Software Engineer vs. Software Developer: What Is the Difference?

Written By Connie Benton

software engineer vs software developerPinpointing the differences between a software engineer and a software developer is a complex issue. The IT-sphere has always been attractive to those interested in a career in software, but they may not know whether software engineering or development is the right path for them. .

This article will point out the key differences between these professions. After reading our guide, you’ll not only know the major distinctions between the two but will also be able to make the right choice between them.

The Role of a Software Engineer

Software engineering is a field that can be difficult to comprehend, especially for those not involved in technology. Not only does it require knowledge of computer science but also patience and persistence. You need to constantly track the latest innovations in the computer world, think logically, and collaborate with your clients and teammates.

Trying to figure it out alone is like teaching yourself Chinese if you have never spoken a foreign language before. So we’ll venture to take the role of a “Chinese tutor” and clarify it for you.

Good old Wiki defines a software engineer as “a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software.”

So a software engineer is expected to possess a whole range of skills and experience and a lot of theoretical knowledge from the following:

  • Mathematics
  • Hardware experience
  • Programming experience
  • Patience
  • Management
  • Problem-solving
  • Ability to constantly grow professionally

As a software engineer, your job will involve frequent negotiations with other team members—you will need to translate certain specific tasks and commands into programmed code. So a software engineer should be ready for frequent communication with business developers, marketers, and other team members to help the project achieve its business goals.

The Role of a Software Developer

A software developer is responsible for the programming, management, and customization of computer programs—otherwise known as software. Their key responsibilities are producing efficient code and writing program code for reference. The job of a software developer is logic-based creativity.

Rasmussen College defined the top essential skills of a successful software developer as the following:

Besides being familiar with computer languages, a software developer must possess great analytical skills to be able to compare the client’s requirements with software capabilities.

Secondly, the ability to multitask is a huge advantage. This will help them to work on various projects in different development stages.

Communication and feedback skills, flexibility, compliance with the client’s needs, and attention to detail are also essential. As with the snowball effect, small mistakes can lead to serious problems.

Finally, software developers have a high level of responsibility. They must not only design the software to meet user needs but also test it before the launch.

Differences Between Software Engineers and Software Developers

Now that you’re acquainted with the specifics of the two occupations, we’ll get into the comparison.

Before drawing your attention to the details, let’s clarify the most important difference between the two jobs.

Felim O’Donnell, director of operations at Liberty IT, drew the line between a software developer and software engineer by saying: “The difference between engineers and developers is that a developer takes functional specification and delivers the code required within tight parameters, essentially completing the task in isolation.”

The software engineer usually works on a larger scale and applies the engineering principles to software development, which means that software engineer not only executes tasks but also designs the whole architecture of the program.

There is another expression that briefly but accurately helps you differentiate between the two specialists: A software engineer can be a software developer, but a software developer cannot be a software engineer.

Why is that? The developer is the one who works with the program, while the software engineer works to elaborate the base for this program. Let’s go into more detail.

  • A Software Developer Is a Communicator – To begin with, a software developer is a communicator. They never start the development process without speaking to customers and figuring out their software needs.
  • Software Engineers Have a Wider Set of Responsibilities – The responsibilities of software developers are more limited compared to software engineers. The work of software engineers demands more creativity and problem-solving capacities.
  • Different Design Philosophy – A software engineer and a software developer have the same principle of work, but with a different design philosophy.
  • Different Focuses – Software developers are more detail-oriented. Software engineers are more focused on structural design and eliminating technical debt.
  • Software Development Is About Creating Functional Programs – Finally, a major difference between software engineering and software development is that the first oversees engineering while the other focuses on creating functional programs.

There are also a few criteria to be discussed to really clarify all the differences between these two professions. We’re going to evaluate the salary, workload, and job opportunities.

Difference in Salary

Salary is often a deciding factor when choosing a job. Moreover, the salary in the IT-sphere has always been attractive. According to, a software developer can expect to earn around $80,000 annually, or $6,700 per month. In contrast, a software engineer can earn about $103,000 per year, or nearly $8,600 per month. This is a significant difference that exists because engineers have a much wider set of responsibilities.

software engineer vs software developer

Whose Job Is More Stressful?

By “stressful,” I mean work that is time and effort-consuming, involving working with people and a high level of responsibility.

To be honest, when analyzing this aspect, I find the two professions to be equally stressful. Both software engineers and software developers perform many complex tasks, as I mentioned in the above paragraphs.

What About Job Opportunities?

When getting a degree, you surely want to come out with many job options. That is why I decided to include this factor in my comparison. If your specialization offers a wide range of job opportunities, then you will be more likely to find something to your liking.

Software engineers have more freedom of choice when it comes to career options. They can work with web applications, systems, application development, UX analytics, data analysis, and more. Software engineers have a universal package of knowledge, so they can change their field of activity at any time.

On the other hand, software developers have limited choices—these techies can work as front-end or back-end developers.

Choose Wisely

After having read this guide, you might be thinking that becoming a software engineer is more prestigious and therefore better. Truth be told, I’m not sure that the “better-worse” type of comparison is appropriate here. Both professions have a wide range of challenges and essential skills.

Despite having significant differences in skills, degree, overall responsibilities, work dynamic, role in the development life cycle, and developmental approach, both software engineering and software development are attractive for recruiters.

You can be sure that having chosen one of these professions, you’ll feel no lack of money and job opportunities.