Software Developer vs Software Engineering Comparison

Software developer vs software engineering – You’ve probably heard of these two professions, but what are the exact differences between them? Some people believe that …

vs Software Engineering

Software developer vs software engineering – You’ve probably heard of these two professions, but what are the exact differences between them? Some people believe that these titles are divided based on the education level and experience of the employees. Others think the company you are working for will be the one to decide whether you are a programmer, developer, or so on. Is it merely a title or is it something else under the surface?

In fact, there is a golden rule when it comes to differentiating software developer vs software engineering. It is: software engineers can become software developers, but software developers can not be software engineers. Why? Simply because software developers work with a program, while software engineers work with the background of the said program.

Let’s discuss these two professions together with CMC Global!

Software Developer vs Software Engineering Definition

Software Developer vs Software Engineering Definition

In the real IT industry, companies often use their own experiences and knowledge to create their own description of software developer vs software engineering to suit the needs best. But most people abide by the mentioned golden rule.

According to Computer Science Degree Hub, software developers vs software engineering are assigned to have separate roles.

Software Developer

Software developers are the driving force behind any program creation. In other words, they are responsible for the entire development process, from collaborating with the client to creating a theoretical design and collaborating with computer programmers to have the code run properly. Together, computer programmers and software developers will test and fix problems together under software developers’ leadership and technical guidance along every stage of the software development life cycle.

Software Engineer

On the other hand, software engineering refers to the application of engineering principles to create software. This can be understood as participating in the software development life cycle by connecting the client’s needs with applicable technology solutions, systematically developing processes to create specific functions, as well as using engineering concepts to develop software.

You can understand the title of Software Engineer as a highly proficient Software Developer that is capable of managing a complex system. He or she is the person that is not only capable of building a fully functioning app but at the same time, is experienced enough to know how to build it in the right way that is easy to refactor, self-documenting, and as a result easier to debug.

By looking into these two definitions, you can see that there is a strong separation. A developer knows how to code and is equipped with the technical skills to build meaningful products. They have the tendency to work alone. On the other hand, a software engineer follows a systematic process of understanding requirements, working with stakeholders, and developing a solution that fulfills their needs. Software engineers are usually a part of a larger team.

One of the most important reasons for recruiters and Computer students to understand thoroughly the difference between a software developer and vs software engineer is the different scopes, salary expectations, and responsibilities each has to bear. According to PayScale – an American compensation software and data company in the job market, their research suggests that the average salary of a software engineer in the US. is $83,060, while the same for a software developer job is $69,560.

This quite of a gap is defined by the career path as well as the job description and skills needed.

Software Developer Vs Software Engineer Difference in General

Software Developer Vs Software Engineer Difference in General

Software Developer 

  • Education: Mostly informal training and/or self-teaching.
  • Focus: Single project or different stages in the development life cycle
  • Purpose: Program software and development plans
  • Key Skills: Proficiency in single or few programming languages; innovative problem-solving; creative approach to software development

There is a fact to know: Software developers are often self-taught. According to Forbes’s survey of 40,000 developers, 73.7% of them attribute their skills to at least some self-teaching. In most countries, those who have gone through formal training are typically expected to hold the title of software engineer. However, practical experiences and informal training throughout the time working on different projects of software developers can make them become engineers by gaining experience working on and managing additional aspects of the development life cycle.

Software engineer

  • Education: Formal training and/or university degree
  • Focus: Software system and stability; entire development life cycle
  • Purpose: Ensure all software elements work properly and cohesively
  • Key Skills: Knowledge of multiple programming languages; high-level mathematics; analytics 

To gain the title of engineer, one must have formal education and training to help them employ the scientific method when designing software solutions. This academic knowledge gets them well-versed in multiple programming languages and typically compensated more than developers.

So, for those in training and for companies in need of these two professions, how do we differentiate them in recruitment posts?

Software Developer Vs Software Engineer Difference in Recruitment

Software engineers’ skills and job description

Software engineers are considered highly proficient Software Developers. In every project, they will play active roles and can be leaders, consultants, or individual contributors if needed. Based on their formal training, they have the ability to provide analytical advice in identifying and implementing new IT technologies to reach strategic objectives. And due to the experienced factor they have, they must be able to manage resources, coordinate development tasks, and supervise technical project plans. IT, operations, and development staff are the ones to collaborate with them through the software development life cycle.

Software Engineers are expected to:

  • Have technical expertise, with experience working on a wide range of projects
  • Be proficient with pattern design to create resilient and fault-tolerant systems
  • Use testing automation using tools such as Gherkin, Cucumber, or Ansible
  • Know how to create and maintain IT architecture, large-scale data stores, and cloud-based systems.
  • Build scalable deployment pipelines, to support Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery
  • They must be able to work effectively by themselves and with remote teams.
  • Senior software engineers must oversee complex systems analysis, design, and development programs.

A Software Engineer role will typically involve:

  • Research, design, develop and test their software as well as compile and distribute software over the network
  • Modifying existing software is to resolve defects, adopt new hardware or improve its performance.
  • Analyze the user needs and assess software requirements including design feasibility and cost/time constraints.
  • Consulting with customers regarding specifications and design.
  • Coordination of system software for deployment and installation
  • Supervising is the work of technologists and engineers

Software developer skills and job description

The whole scope of work for a software developer is not just code writing. They must also review the current system, making ideas for improvements, including the effort required to do so. A software developer will work closely with analysts, end users/marketing, and designers.

Software Developers ensure the best quality of their code work by testing it, properly solving bugs, and revisions of programs to increase operating efficiency before launching.

A software developer typically follows a development lifecycle methodology or delivery framework such as Scrum, XP, or Kanban.

Software developers must have:

  • Excellent analytical skills because they will be required to continually compare needs with software capabilities.
  • They must be familiar with computer languages in order to effectively work with computer programs, such as Java, C#, C++, Python
  • Be experienced with using open-source tools such as GitHub
  • Great feedback and communication skills, with strong attention to detail, as minor errors could result in major problems
  • Being detail-orientated will help them manage simultaneous projects at different development stages.
  • Understand the logic of code even in languages they are unfamiliar with.


Scope of work

Because software developers focus on building one part of the system at a time, they are more concerned with implementation and often work independently. In comparison to a programmer, whose main task is writing and correcting code, they are more aware of the structure and intention of the software.

Often, developers are specialized in front-end or back-end development, or within a specific language. This narrows their scope of work but allows them to be more creative in how they build software and address problems. 

Meanwhile, software engineers’ scope is much larger: their responsibility is the structure and stability of an entire system. And thus, their primary function is to ensure that the software does what it’s intended to and that all components, from applications, networks, servers, etc. work together smoothly.

As a result, engineers will have the development tasks done by software developers to instead, focus on the construction of the system as a whole.


We often see software developer roles divided into junior, mid-level, senior, or lead. At the bottom are junior developers, whose works are most similar to programmers: their fundamental tasks are all related to web technologies like HTML and CSS. And at the other end of the spectrum, lead software developers somehow resemble software engineers. They are in charge of overseeing the entire process, focusing on development strategy and working in multiple heavier languages.

Meanwhile, software engineers address an emerging problem within the context of the system. They will study the problem’s implications, and its impact on other elements within the framework to find a long-term solution. This systematic way of thinking can effectively minimize repercussions across other parts of the system.

Because they need to think about how applications interact with each other, software engineers should have knowledge of and experience with a wide array of languages and tools. They tend to work in teams, making their role more collaborative.