Zoe Biehl | 09 Aug, 2023

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: Key Differences


If you're confused about the difference between a software developer vs. software engineer, you're not the only one. Even industry experts and professionals debate the true differences between these roles, with some even declaring no real distinction at all! 

So, are there any differences between software development vs. software engineering?

Yes, the two careers have significant distinctions. And if you’re considering software developer or software engineer positions, you’ll want to learn the differences. it’s 

We'll discuss each role in detail, covering salaries, duties, skills, and software engineer vs. software developer distinctions to help you decide your ideal career path. 

What Is a Software Developer?

Software developers design, develop, program, and maintain software for various platforms, including desktop programs, smartphone apps, and web applications. These professionals use various coding languages to build software from the ground up — independently or with a team. For example, a developer might work alone or collaborate with other professionals, like graphic designers. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics documents more than 1.8 million software developer jobs, expected to grow by just over 400,000 by 2030. Software developers are obviously in high demand, making it a promising career. 

Although you don’t need a degree to become a software developer, most start armed with at least a bachelor's degree in a related field like computer science. Certification programs and "coding bootcamps" are also popular educational tracks for aspiring software developers. 

Software developers need various hard and soft skills for day-to-day work. Employers will seek a few in-demand skills when recruiting software developers, like: 

  • Fluency in one or more coding languages
  • Database knowledge (including data structure and algorithms)
  • Experience in source control management
  • Thorough understanding of software testing procedures
  • Experience with various operating systems
  • Training in cryptography
  • Understanding of software frameworks
  • Experience with integrated development environments
  • Ability to work within the software development life cycle
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work alone or with a team
  • Creative problem-solving abilities
  • Attention to detail

Key Job Responsibilities of a Software Developer

A software developer’s key responsibilities might vary from one company to another but usually include:

  • Building software that runs platforms, applications, or systems
  • Overseeing a software’s backend applications 
  • Identifying user demands and modifying software as necessary
  • Checking for bugs or errors in the software
  • Testing new software before it launches

Software Developer's Average Salary

According to Glassdoor, US software developers enjoy an average starting salary of $111,021 at the time of writing. However, senior software developers reported earning an average salary of $127,834. 

Software Development From A to Z - OOP, UML, Agile, Python

Software Developer Best Practices

Some software developer best practices include:

  • Keep your code simple.
  • Continuously your software, from conception to completion.
  • Consider getting a second set of eyes on your code whenever possible.
  • Set realistic deadlines and budget estimates.
  • Create a daily to-do list of coding objectives to stay on track.
  • Begin with the most challenging part of your project first. 

What Is a Software Engineer? 

Software engineers concentrate on a computer or phone software’s structural design. Of course, software engineers might be responsible for designing and developing this software; however, the job focuses more on maintaining, evaluating, testing, and debugging. These duties require a broader understanding of application building, processing, and what the end user most wants or needs. 

According to the most recent statistics, the demand for software engineers is expected to grow by 21% by 2028 and produce hundreds of thousands of new American jobs. Like software developers, software engineers enjoy a high-demand career landscape for their skillset. 

You don't necessarily need a degree to become a software engineer. Still, you'll likely find it challenging to get a job in this field without at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science. On the other hand, a master's degree in computer science will allow you to demand a higher salary and work in higher positions. Certification programs can also improve your career outlook.

Software engineers need a well-rounded skill set that includes hard and soft skills to do their job effectively. Examples of sought-after skills by employers include:

  • Fluency in one or more computer programming languages (preferably at least two)
  • Experience in software development
  • Knowledge of object-oriented design
  • Thorough understanding of software testing and debugging best practices
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work independently or with a team
  • Logical thinking abilities
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Working knowledge of various web development frameworks
  • Experience creating responsive web pages and designs
  • Extensive front-end application development experience

Key Job Responsibilities of a Software Engineer

A software engineer’s key job responsibilities vary from one company to another. However, most software engineer positions entail duties like: 

  • Developing computer instructions via algorithms
  • Documenting processes through flowcharts and diagrams
  • Identifying software issues, common patterns, and opportunities for improvement
  • Developing standard operating procedures
  • Designing and implementing new software systems
  • Maintaining existing code bases, including making improvements where necessary
  • Working with other IT professionals to implement various technical designs
  • Providing written knowledge transfer materials

Software Engineer's Average Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average starting salary for software engineers is $118,860. However, senior software engineers earn an average salary of $139,014. 

