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Software Developer VS Software Engineer: Know the Difference!

If you’re looking for a stable, long-term job, turning towards the IT industry would probably be your best bet. It’s no secret that this industry has some amazing career paths laid ahead for the people who put in the hard work - flexible timetables, vacations, multiple different job guarantees and, naturally, a super-competitive salary.

With all of that said, however, there are still some jobs in the IT world that are seem to be confusing newcomers more than doing anything else. In this software developer VS software engineer article, we’ll take a look at a couple of such jobs and, ultimately, try to answer two questions: what’s the difference between the two? And which one should you learn?

In the beginning, I’ll introduce you to both of the career paths separately. We’ll talk about the features of each of the jobs, and everything related to them. After that, the next logical step in this software engineer VS developer article would be to figure out some fundamental criteria for our analysis. Finally, we’ll see if we can answer the two before-mentioned questions based on the chosen criteria.

Assets of Working in Software Field

Before we begin talking about the differences of software developer VS software engineers, there’s one little thing that I want to get out of the way. You often hear that IT-based jobs are “something to dream for” - however, not many people go beyond talking about the salary-part of the jobs. So, excluding that, why should you be interested in this “software engineer VS software developer” article, or IT jobs, in general?

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First of all, let’s talk about career perspectives. It is probably quite evident that IT development is something that is on the constant rise - as time goes on, this industry is becoming more and more widespread. Naturally, with such growth, there’s an increasing need for professionals of the various specialties that this area contains. With that, there’s a strong feeling of certainty that choosing an IT-related career path is a safe bet - whatever happens, you are most probably going to be able to find a job without a problem. This isn’t only true in the “software developer VS software engineer” debate, either. Such specialties as web development or programming have cemented their place as great long-term career choices a long time ago.

Even though I’ll talk a bit more about this later on in the article, the salary that IT specialists make is probably the most advertised factor of “why you should choose an IT-based job”. And this isn’t without a good reason, either - if you’ve ever read any of the developer or programmer salary articles, you know what I’m talking about. Surely, the process of becoming a proper IT specialist is a tough one - there’s a lot of studying and training involved. But, to reiterate my point once again, the results are most definitely worth the hustle.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can finally properly begin our software developer vs software engineer article. And, as stated in the very beginning of this tutorial, we’ll start by talking about each of the individual professions separately. Let’s first check out the software developer side of things.

What do Software Developers do?

So, who are software developers and what do they do?

A software developer is a person that is concerned with the programming, management, and configurations of a computer program - otherwise known as software. In a (very broad) nutshell, these specialists create and maintain the programs that we use, whether it be daily or only once, on certain platforms.

While you’re reading this software developer VS software engineer article, you might think - why would companies need software developers? Sure, certain specific organizations specialize in software development (i.e. Microsoft), but this doesn’t explain the popularity of the profession, now does it? Well, if you were to look at some of the more popular job advertisements found online, you’d probably notice that there are a lot of companies that are looking for software developers that also specialize in certain specific platform creation. Whether you’re looking to program a simple app for day-to-day usage or you want to create an audio-editing tool, developers are going to be the key people behind the process. This does somewhat overlap with web development, but it’s not strange to see people from both of these groups working together.

Why is software development so popular that it would play a role in the “software developer VS software engineer” debate, though? Well, if we take out the salary and “guaranteed future career” parts out of the equation, there’s still one huge reason remaining - flexibility.

Being a software developer, you can be very flexible in what you do. What that means is that these devs can specialize in creating all programs that they’d like, as soon as they have the fundamental knowledge about the field. This doesn’t only apply in the traditional workplace, though. If you’re proficient in the field of software development, you might even consider doing freelancing work or working on personal projects altogether.

With that said, you should now have a better idea of what a software dev is and what do these people do. Now, let’s continue our “software developer VS software engineer” article by talking about software engineers.

What do Software Engineers do?

Software engineering seems to be the field that is rather difficult to explain easily, especially when compared to software development. Having said that, I will try to give you as brief and concise of an explanation as possible.

In the debate of software developer VS engineer, software engineers deal with the same thing as the developers do - computer programs. Software engineers write, test and debug the programs themselves, no matter what these programs would be.

Software engineers have a few different options when it comes to their career branching and specialization. Some engineers prefer to work with the programs themselves, while others turn towards an operating system or database management. It all kind of depends on your background and personal preferences - naturally, different areas of software engineering pay different salaries, but they also have different requirements.

As a software engineer, your job will involve a lot of conversions - you are going to have to convert certain specific tasks and commands into programmed codes. You’d most likely write these codes in one of the more popular programming languages. This means that, if you were to become a software engineer, you’ll have to first be proficient in the field of programming. However, as you probably understood from this tutorial, this isn’t exclusive to engineers - software developers have the same requirement, too.

Software Developer VS Software Engineer - What’s the Difference?

