Software Developer Vs Software Engineer – Key Differences

Understand the main differences between Software Developer vs Software Engineer and compare the skills, responsibilities, qualifications, etc: 

Software Engineers conceptualize, build, maintain and enhance System to cater to client’s needs which is efficient, economically viable, reliable, and runs in a suggested production environment.

Software Developers are the creator of the software application to cater to the specific need of the client as envisaged by Software Engineers and elaborated by the client which is efficient, optimal, creative, runs in the environment specified, well documented, and maintainable.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer

Software Engineer Vs Software Developer

A Software Engineer approaches the need of the client systematically with a bigger overview. He applies engineering principles to get an overall solution. He lays the foundation, process, and technical road map to solve the issue as a whole.

Software Engineer Vs Developer

A Software Developer handles a specific function i.e., a subset of the overall solution. He gets into the details of the specific function and applies his expertise in the niche area. He can be innovative and creative in coming up with a solution.

Let us understand this better with an example, as stated below:

Developers are like small outlets that we see who specialize in a specific line of clothing like Men’s suits, casual shirts, etc. The casual shirt outlet may have casual wear for holidays, for office, for a party, etc., and will be up to date with the trend and fashion in the market. So, their focus is on the niche area, and are very good at it.

Engineers are like an Apparel shop, which caters to all Men’s apparel. So, you will find all men’s clothing like casuals, formals, traditional, etc. The shop needs to be aware of the latest trend in all and should know how to exhibit them to get the clientele. They should also train the shop representatives to direct the client to the right counter.

Responsibilities Of Software Engineer

Responsibilities Of Software Engineer

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Listed below are the major responsibilities of a Software Engineer:

  • Communicate and discuss with clients to get clarity in their requirements and specification.
  • Design a robust and efficient solution to meet the customer needs after research and collaboration with team experts.
  • Lay the foundation for the process and approach that will be followed in the project.
  • Facilitate and take part in the solution’s development.
  • Manage and monitor the quality of the delivery.
  • Efficient deployment of the application in the environments decided.
  • Maintenance of the application by defects management.
  • Continuous work towards enhancement of the application to satisfy the additional needs of the user.
  • Plan for continuous scalable pipelines for development, integration, deployment, and delivery.
  • Strategize technical improvement to cope with changing industry standards and norms.
  • Work towards performance improvement.
  • Manage the project, keeping in mind the cost/time constraints.
  • Supervising the team consisting of different profiles–technologists, engineers, designers, testers, etc.

Responsibilities Of Software Developer

Responsibilities of a Software Developer

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Listed below are the major responsibilities of a Software Developer:

  • Coordinate with the client or Business Analyst to get clarity in the requirement.
  • Learn and get expertise in the computer language in which the application is being developed such as C++, Python, etc.
  • Good analytical skills, creative and must have lateral thinking to be able to provide efficient and innovative solutions to the specific need.
  • Learn and understand the open-source tools or the tool being used for development and gain expertise in it.
  • Quality conscious and detail-oriented.
  • Sensitive to be on time and do quality delivery.
  • Should be able to do impact analysis of the changes that are done to code and test the impact before delivery.
  • Plan and share the development time and effort estimation and then manage it.
  • Should foresee the challenges and issues, if any, in the task being done and share it with a mitigation plan.
  • Recommend any gaps/upgrades that the existing system may need to fulfill client needs better.
  • Guide, monitor, and mentor programmers to write the code efficiently.
  • Have all the documents like design, flowchart, coding standards, etc. to manage future maintenance and enhancements.