Software Engineer Best Practices

A few software engineer best practices include:

  • Keep your codes clean and simple.
  • Always test your codes to ensure they function properly. 
  • Simplify processes with version control.
  • Use simple, appropriate names for variables, functions, and methods to make them easier to read.
  • Avoid abbreviations within your code whenever possible.
  • Use consistent code formatting.
  • Document all of your processes in detail.
  • Be intentional with all your codes, software, and processes.

What's the Difference Between Software Engineer and Software Developer?

Job Title

Software Developer

Software Engineer

Preferred Degree

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology; Relevant Certifications

Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Computer Science

Work Process

One part of the software project-building process.

Involved in every aspect of the project-building process.

Activity Type

Software development is more of a team activity but may sometimes require independent work.

Software engineering is more solitary but may sometimes require teamwork. 

Working Style

Writes a complete code, often from the ground up. 

Works on various software components, often using code created by developers or other engineers. 

Essential Skills

  • Intermediate math competency
  • High fluency level in at least one programming language
  • Advanced math competency
  • Understanding of engineering principles
  • Project management experience
  • High fluency level in at least one programming language (two or more are preferred)

Typical Career Path

  • Software architect
  • Software developer
  • Software engineer
  • Principal software engineer
  • Lead software development engineer

Average Salaries



The skillset and responsibilities of software engineers and developers overlap quite a bit. However, how they complete their work is different. Moreover, software engineers must have higher experience levels and a broader skill set — meaning they tend to have slightly higher salaries than developers.

Understanding the Difference Between Software Developer and Engineer: Key Takeaways

To summarize, the key differences between these two positions include:

  • Software engineers usually require more advanced degrees than developers.
  • Developers are only involved in one part of the software development process, whereas engineers are involved in all of them.
  • Software engineers often work alone, while developers usually work as a team.
  • Developers usually write their own code, whereas engineers typically work with code written by others.
  • Software developer salaries are slightly lower than those of software engineers, though engineers require a broader skill set. 


Deciding between a software engineer vs. software developer can feel tricky. Review each position’s duties and requirements, and consider your interests before hopping into one path. 

Interested in kickstarting your programming career? 

Explore Free Coding Bootcamps

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Is Better, Software Developer vs. Engineer?

You’ll find that neither is inherently better when comparing software developer vs. software engineer careers. It depends on what you like doing most. A software developer focuses more on a singular task (developing software), whereas an engineer has several different tasks like testing, debugging, and writing new code in one workday. 

If you prefer to specialize in a single aspect of software development, you may find a software developer career more rewarding. On the other hand, a software engineer might be the better choice if you crave variety in your workdays. 

2. Does a Software Engineer or Software Developer Make More Money?

On average, a software engineer earns more annually than a software developer. However, considerations like experience level, the employer, and location all affect salaries for either position. 

3. Can a Software Engineer Become a Software Developer?

Yes, a software engineer can become a software developer. In fact, the overlapping of these roles means an engineer can often step into the software developer role with little to no additional training. However, a software developer will require further education, experience, and training to become an engineer.


By Zoe Biehl

Zoe is Hackr.io's Senior Editor. With more than 10 years in the tech industry, her passion is writing and editing technology content that anyone can understand.

View all post by the author

Subscribe to our Newsletter for Articles, News, & Jobs.

I accept the Terms and Conditions.

Disclosure: Hackr.io is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

In this article

Learn More

Please login to leave comments