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What's The Difference: Full-Stack Developer Vs Software Engineer

The world is headed in a new direction. Being successful and having a career isn't about heading into a corporate office job anymore. Instead, the world is moving toward digital operations and it is becoming all about side hustles.

Given the pace at which the world is moving, many people are trying to up their income while doing more than one job. Large companies are also trying to keep up with the direction in which the world is moving meaning that they are optimizing and enhancing the digital space that they occupy.

This means that more and more, software and web developers are seeing a greater demand for their skills. But what is the difference between a full-stack developer and a software engineer, and which one should you choose to pursue as a viable career path?

If only it were as simple as deciding which career path is better and then venturing down that path. But it isn't always that simple. Instead, you need to consider the industry demand, working environment, salary, and much more. So let us look at the career of a full-stack developer and a software engineer.

Full-stack developers are responsible for developing entire web applications or websites, making sure that both the front-end and back-end users have superior user experiences. A software engineer, on the other hand, works on creating software, applications, or native applications that run on phones or desktops.

Let us delve further into these career paths for you to better assess which career is best for you to follow.

What Is A Full-Stack Developer And A Software Engineer?

When was the last time you used a web browser and went on to a website? Probably right now as you're reading this, right? We have endless resources available to us, websites with infinite knowledge literally at our fingertips. We often take advantage of this convenience, barely stopping to consider what goes into creating these spaces in the digital world that gives us access to this knowledge.

Every web page that exists is created by a full-stack developer. A full-stack developer is a professional in the field of computer sciences or IT, but who has specialized specifically in web design.

On any website, two ends exist, the front-end developer, which is what you as a user sees, and the back end, which is the other end that the website owner sees. On a website that provides users with information, the front end is where you will see and access the available information, and the back end is where the website owner will be able to upload or change the information that you see.

If you think about a website as a store, the front end is the part of the store where you browse and pick the items you like, having full access to anything that is laid out on display. The back end is everything behind the cashier and into the back rooms and storerooms that exist in a store. In the back room, you have items that aren't on display, you can take items off the shelf and place them out of consumer reach, you can have items that are ready to be placed on the shelves on a specific day, and much more.

A full-stack developer is basically the architect, store developer, and manager that creates both the front end and the back end of the store.

To be successful as a full-stack developer, you need to have a keen understanding of back-end programming which is processed on the side of the server, and front-end programming which is processed on the side of the clients. You would need to know not only the processes of a web application, but you would need to know how front-end and back-end components meld together and intricately work together to create an optimized user interface and user experience.

On the other hand, when compared to full-stack developers, software engineers work as software developers designing computer and digital application operating systems. Every application that your computer or phone comes standard with or every application that you download to fulfill a specific function in your life has been created by a software engineer.

If a company or an organization needs financial software to be developed for internal operations, a software engineer will hop on board and will work with the internal divisions of the organization to design and develop this software.

Software engineers oversee the entire process of designing, developing, launching, and maintaining the software that keeps all applications afloat.

While both a full-stack developer and a software engineer will work in similar roles, and similar environments, and their duties may overlap, they will ultimately contribute to distinct factors within the digital sphere.

Where Can You Work As A Full-Stack Developer And As A Software Engineer?

Both roles offer really great flexibility in that you can work within an organization or company, you can work for a digital consultancy firm, or you can work as a freelancer. This means that you can have the security of a full-time job within an organization, or you can enjoy the flexibility of taking on clients as and when needed.

The reality is that in each of these roles, your skill sets and expertise will always be needed and your role will never be obsolete. As the world develops and as human interests shift, you will be required to develop new elements and update existing elements within applications and websites.

Additionally, the world is only becoming increasingly digital and as long as you are able to stay abreast of digital developments, you are guaranteed to thrive in either of these roles.

What Skills Do You Need To Be A Full-Stack Developer And A Software Engineer?

To be a full-stack developer, you would need to develop expertise in several digital programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as Python, Ruby, and Java. The role that you would hold as a full-stack developer is extremely important as you will be the person to entirely create a website. This would mean that you would need to understand web architecture and you would need to be able to structure data and code to develop specific computations.

In many cases, depending on the role you hold, you may need to have skills that would make you a successful leader or project manager as you would need to work with other people to establish a website that meets certain demands. You would also need to be effective in communicating, time management, and paying close attention to detail.

As a software engineer, you would need to have a knowledge and understanding of programming languages and coding languages, and you would need to understand computer and database architecture.

You would need to have superior design skills and bring together technology and aesthetic appeal to successfully design software that allows for enhanced usability, optimized interactions, and ease of use. You would also need to be able to work as part of a team with the prospect of leading a team, and you would need to have time management, critical thinking, and be able to pay close attention to detail.

Additionally, considering the nature of these roles, you would need to have the ability to stare at a computer screen for multiple hours at a time to successfully carry out your job.

What Qualification Do You Need To Pursue A Career In Full-Stack Development And Software Engineering?

For both of these career paths, you would need a degree in computer science or a degree in information technology. However, earning a traditional degree is not the only way to pursue a qualification in these specific fields.

There are several online certifications or online training programs that you could pursue that would be accepted by most employers for each of these roles. Because these are fluid, dynamic, and constantly adapting and evolving roles, you could constantly enhance your skills and expertise by opting for shorter courses rather than traditional degree programs. However, pursuing a degree in computer science will provide you with several benefits and will open multiple opportunities that could allow you to enhance your expertise.

What Is The Salary Of Full-Stack Developers And Software Engineers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web developers and digital designers earn a median annual salary of $78,300. The job outlook for this career path (full-stack developers) expects a projected overall employment growth of 23% over the next ten years, with about 21,800 openings becoming available each year.

The BLS states that software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers earn a median annual salary of $109,020, and the projected overall employment expects to see a growth of 25% over the next ten years. This career shows about 162,900 jobs opening on average each year.


Should I Become A Full-Stack Developer Or A Software Engineer?

While there are many factors to consider between the two roles and with both being quite similar, the choice would really come down to your own personal preference. However, if job security and salary are your major deciding factors, then you would need to consider that software developers have a greater demand and earn substantially more each year than full-stack developers.


The field of computers, technology, and the digital sphere is extremely interesting and is a never-ending hole of need. It is up to full-stack developers and software engineers to fulfill this constant need. Each job plays an integral role in the field of computer science and IT and is guaranteed to never be obsolete.

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