Software Developer Vs Software Engineer – A Comparison

Key AreasSoftware EngineerSoftware Developer
FocusBigger overview and are responsible for the overall approachLimited Scope of a specific area and focused area expertise
Over all RoleArchitect of the system and conceptualize the systemCreator of efficient functional bricks to build the system
Scope of ViewSetting and managing the whole system based on engineering principlesCreating a working functional software applying his expertise and provide creative and innovative solutions
People ManagementDeals with client and multiple team members to get the overall application delivered and managedDeals with few members of the client team who deal on the specific required function and few team members.
Team sizePart of a bigger team with varied profiles like IT, operations, development etc.Part of smaller team with specific area expertise
ResponsibilitiesDealing with clients, collaborating with different team experts to deliver the system as a wholeCoding, design, architecture, and technical documentation 
QualificationGenerally, are graduates in Engineering Generally, are graduates in Computer Science / Information Technology
Career GrowthJr Software Engineer
Sr Software Engineer
Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
Jr Developer
Sr Developer
Software Architect / Team Manager
SkillsAnalytical thinking, Systematic approachCreativity and Innovation
Tools Creates Tools which can facilitate the delivery or decides on external tools which may be useful after consultation with expertsUse Tools extensively to deliver the functionality
SalaryAverage Base Salary - 87K$ USD
Range 62K$ USD – 128K$ USD
Average Base Salary - 72K$ USD
Range 50K$ USD – 105K$ USD

Career Path

career growth of SE SD

Skills Required For Software Developer And Engineer

Listed below the technical and soft skills that both developer and an engineer need to have or acquire to progress in their career. The proficiency and depth of knowledge depend on the process/tools followed in the organization and the profile, role, and responsibility of the developer/engineer.

#1) Programming Languages

This knowledge will facilitate the good design and of course efficient coding. Popular and in-demand programming languages are Python, JavaScript, C++, C#, etc.

#2) Algorithms and Data Structure

This knowledge will ensure better performance and efficient memory usage in the code. Knowledge of Algorithms like Trees, linked list, array, etc. is very important.

For example, if a code needs to store salary for 12 months. One way to store these is to define 12 variables for each month’s salary. But an efficient way of storing will be to define a one-dimensional array with 12 elements–Array Salary (12). So, Salary (1), Salary (2), likewise can be used to refer to each month’s salary.

#3) Managing Source Versions

The need to manage the features available in each release version is a very important part of the application development. There are many tools available in the market to manage the code version control, mainly Git, Mercurial, SVN, etc.

#4) Development Environment

Integrated Development Environment (IDE) knowledge is a mandate to write a code, compile it, run it, and debug it efficiently. Visual Studio for C, C++, and C#, PyCharm for Python, Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ IDEA for Java are some common IDEs used.

#5) Operating Systems

The knowledge of memory usage, conflicting issues related to different machines/operating systems and tools will make the person more efficient and an expert in the field. Some known operating systems are Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS for PCs, laptops, and Mobile.

#6) Databases

Database knowledge is imperative to be able to manage security, performance, maintenance, version differences, cross multiple database support, etc. Some of the know databases are Oracle, SQL, PostgreSQL, Redis, etc.

#7) Networks

Almost all applications like business applications, business websites, online games, or cloud computing are client-server architecture-based. So, the knowledge of the fundamentals of networking is an essential skill for the developer/engineers to develop a robust system supporting multiple functionalities.

#8) Cross-Platform support

Today the market demands the access of an application in mobile, iPad, laptop, and workstations at the office. So, it is mandatory from the design and conceptualization stage itself to be able to support the application on different platforms. Knowledge of writing a code that supports multiple platforms like Linux, Windows, Mac, etc. is required to support this new trend.

#9) Encryption and Cryptography

Financial loss because of password hacking, sensitive data leakage due to security issues are all hot topics today. It’s the first and most important feature that a client looks for which can not be compromised. Encryption algorithms, authentication, and cryptography methods are all the most required technical skill expected.

#10) Software Development Life Cycle

SDLC is the development methodology followed for the development and maintenance of the system to meet the customer’s need efficiently with optimal effort and good quality. Some popular SDLC methods are Waterfall, Agile, Big Bang, V-Shaped, etc.

#11) Management tools used for Defect Management, Documents, Automation

System development is collaborative teamwork, wherein sharing information within the team and with the client is imperative. The clarity and ease with which this sharing is done play a key role in the success of the smooth development of the application.