Now that we’ve covered both of the professions, the next logical step in this software engineer VS developer article would be to answer the lingering question - what’s the difference between the two? I’m going to try and answer this question in as simple of a manner as possible, so bear with me.

There’s a great “golden rule” when it comes to differentiating these two professions. It goes like this: software engineers can be software developers, but software developers can’t be software engineers. Why is that? Well, a software dev is someone that works with a program, while a software engineer is a person that works with the foundation of that same program. Does that make sense?

Software engineers develop and maintain the platform on which software developers then build the program itself. Indeed, these two professions are rather closely related, but they are still very different in certain aspects.

So then - now you know some fundamental information about the two professions, and we have briefly discussed the differences between them. The one thing that is still left for us to compare in this software developer VS software engineer guide is the question of which one you should be studying. Before that, however, we need to lay down some key points that we’ll use to answer the question at hand.

Criteria and Analysis

I won’t go HAM when analyzing the discussion between software developers and software engineers - rather, we’ll be looking at some of the simple, yet important aspects of both of the professions.

For our analysis, I’ll be using three broad aspects - salary, workload and branching options. All of these points might seem rather arbitrary, but I assure you - they are very important when it comes to building a stable career path.

Who has a better salary?

This point is pretty self-explanatory - a good salary is often one of the main motivators of choosing a specific profession over the other. Let’s see how this point fares in our software developer VS software engineer discussion.

According to Glassdoor.com, software developers can expect to earn around $80,000 per year or close to $6700 per month. As opposed to that, software engineers can expect a salary of $103,000 per year, or almost $8600 per month.

That’s a huge difference! However, if you remember the golden rule that I mentioned a bit earlier in the software engineer VS software developer article, you can probably understand why that’s the case.

Who has a better workload?

The workload is an important aspect of any job. Sure, it often depends purely on the position and the company itself, but certain professions still have varying degrees of work involved.

In the software developer VS engineer discussion, however, the workload is rather similar. Both software devs and engineers are usually preoccupied with quite a few complex tasks at a time. That being said, it is widely believed that engineers do have a bit of a more expansive workload - since they can also work on software development, their responsibilities may vary, thus increasing the amount of work that these people have to do, on a daily average.

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Who has better branching options?

Now, as strange as this point might come off to be, branching options are important for both software developers and engineers alike. That’s why I’ve decided to include this point in the software developer VS software engineer tutorial - if a career offers more branching options, people might be more inclined to choose it. This is because you would know that if you suddenly realize that a certain field is particularly your cup of tea, you wouldn’t need to change your entire specialization - you could just move on to different projects.

Admittedly, this is yet another point in the software engineer VS software developer article in which engineers excel. Software engineers have the option to work with web apps, system and application development, data analysis and so on. On the flip side, software developers have rather limited options - they may work as front or back end developers, but even then they are somewhat tied to the actual programs themselves.


Now, with all of what we’ve covered the main aspects of both developers and engineers in the article, you might think that software engineering is the way to go. However, don’t forget - personal preferences are a thing! Whichever side of the software developer VS software engineer debate you decide to choose, it all kind of boils down to that.

As you’ve probably noticed, both of these professions are tough nuts to crack - they have their intricacies, and revealing them would take much more than a short comparison article.

The IT industry has always been seen as one of the best places to go when it comes to a stable and reliable career path. If you’re interested in constantly advancing technology, and a certain profession from the IT field has caught your attention (whether it be software development, engineering, programming, or anything else) - don’t hesitate to try and study it! You never know - it might be the right career path for you!

I hope that this tutorial was useful to you and that you’ve learned something new. Until next time!

About Article's Experts & Analysts

By Aaron S.


Having completed a Master’s degree in Economics, Politics, and Cultures of the East Asia region, Aaron has written scientific papers analyzing the differences between Western and Collective forms of capitalism in the post-World War II era. W...
Aaron S., Editor-In-Chief
Having completed a Master’s degree in Economics, Politics, and Cultures of the East Asia region, Aaron has written scientific papers analyzing the differences between Western and Collective forms of capitalism in the post-World War II era.
With close to a decade of experience in the FinTech industry, Aaron understands all of the biggest issues and struggles that crypto enthusiasts face. He’s a passionate analyst who is concerned with data-driven and fact-based content, as well as that which speaks to both Web3 natives and industry newcomers.
Aaron is the go-to person for everything and anything related to digital currencies. With a huge passion for blockchain & Web3 education, Aaron strives to transform the space as we know it, and make it more approachable to complete beginners.
Aaron has been quoted by multiple established outlets, and is a published author himself. Even during his free time, he enjoys researching the market trends, and looking for the next supernova.

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What do software developers do?

Software developers usually are concerned with the programming and management of computer programs. These specialists create and develop software that we use every day on our computers or mobile phones. Software developers need to be flexible and educated in order to go hand in hand with the current trends.

What's the difference between software developer and software engineer?

It's important to know that software developers and engineers work together. While software engineers develop and maintain the platform, software developers then build the program and its features. These professions are closely related but are completely different.

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