Software Engineer vs. Software Developer – Differences (2023)

Any technical recruiter worth their salt should be able to tell the difference between a programmer and a computer programmer, or even a programmer and a web developer. However, it can be a little harder to tell the difference between software developer and software engineer in web development.

Software engineers and software developers are both highly skilled professionals with computer science backgrounds. Both must have technical knowledge and both are interested in writing code and creating computer software systems from scratch.

However, there are important differences between the two. Get them right and it could help you find an incredibly valuable tech shot. If you get them wrong, you may be hiring the completely wrong person for the position.

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Software developer vs. software engineer

Software Engineer vs. Software Developer – Differences (1)

So why is it important to know the difference between software engineering and computer engineering? On the one hand, these positions have different tasks and responsibilities. It is important for a recruiter that they usually have different salary expectations.

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

Software Developer Salary vs. Software Developer

A quick look at PayScale research suggests that at the time of writing is the average software developer salary in the United States88.896 $while the average for a software developer job is $74.001. However, these salaries would likely fluctuate depending on whether they are junior developers or senior developers, and also between individual programming languages.

software developer

Software Engineer vs. Software Developer – Differences (2)


software developer

Software Engineer vs. Software Developer – Differences (3)

They also note that candidates for these roles should have a range of technical skills. More importantly, candidates should also take different approaches to their work. We'll get into the details below, but suffice it to say that developers tend to be more creative, while engineers are more precise. Why this? Well, first you need to understand what these two roles do.

What does a software developer do?

In our post “Programmervsdeveloper: A guide for recruiters to tell them apart“ we realized that a developer is like a professional chef. You can cook at a high level and prepare new dishes creatively. You start by understanding the taste of theirstarget groupand then create dishes that cater to that taste. Successful software developers have essentially the same role when it comes to computer systems to write code and create high quality software.

A developer typically starts the process of developing software applications by talking to customers and finding out what their customers aresoftware needsare. With these criteria in hand, they design and develop the various components in the application that need to work together. To get the job done, a large part of their job involves managing the entire development process from start to finish and ensuring they stay in constant touch with key stakeholders.

CorrespondingBureau of Labor Statistics, a developer often works closely with programmers who actually execute the developer's design. But often developers use avariety of skillsThis includes good communication, project management and domain-specific technical know-how. In fact, this last point is crucial to understanding the difference between a software developer and a software engineer. As Felim O'Donnell, Operations Manager at Liberty ITsays,

(Video) Software Developer vs Software Engineer - The Difference

The difference between engineers and developers is that a developer takes on the functional specification and delivers the required code within tight parameters, essentially completing the task in isolation

Developers tend to do everything that engineers do, but to a limited extent. This allows them to be more creative than an engineer and find solutions to problems that arise. But engineers tend to solve problems on a much larger scale. There is less room for creative solutions, instead they have to work and think more systematically.

List of the most important skills of software developers

  • Mathematical talent
  • Knowledge of a software development cycle
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Knowledge of computer programs and programming skills
  • Knowledge of programming languages ​​and software tools
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills
  • cooperation
  • Attention to detail and excellent analytical skills
  • An understanding of data structures
  • Interested in the latest tech trends

Most developers also have software development degrees. While mobile developers need additional knowledge about mobile app development process.

What does a software engineer do?

A developer should be a software architect, someone capable of building software applications from start to finish. You have a more general knowledge of the whole development process. Likewise, any chef who deserves their salt should be able to create a menu that appeals to customers and is well executed. And for most restaurants, that's fine. But in larger establishments like hotels, you might have one kitchen serving five different restaurants. The chef of this kitchen must be able to deliver the same quality as a chef running a restaurant while meeting the requirements of 5. That means he has to be more systematic.

Software Engineer vs. Software Developer – Differences (4)

The term engineer is controversial. While some countries require specific qualifications or a software engineering degree, others doquestion their applicability to computer science. Despite these objections, there are still many opinions that have a specific understanding of what a software engineer is.

A software engineer should be able to do everything a software developer does, but with a different design philosophy. Engineers see things outside the box as developers. That means they need to focus more on structural design and eliminating technical debt. Instead of being interested in solving the immediate problem at hand, they are interested in solving that problem at hand while minimizing the trade-offs to other parts ofthe systemand its architecture.

You will often find software engineers divided intotwo categories. Application engineers are somewhat similar to developers. They tend to design, build, install and maintain applications, usually on a large scale. Systems engineers, on the other hand, maintain the IT infrastructure of technology companies. Rather than working on a specific application, engineers are interested in software design to create and maintain the systems that support applications while considering all stakeholders involved.

(Video) Software Engineer vs Web Developer (the differences)

Software engineers are more concerned than developers with systems analysis and more advanced systems engineering.