  • Defect Management Tools: JIRA, Bugzilla, Quality Centre, etc.
  • Document Management Tools: Google Drive, Confluence, Apple iCloud, etc.
  • Automation Tools: Selenium, Lambda Test, etc.

#12) Quality Testing

In the current competitive market, quality is a key contributor to be one up in the market. Some key points to ensure quality are as follows:

  • Type and frequency of testing to be done i.e. Functional, Regression, End to End, etc.
  • Tools to be used for automation
  • Testing coverage to ensure quality
  • Defect management, logging, reporting, etc.

#13) Text Editor

Knowledge of text editor and proficiency will save a coder’s time and increase his productivity. The knowledge of shortcuts, copy, paste, search features, etc. is very essential. Commonly used text editors are Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, Brackets, Visual code, etc.

#14) Microsoft products mainly Word, Excel, Powerpoint

Every software person has to make a presentation using PowerPoint, share discussion points, maintain the details of requirements, track the schedule, etc. either using Excel or Word document.

#15) Soft skills

Both developers and engineers will progress in their careers if they are good at the below listed soft skills. If required these can be learned and improved upon during their work or can be enhanced by doing a short-term course.

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Management
  • Escalation
  • Prioritization and Scheduling
  • Professional Networking

Career switch from Software Developer to Engineer

As elaborated in the software developer vs software engineer section and the skills required section, the role difference is in scope and approach. On small-scale projects, a developer probably can do all that an engineer does in developing a big system. An experienced engineer who manages the system as a whole will have knowledge of varied areas like costing, team building, etc.

A developer, during his initial period, can learn all the skills from his work experience. Once decided to move into this career path, he can plan and enlarge his vision, see the bigger picture and understand why and what is being done in a certain way to achieve the bigger goal.

One should start demonstrating his newly acquired skills and share observations during discussions on architecture, design, tools, quality, security, performance, and other larger aspects that are beyond his current scope of work.

While education and certification can give a quick start off to be a software engineer but work experience, learning, and demonstration of acquired skills cannot stop a developer from getting into the role of an engineer.

Whether one is a good light music singer or a classical singer, one is definitely a singer. And nothing can stop a good singer from learning the nuances and singing any type of song.

The success in switching depends mainly on the effort, intention, learning ability, and openings available.

Software Engineer Vs Web Developer

The main difference between software engineers and web developers has to do with the area of their work. Refer to the below table:

Software engineerWeb developer
Builds an application addressing the client needs and may run on a client server architecture, standalone desktop, mobile or even WebIs involved mainly with websites and web applications with focus on client needs, ease of user access, security, site performance, aesthetic values etc.
The language used maybe Python, Java, C++ etc. The language used maybe JavaScript, CSS, HTML etc.
Deals with compatibility across different OS/platformsDeals with compatibility across different browsers
Software may or may not require to be hostedWeb Application needs to be hosted via the internet or intranet.

Both fields require extensive programming knowledge, an eye for detail, quality consciousness, and efficiency.

A web developer needs to be a software developer/software engineer. A software engineer can be a web developer, as web development is a subset of a type of software.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q #1) Is a software engineer better than a software developer?

Answer: The role and responsibilities of the two profiles are different. An engineer can probably do a developer’s job. The difference is in the focus of the two roles.

The engineer’s core focus lies in delivering and maintaining the system as a whole, looking into various aspects like design, quality, maintainability, etc. while the developer’s focus is on developing a functional application creatively and efficiently.

Q #2) What are the top 5 skills a beginner should have to get a break as a developer/engineer?

Answer: A developer/engineer should have the following skills:

  • Good knowledge for a developer and awareness for an engineer of a few popular languages like Java, C#, Python, etc.
  • Knowledge and awareness of terms like SDLC, Automation Tools, Browsers, Operating systems.
  • Demonstrate eye for details and quality.
  • Analytical, problem solving, and creative thinking.
  • Communication, multitasking, and collaboration skills, more weightage is given to this aspect for an engineer.

