Career Insight

The Differences Between Software Engineers and Software Developers

Illustration of software engineering professional and their responsibilities

Like boats and ships or jams and jellies, defining the difference between two things that seem almost identical can be tricky. So, when it comes to identifying the differences between software developers and software engineers, we understand that it can leave you perplexed. After all, they are so closely related in terms and assume similar job functions. Is there a difference at all?

Our answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

We’re going to get to the bottom of one of the most common questions aspiring tech industry professionals ask…

“Software developer vs. software engineer: What is the difference?”

The Software Developer

Do you know the spellbinding video game that held your attention captive for hours on end? The banking app that allows you to pay a friend for the dinner bill you split? Even that high-powered smartphone that resides in your pocket? You can thank software developers for creating all of these.

Software developers are the creative professionals who brainstorm and generate software programs of all shapes and sizes. But before they design and develop the different application components, product managers or solution engineers will talk to customers and create small units of work for developers to finish. Then, developers pick up these small units of work and complete the development process.

Being a software developer is often a solo endeavor as they focus mostly on the creative solutions for a computer program. They flex their technical expertise by using their knowledge of various coding languages such as Python, Javascript, and C# for modifying, writing, and debugging computer software for clients. Software developers are also tasked with documenting software and testing them to ensure they run efficiently for the end-user. Often acting as the main point of contact between the team and client, software developers ensure all parties remain on the same page throughout the entire process.

Software developers typically work closely and perform everything that software engineers do — on a smaller scale. Because they’re less involved in other phases of a project — ones you’ll find an engineer involved in — they’re allowed more freedom to flex their creative side to churn out aesthetically pleasing, high-quality software programs.

A software developer job description typically features the following:

  • Research, design, implementation, and management of software programs
  • New program testing and evaluation
  • Identify, maintain, and upgrade existing programs as needed
  • Write and implement efficient code
  • Develop quality assurance procedures
  • Deploy software tools, processes, and metrics
  • Train users
  • Collaborate with developers, UX designers, and business analysts

The Web Developer

Web developers have similar skills and knowledge as software developers but are specifically responsible for creating, developing, and maintaining websites and applications on the internet (or for the web).

The Software Engineer

In the hierarchy of the development structure, software engineers reside at the top — predominantly because of their knowledge and application of engineering principles. They supplement these principles with mathematical analysis and additional computer science principles to design and develop computer software.

Whereas the focus of software developers is generally on the creative portion of software development, software engineers are capable of doing all the same things as software developers, but with different design methodologies. Software engineers approach a project from all angles of the development process and a more systematic approach. This means that rather than having opportunities to express creativity, their talents are delegated to overseeing entire software development procedures.

Software engineers are involved with every stage of the software development process. Their efforts begin in the idea workshop stage and they stay connected all the way through maintenance and software updates. Software engineers efficiently delegate their time to each development stage in order to keep workflow balanced across each aspect of the entire process. This practice ensures teams stay true to deadlines while leaving adequate time for revisions.

When we make the comparison of a software engineer vs. software developer, you’ll find developers work in a more solitary environment. Conversely, software engineers will work in teams with others of the same role to design, build, install, and maintain system applications, while considering all stakeholders involved. To meet this goal, software engineers need a solid understanding of algorithms, languages, data structures, and scalability, in systems engineering and web development.

A software developer job description often includes the following:

  • Develop, simulate, test, and ensure quality in software
  • Conduct analysis of user requirements, software, and code
  • Analyze risk and reliability in systems
  • Maintain and integrate existing systems
  • Comply with or exceed industry standards
  • Manage software development for the full lifecycle
  • Assess new technologies before implementation
  • Create technical specifications

Key Differences

At this point, you have an idea of what both roles entail and how they differ from one another. To recap, here are some of the principal variations between software engineers and software developers.

  • Developers and engineers have similar skill sets but developers often focus on fewer areas of a project. Developers have the opportunity to be more creative in their roles while engineers deal more with project management and oversight.
  • Software engineering is a team activity while development is more of an independent activity.
  • Software developers receive small predefined tasks to work on after a product manager speaks with the customer to understand their software needs.
  • Software engineers are more focused on the overall structure of a software system.
  • It is the responsibility of software engineers to solve immediate problems, while minimizing the impact on other parts of the system and its architecture.

In another blog, we also breakdown the differences between a software engineer and programmer if you are interested in learning those differences as well.

Now that we’ve broken down the difference between software engineer vs. software developer, what career path hits home for you? What can you see yourself as in the future? Don’t keep the answer to yourself! Contact Kenzie Academy today, and let’s have a conversation. We can’t wait to hear from you!


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