Software Engineer Skills

  • Software engineering involves the ability to analyze complex technical information
  • You will implement technical principles to influence the existing database architecture
  • A software engineer has experience with computer software and creating software


  • Software engineers have experience, or at least a working acquaintance, with various

    Programming languages ​​including JavaScript, Java, Ruby, PHP and Python.

  • Software engineers apply engineering principles and deliver complex software systems
  • Software engineers are familiar with various frameworks
  • Provide software development and testing support to other engineers

Key Differences: SoftwareDeveloper vs. Software Developer

  • Software developers tend to do everything that software engineers do, but on a more limited scale. This allows a developer to be more creative than an engineer. Not only can they develop software, but they can also find solutions to problems that arise.
  • Software engineering involves the ability to do everything a software developer does but with a different design philosophy.
  • A software developer typically starts the application development process by talking to customers and finding out what their software requirements are.
  • Software engineers have a broader perspective than software developers, which means they focus more on the overall structure of a software system - its design and eliminating technical debt.
  • Software engineers are interested in solving immediate problems while minimizing tradeoffs to other parts of the system and its architecture.

What is the difference between a software engineer and a software developer on a resume?

In many of the basic design principles, a software engineer and a software developer can do similar things. However, what you will find is that a software developer focuses on solving the problems of one user or a group of users, while an engineer focuses on the problems of all users. Therefore, their professional knowledge will include more technology.

This video explains the differences very well:

It's a good idea to look at the candidate's skills. A software developer usually has domain-specific knowledge. For example, you see many Java developers orRuby developer.Engineers tend to have much broader experience. Similar to a full-stack developer, you might see a back-end engineer or a systems engineer. They are expected to have experience in a number of different areas.

When hiring, the skills to look for in a developer or a software engineer are different. A software engineer will be someone who has a high level of mathematics and approaches problems in a very logical way. Don't look for someone who accepts ambiguity. A technician should be able to see how their actions may cause problems later.

When looking for a developer, you want to put more emphasis on solving problems creatively. Developers' technical scope tends to be more focused, so you're looking for someone more interested in finding solutions than worrying about long-term technical debt.

(Video) How to Choose Between a Career in Data Analytics vs Software Engineering

How can I test key skills in software development?

It's actually pretty easy to test a software engineer and a developer. You can give them the same types of tasks andwork sample exams. What you want to see is how they approach the problem and make decisions about the solution.

As Aaron Sempf, Head of Tech at Tribal Melbournesays,

The traits I look for in individuals when filling either an engineer role or a developer role can vary widely, but the assignments or tests I give to both are the same but scored in different ways.

With a platform like DevSkiller TalentScore, you can provide a task that reflects the type of work the candidate will do when they start working for you. Depending on the candidate, the same task can be approached in different ways. When you're looking for an engineer, you want someone who will create a clean and efficient solution that doesn't clash with the rest of the system. When looking for a developer, look for someone who can solve problems efficiently using all the resources at their disposal.

The differences between a software engineer and a software developer mainly depend on how they approach tasks and the scope they manage. Learning these terms will help you understand what skills to look for in order to hire the right people.

Before you go

Check out our other comprehensive resources covering the differences between different jobs:

  • Difference between programmer and developer
  • Difference between a coder and a programmer
  • Difference between a front-end, back-end and full-stack developer

Photo credit:Mimi ThiananUnsplash


What is the differences 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.

What's 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 one is good software developer or software engineer? ›

The role of software developers is typically more limited in scale than an engineer's role, allowing developers to be more creative in their solutions. Software engineers work on a larger scale, so they tend to be more systematic in their thinking.

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

A software developer is anyone who develops software. A software engineer is a professionally-qualified software developer who applies… …to the process of meeting user requirements. In reality, the terms tend to be used interchangeably and somewhat arbitrarily, such that both tend to mean anyone who develops software.

Can software developers call themselves engineers? ›

Yes, you can use “engineering”, except in combination with the terms “consultant”, “professional”, “practitioner” or “specialist” in a job title.

Do software engineers write code? ›

Build Software with Code: A software engineer writes the code and creates the framework then a software developer executes the build. However, depending on the company and job description, software engineers might create new software with the developer.

Is it easier to be a software developer or software engineer? ›

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.

Why do software engineers make more than software developers? ›

Software engineers are involved in the complete development process, and they cooperate with all team members. For this reason, their average salaries tend to be higher than those of software developers.

Is software engineer and software developer interchangeable? ›

Generally speaking, software engineer and developer titles are often used interchangeably. However, to IT professionals, there is a distinct difference between role responsibilities.

Do software engineers have a boss? ›

Yes, software engineers need managers.

The manager is an administrative position, which reports to higher management, and supervises and directs the work of other software engineers within projects involving the design and development of software, programs, and applications.