Q #3) What are the most in-demand areas of software specialization?

Answer: Listed below few areas which are in demand.

  • Specialists in Machine learning like driverless car driving.
  • Artificial Intelligence, like Robots helping in daily routine activities.
  • DevOps specialist with a focus on automation.
  • Embedded application developer
  • Mobile Application developer
  • Graphics programmer/designer like Graphics used in Games is very powerful and needs a lot of expertise and is in great demand.
  • Systems Administrator like Linux administrator
  • Database Administrator
  • Web/Application developer
  • Quality Assurance expert

Q #4) Is the software engineering profession dying?

Answer: The software industry has seen many peaks and downfalls like Y2K, the dotcom bust, etc. In a changing world, every industry changes as per the market demand. Our survival depends on moving along and being prepared for the change.

Post lockdown while few software firms have wound up, multiple segments are booming like gaming, the Insurance industry, cloud server technology, cross-platform support technologies, etc. So, learning and being prepared for the changing environment is the key to survival.

Q #5) What are the challenges of a software developer/engineering profession?

Answer: The rate of change in the software industry is very rapid and the biggest challenge is to keep oneself up to date. Next is the customer expectation and competition in the market resulting in long working hours under tremendous stress resulting in losing work-personal life balance.

Q #6) Is Web designing and development the same?

Answer: Web designers focus only on the look and feel of the website and they need not have any coding knowledge. Web developer refers to the design and does coding to make it functional.

For example, a site designed to accept the name and date of birth of the user has a date of birth first, and then the name is a designing issue. But if the date of birth is accepted and displayed incorrectly is a coding issue.

Q #7) Can a computer science degree holder become a software engineer?

Answer: A degree from a good institution in computer science can definitely give a break as a software engineer. While some firms insist on an engineering degree, the first break in these firms may be difficult. But after gaining some experience, one can get a break by showcasing their experience and skill set.

There is also a rising demand for Data Analysts and Business Intelligence professionals.

Q #8) How has the pandemic impacted the software developer/engineer profession?

Answer: Tech companies have not been impacted very adversely. The job losses, if any, are of the resources in the peripheral jobs. This industry adapted easily to the digital acceleration and work from the home mode of working. This has increased demand for techies, data analysts, business analysts, cloud computing, and QA personnel.

Q #9) How important is it to have domain knowledge for a software developer/engineer profession?

Answer: For a fresher domain knowledge is not a must, but they should demonstrate the ability to learn a new domain during the interview/induction period. For experienced people, domain knowledge resources are preferred as they can highlight gaps and issues in the requirement specs and prevent issues proactively.

Further reading =>> Importance of Domain Knowledge

Q #10) Is software re-engineering different from software engineering?

Answer: The term re-engineering implies that there is an existing system, and the requirement is to study the existing application and improve it to suit the current needs and improve and rectify other issues in the existing system.


Software Engineers conceptualize and build a system on engineering principles and a disciplined approach. They have a larger view of the client’s needs and manage and collaborate with all stakeholders and team members with different expertise to deliver and maintain an efficient, good quality, and profitable system.

Software Developers are niche area experts and are responsible for the delivery of a specific function, which is a subset of the overall system. They are expected to be creative and innovative in their solution after understanding the nuances of client requirements. The expectation is to develop an application that is efficient, optimal, creative, of good quality, supports different environments, easy to maintain, and well documented.

The core skills required by both profiles are almost the same. The difference is in the scope, approach, and depth. While the engineer’s role requires a wide and bigger view, the developer’s role requires a narrow but deeper knowledge of the specific area.

A developer can expand his horizons and move into an engineer’s role after learning and gaining work experience and demonstrating other skills required for an engineer’s profile.

A bowler, keeper, or batsman, all are cricketers. Similarly, a developer, engineer, tester, web developer, etc. all are working towards ‘Engineering’ a system to cater to client’s needs.