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What's The Difference: Software Developer Vs Software Engineer

In the pursuit of finding the perfect career path for yourself, you may have come across a few careers that have very similar names and it has left you scratching your head pondering what the differences are and why these differences exist. Some of these career paths may be that of a software developer and a software engineer.

While it may be easy to deduce that both these careers exist in the field of computer science, IT, or anywhere that software may be used, you still may wonder what the most notable differences are and which is the best for you to pursue.

Software developers work toward designing and creating single computer systems or one specific application software, whereas software engineers work on a greater scale developing and testing whole computer systems and applications for entire companies or organizations.

While software development is encompassed in software engineering, software engineering is seen as an overarching role that encompasses many software-development tasks.

If you consider an entire software project, there may be multiple software developers working on different components of the project. However, if one person works on all components of the project by themselves, they are fulfilling the role of a software engineer.

Let us take a closer look at each of these roles, how they differ, and which one you should consider pursuing.

Each Role In The Workplace

With these key differences between software engineers and software developers noted, in the professional sphere, it will be seen that software engineers may find themselves working collaboratively with other departments within an organization, whereas a software developer may work independently. Let us take a closer look at this in terms of an example.

In a large organization or corporation, a software engineer will work on developing entire computer systems and applications which means that they will work collaboratively with other divisions within the organization. If they are developing an internal employee system that keeps track of employee salaries, leave days, and all other internal functions, they would need to collaborate with other internal divisions including human resources, finance, and other internal divisions.

On the other hand, within the larger project that the software engineer is working on, a software developer may work on developing and enhancing the front-end user interface. Working on one singular aspect of the entire project, the software developer will get to work independently, successfully creating, designing, and implementing the UI.

Given the direction that professional workspaces have moved in, and when you consider that through developments in digital interfaces (made possible by software developers and software engineers) many people can work remotely, both roles can be conducted successfully in traditional, remote, and hybrid work environments.

Whether you choose to pursue a career as a software developer or as a software engineer, you have the flexibility of choosing to work within a company as an employee, or working as an independent contractor or freelancer. This gives you the flexibility that not a lot of other careers offer you.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Software Engineer And A Software Developer?

Both career paths require a degree in either computer sciences or Information Technology (IT), and you could successfully pursue both roles with the same qualification. You could even pursue a qualification in software engineering and this qualification can be useful in the role of a software developer.

Software developers who have a degree or qualification in software engineering can pursue further specializations in a specific field within software engineering. A software developer can be seen as a specialized role in which they focus their expertise on one aspect of software engineering.

What Career Path Can You Follow As A Software Developer And As A Software Engineer?

Within each role, you can follow different career paths and whether these paths are obtained by specializing in different fields or progressing up the corporate ladder, you are not limited to just one role. The potential for growth in either role is quite phenomenal.

As a software engineer, you could further pursue a senior-level role of a principal software engineer within an organization or as a lead software development engineer. As a software developer, you could pursue the role of a developer or as a software architect.

When you consider that the development of software is always going to be needed and that digital platforms and interfaces are constantly going to be developed, and when you consider that the world is becoming increasingly more digitalized, the roles of software engineers and developers will always be needed and will never become obsolete. This means that you will always have a role in society's workforce if you choose to pursue either of these roles.

What Tools Do You Need To Fulfill Each Role?

Unlike a trade career or one that requires practical and physical tools, most of the tools you will use as a software engineer, or a software developer will exist in the digital sphere in the form of computer programs and digital computer tools.

The tools that they would most commonly make use of are web development tools, and mobile and desktop development tools.

What Skills Do You Need For Each Role?

To be successful in either of these roles, you would need a natural inclination toward computers and find interest and joy in using digital programs. However, heading into this career path doesn't mean you need to be void of creativity. In fact, to successfully fulfill the role of a software developer, you are required to have great creativity and creative skills.

As a software developer, you also need to be able to write and test code, have superior presentation skills, have the ability to develop web designs, be able to work on the front-end development of multiple applications, have knowledge of how algorithms and data structures function, and considering the extensive duties that you would be required to fulfill along with working independently, you would also need to have great time management skills.

As a software engineer, considering that you will be leading multiple projects and that you will be working with many other divisions, you will need to have superior leadership skills, you will need to have an in-depth understanding of multiple programming languages, you would need to have an understanding of software development and computer operating systems, you would need to have natural and acquired skills in mathematics, you would need to be able to debug software and you would need to have project management skills.

What Are The Salaries And Job Outlook For These Roles?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers earn a median annual salary of $109,020. The overall employment of this career expects to see a projected 25% growth over the next decade with about 162,900 new jobs opening on average each year for the next 10 years.

What Challenges Are Faced In These Careers?

No job exists without challenges. One of the biggest challenges that software engineers face is the safety aspects that need to be considered in certain industries or organizations. The rising market demands, the increased complexity of applications and software, and the extreme diversity within the field are some of the major challenges faced in software engineering.

In software development, the greatest challenges are misunderstood client requirements, constant changes in the client's requirements, different software that is difficult to maintain long-term, and the discovery of flaws in digital platforms after it has been launched.


Is Software Development Easy?

Considering that you need to have advanced and superior programming and troubleshooting skills, and considering that the professional demands for software developers are quite high, it is considered quite a challenging career path. You need to have problem-solving skills and you would need to have the ability to think logically. However, even though it isn't exactly an easy job, the earning potential makes it worth your while and increases as your skills and abilities grow.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Software Engineer?

There are multiple software engineering roles that you could fulfill and there are entry-, mid-, and senior-level roles within this career path, each of which requires different lengths of experience. In most cases, mid-level roles would require between one and three years of experience, and for senior roles, you would need to have a minimum of five years of experience.

How Do You Become A Software Developer?

While you could consider taking the traditional route of obtaining your bachelor's degree, there are several Bootcamp programs, certification programs, and practical skill courses that you could pursue to be successful in this role.


Whichever career you decide to choose, you can be sure that you will face success, consistent demand, and great earning potential which in itself is enough to keep you motivated. Beyond that, the benefits and freedom of working for a company or yourself, or working in an office or remotely are all important considerations that software development and software engineering allow you to freely make.

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