisting of full-stack development to gain knowledge. You can easily learn concepts of front-end and back-end development, various programming languages.

While a software engineer must have a computer science background. To enter this field the requirements are higher.
DrawbackDay by day with the introduction of new technologies in web development, the role of full-stack developers is becoming challenging.
A full-stack developer is expected to keep up with the latest and new developments and learn new skills quickly. In most situations, full-stack developers spend a generous amount of time decoding back-end problems.
Being a software engineer, one should be ready to resolve different problems of different types.
Software engineers emphasize the specific elements of development, therefore, they work alone (away from team members). For a social person, this can be a big drawback.

The differences between full-stack developers and software engineers are huge and you must have noticed that in the above tabular representation of differences between both of them.

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Full-stack Developer vs Software Engineer: Which One Should You Choose?

We understand selecting between a full-stack developer vs software engineer can be complicated. But we hope that the differences highlighted above can help you with the same. There is high market demand for both fields.
To pick one between the two, the main point to consider is your needs and project requirements. field of interest. A full-stack developer helps you create sturdy software applications/ application stacks, whereas a software engineer can build complicated programs.

When to Hire a Full-Stack Developer?

hire full stack developer

  1. If you need someone who can manage clients, databases, servers, system development together, the best thing is to hire full-stack developer. A complete project is where all these modules are integrated into one and such integration can only be handled by full-stack developers.
  2. Additionally, a full-stack developer builds prototypes as per the client’s requirement. The more experience a developer has the better as they can develop better prototypes of new projects considering the specific requirements of clients.
  3. Once the prototype is finalized by the client, a full-stack developer can start working on the development process. And the project is taken to the next step by dividing it into modules and assigning them to the team members. Full-stack developers can assist fellow team members when an issue interrupts the development process and complete all the tasks timely.
  4. The web application development process doesn’t end with the formation of faultless code. This code should also be tested under certain test situations, and if it passes all the test situations perfectly, it is good to go and the project can be implemented. The creation of these test situations falls under the responsibilities of a full-stack developer.

When to Hire a Software Engineer?

  1. Hire a software engineer if you want someone who’s well-versed with documentation, coding, mathematical expertise, problem-solving capability, and is an all-rounder. Also, as day by day new trends and technologies are emerging so to meet them you need a software engineer.
  2. It’s widely known that software must be updated regularly to fulfill the architecture requirements of a system. In all these cases, a software engineer can help you with his knowledge and expertise to deal with a complicated system development process.

  3. For transforming ideas into reality a software engineer is required. If you give them an idea or a statement stating the problem, they can reach the perfect software solutions after meticulously working on it. Clients generally demand such a solution to be handed over to him beforehand and as soon as he gives his consent, work on the implementation process can be initiated.
  4. The work of a software engineer doesn’t end here. He has to check that the newly formed system is glitch-free and works smoothly in all situations. Different test cases are created by a software engineer for the same. If the system works perfectly, it is good to go. But, if the system fails miserably in the test cases, it is needed to go through the code once again. The project is delivered only when it successfully passes all the test cases.

Still, have doubts? You can check our frequently asked question section for further details

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the skills of a Full-stack Developer?

  2. The name itself suggests that the full stack developer needs to work on many layers of the life cycle development of a web app as well as on a myriad technology stack. These are the main skills that a full-stack developer must have-

    • Experience in Back-End development;
    • Knowledge of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript;
    • Basic designing skills;
    • Knowledge of web architecture;
    • First-hand experience with GitHub and Git;
    • Experience to deal with several databases.
  3. What are the skills of a Software Engineer?

  4. As discussed above a software engineer is a person who is called an all-rounder for his knowledge and acquired skills. These are the main skills that a software engineer need to have-

    • Networking basics;
    • First-hand experience of working with SDLC model;
    • Knowledge of several programming languages;
    • Experience in working with IDEs and different tools;
    • Knowledge of several operating systems;
    • Knowledge of principles of software testing.

Conclusion

In this article, we have thoroughly analyzed a full-stack developer vs software engineer. Website development skills are in high demand nowadays. If a person coming from a non-technical background has these skills, he can build a website with ease. Although it looks like an easy task, it needs more than coding skills for being a web developer.

The role of full-stack developers is to build web apps/desktop apps that are easily accessible from anywhere on the internet. While software engineers develop applications that are installed on the operating system. For instance Adobe CC, Microsoft Office, Visual Studio Code.

All in all, you must first thoroughly understand what skill set you to need for the success of your project. Then you can choose – full-stack vs software engineer – the one who fits your requirements the best.

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Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel
Designation: Co-founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies

Mr. Rakesh Patel is a Founder and CEO of Space-O Canada. 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.