Are all software engineers coders? ›

Computer Programmer vs Software Engineer

In a broad sense, all software engineers are programmers. They need coding experience to become software engineers, but their responsibilities are often broader in scope and involve communication with stakeholders and the management of a team or teams of coders.

Do software engineers have a title? ›

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.

Who gets paid more software engineer or developer? ›

Software engineers earn a slightly higher salary than software developers. However, this is the difference, the average software engineer earns $95,000 per year, and the average software developer earns $94,000 per year. In other words, the average software engineer only earns 1.06% more.

Does Mark Zuckerberg code? ›

So that's pretty much the whole story of how Mark Zuckerberg learned to code. Obviously, Mark was gifted from a young age with a lot of natural talent. The fact that he found coding so young and had a father figure who taught him how to mix programming with business were key factors in Mark's early success.

Can you avoid coding if you are a software engineer? ›

Though most software engineers usually do not write code, they need a strong background in programming skills to communicate properly with programmers. The software engineering profession requires candidates to have (at a minimum) a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field.

Does software developer need 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.

What's the most difficult part of being a software developer? ›

The most difficult part is staying motivated and focused when running into a complicated data modelling issues or debugging. Software development is an attractive career option for many but being truly successful at it takes talent and motivation.

Are software engineers richer than doctors? ›

In a nutshell, the starting salary of a doctor in India at an entry-level position is much higher than that of an engineer. But after a few years, the gap between the two figures gets narrower as engineers get paid a lot more than what they used to get once they grow in terms of experience.

Are software engineers wealthy? ›

Software engineering is one of the best paid fields to work in. It's definitely possible for Software Engineers to become millionaires.

Why software engineers are paid high? ›

Why are software developers paid so much? The reason for this is pretty straightforward. Software engineers' high salary is related to the fact that their services are in extremely high demand by practically everyone. Software developers appear to be a sought-after commodity in the internet era.

Who gets more salary software engineer or software developer? ›

An average annual salary of a Software Developer is Rs. 493,576 per year in India while that of a Software Engineer is Rs. 523,770 per year.

Do software engineers do coding? ›

Though most software engineers usually do not write code, they need a strong background in programming skills to communicate properly with programmers. The software engineering profession requires candidates to have (at a minimum) a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field.

What does a software developer do? ›

Software developers create the computer applications that allow users to do specific tasks and the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks. Software quality assurance analysts and testers design and execute software tests to identify problems and learn how the software works.

What comes after software developer? ›

Developer, Team Lead, Architect, Manager and can even move into senior management. The road to the highest paying senior positions can take anywhere from several months to several years depending on multiple factors.

What is the highest position a software engineer can get? ›

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.

What coding language do software engineers use? ›

What are the main programming languages a software engineer uses? While no one programming language meets the needs of every software engineer, the most popular languages are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, and Java.

Do software engineers use Python? ›

Let's start with the basics, then take a deep-dive into why Python is such a popular coding language to learn. Python is a high-level, general-purpose programming language used by developers and software engineers alike.

Do software engineers use C++? ›

Here, we discuss the top tech companies that hire for C++ knowledge. Computer programmers use this language to create cross-platform applications. Learning this skill is essential for certain computer and information technology careers, including software engineers, game developers, and web developers.

Is it stressful to be a software developer? ›

As a software developer, you've probably experienced stress multiple times and every time seems a little different yet the sensation is the same. A developer's job is very stressful due to its nature: you need to build or create, and you need to do it quickly.

Does software developer need calculus? ›

Yes. If you look at a list of required coursework for a degree in software engineering, you'll typically see Calculus I-III, Differential Equations, Discrete Mathematics, Linear Algebra, and other advanced math classes.

How difficult is software development? ›

While it's undoubtedly a promising career, the vastness and complexity of software development can make it hard to learn. Software development is a field that requires its practitioners to have a good understanding of multiple programming languages, operating systems, database systems, and more.

What are 3 skills you need to be a software developer? ›

Top 10 Technical Skills for Software Developers in 2023
  • Data Structures & Algorithms. ...
  • Cloud Computing. ...
  • Git and GitHub. ...
  • Containers (Docker and Kubernetes) ...
  • IDEs (VSCode or IntelliJIDEA) ...
  • Database and SQL. ...
  • Linux (UNIX) ...
  • Object-Oriented Programming.
Oct 16, 2022

What does a software developer do all day? ›

On a day-to-day basis, a software developer helps create and test software from start to finish. They discuss and analyze user requests and requirements, then research and brainstorm practical solutions to meet those needs, and determine the best course of action to create the application.

What is required to be a software developer? ›

Software developers typically have bachelor's degrees in software development, computer science, or other related fields. Developing experience, earning certifications, and completing training programs like bootcamps allows individuals to pursue employment in the field.


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