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Software Developer vs Software Engineer: What’s the Difference & Who Will Fit You Best

17 February 2022 Software Development

When it comes to hiring a professional for your software development project, you can find software development and software engineer experts that can be considered for performing the app development. Are these two roles similar?

To understand what is the difference between software developer and software engineer yet be able to define which one will surely fit your software development project, it’s essential to start with a detailed overview of the main responsibilities and tasks performed within each position.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Simply put, a software engineer is a professional who applies the principles of software engineering for designing, developing, maintaining, testing and evaluating computer software.

As a rule, this position implies strong teamwork with other project members, as the software engineer works with the separate components of the hardware system, works on creating the tools and solutions to develop the specific software, and also searches for potential opportunities to improve the software. Unlike software developers that work on a limited scale, software engineers resolve the issues on a much larger scale.

Having analyzed the global searching trends for “software engineer”, we can see that the interest in this position among Google’s searchers shows 76 out of 100 points, which means this trend is still in the peak period of its popularity as of February 2022.

What Does a Software Developer Do?

On the contrary, the software developer is the professional responsible for building cross-platform software for different types of devices. Typically, they write code from scratch, with the ready-to-go application at the output.

The most common examples of this software are the diverse number of various desktop and mobile apps for different operating systems: the applications like Instagram, Facebook, Photoshop or MS Word are the ones that come to mind first.

Unlike the software engineer position, this job is primarily a solitary activity, so the developer works not on the separate program components but on the complete program structure overall.

Software developers commonly utilize pre-made tools and frameworks to build the software. However, they have a much-limited scale of issue-resolving compared to the engineers.

Google’s searching trends for the term “software developer” are half as much as we’ve got for the engineer position: as of February 2022, it shows only 33 points out of 100.

Moreover, this trend has never reached more than 50 points in the last 5 years, which only emphasizes that there is a huge difference between software engineering and software development processes.

Does this mean the software engineer position is better than a software developer? Let’s find this out by making a detailed comparison of software developers vs software engineers!

What Is the Difference Between Software Engineer and Software Developer?

Though both specializations refer to one scope of software development, in fact, software developer and software engineer occupations are not similar. To find out the difference between software developer and software engineer, let’s analyze the major aspects of each occupation separately.

Software Developers

  • The typical entry-level education for this occupation is Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or Computer programming, where the Software Development specializations are studied.
  • Software development is primarily a solitary activity that requires developing the overall application itself.
  • A software developer is responsible for working with the separate aspects within the software project development process.
  • This specialist creates and delivers a complete program from scratch.
  • Software developers perform the issue resolving processes, similar to the software engineers, but on a more limited scale. For this reason, they tend to be more creative in generating solutions that can be embedded into the software project.
  • The expert in software development will use the pre-made tools for delivering the software solutions for the web, mobile, and desktop.

Software Engineers

  • The typical entry-level education for this occupation is a Bachelor’s degree in Software Development, but the degrees in Software Engineering are rather the add-on benefits than the essential requirements.
  • Software engineering is primarily a team activity, which implies high engagement in collaboration during the development process.
  • In this position, the professional is involved in the complete process of software development.
  • A software engineer is responsible for the separate components of the software and closely cooperates with other professionals to build and deliver the ready-to-go system.
  • The working style of software engineers implies resolving large-scaled issues, and are less involved in considering creative solutions. Instead, they’re more systematic and work with the real concerns.
  • A software engineer professional is the one who creates the tools which will be further used for the software development process.

With this said, the difference between a software developer vs software engineer becomes more than obvious. Now you can clearly understand the major aspects, tasks, and responsibilities of each professional, and start considering which one – software developer or software engineer will better fit your business needs.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer – How to Define What Specialist You Need for Your Project?

Having compared these two jobs, it’s now time to find the answer to the main question – software engineer vs software developer which is better exactly for your business? Here are some essential aspects you should ask yourself before making up the final decision.

#1 Will This Professional Join Your Team of Developers or Perform the Project Alone?

If you need a software development expert that will cooperate with other team members, you can hire both a software engineer and a software developer. However, if the project is expected to be delivered by one expert only, it’s better to hire a software developer  – this professional can perform the design and program implementation processes by adding creativity.

#2 Will Your Project Utilize the Tools That Already Exist or Needs Creating New Ones Instead?

If your project implies creating completely new tech approaches and development tools, then it’s more reasonable to hire a software engineer – a person who applies the engineering principles to the process of software development. However, in case it’s possible to use the premade development tools for your project – the software developer is your best option to choose!

#3 Will This Person Be Engaged in the Specific Development Stages or the Entire Process of Software Building?

If you want a professional that will participate in the entire process of the application development, it’s also more beneficial to select the software developer instead of a software engineer, as this expert can effectively participate in each stage of software building yet features better creativity, which is surely great for any project.

Instead, if you want the person to resolve some larger issues and the one that won’t be required to contribute in every stage – choose a software engineer!

#4 Will This Expert Operate on a Bigger Scale or Perform the Functions on a Small Scale Only?

If the upcoming project requires a person that operates the large-scale tasks, it’s better to consider hiring a software engineer, and ultimately, when you want the professional to carry out the engineering functions on a smaller scale – it’s more reasonable to choose a software developer!

You’ll probably want to hire a software engineer if your software project requires a person that:

  • Features the ability to work in teams
  • Has the advanced problem-solving skills
  • Possesses strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Has expertise in computer programming and coding
  • Is focused on the object-oriented design

It’s better to consider hiring a software developer specialist if you’re looking for the person that:

  • Possesses advanced knowledge in cloud computing, data structure, and data algorithms
  • Has the ability to learn and develop his or her skills
  • Features Git and GitHub hard skills
  • Knows the source code editors, can perform debugging, code refactoring and syntax highlighting
  • Will complete the project alone (no teamwork needed)

As you can see, having compared software developer vs software engineer, you can now understand which one will be the right option for your software development project.

Summing Up the ​​Difference Between Software Developer and Software Engineer

Having compared the position of software developer vs software engineer, you can now clearly understand what is the difference between software engineer and software developer. Additionally, there are a few aspects to point out as well.

First of all, these jobs are not similar, as they use different approaches and perform slightly different tasks for developing the software products: when a software engineer works on the separate app components within a team, the software developer alone employs the specific tools and frames to build the app from scratch. So, none of them has better or worse skills, nevertheless, their responsibilities and tasks differ!