Software Developer vs Software Engineer – What is the Difference?

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Software development and software engineering are essential roles in building software. Software developers design and develop software programs. Software engineers use the principles of software development for testing and maintaining software.

While these two jobs may seem similar because they both build and maintain software, in actuality, there are substantial differences between the roles of software developer vs software engineer. When it comes to factors like their role, education, and salary, software developers and software engineers are distinct careers approaching software development in different ways. Deciding on a career as a software developer vs software engineer will depend on your interests and skills.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer: Daily Tasks and Role

Software developers and software engineers both work in the same area of technology, each executing different tasks and offering a unique role on a project. 

A software developer’s primary role is to design and build software programs. Some software developers may be creating apps that can be used on a computer, phone, or tablet. Others may be building and maintaining systems that allow computers to function optimally.

Software developers often work in teams to build software programs. They need to consult with analysts, engineers, and programmers to ensure that the program is of top performance and quality. 

Meanwhile, software engineers test and modify the software. They will look for bugs and defects in software to make sure that a program is efficient and ready to be released. They will also review it and coordinate third-party testing.

Since they are responsible for the execution of an app or system, software engineers may often take the role of a leader or consultant. 

Software engineers will often provide feedback to software developers on how to improve the performance of a project. They may also implement initial debugging or provide recommendations on how to fix program errors.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer: Skills and Education

Another area that distinguishes software developers from software engineers is their skills and education. 

Software developers are varied in their skills and education. Usually, they specialize in a niche area of software development, like systems or applications software. As a result, there isn’t one particular field that is studied to become a software developer. 

Software developers can get a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or computer engineering. Some also get a certification to show their competency in software development.

Software developers should be skilled coders, but their expertise in programming languages depends on their specialization. 

If they are working in web development, they should be skilled at programming languages like JavaScript, HTML,  or CSS. If they are creating apps, then their expertise depends on the operating system. Knowledge of Java, Python, and C are needed for Android development, while Swift and Objective-C are needed for iOS development. 

Software developers should also understand concepts such as the software development life cycle, software engineering, and systems engineering. These are skills that employers commonly look for among interested job candidates. 

Software engineers have more uniform skills and education requirements. As their name suggests, software engineers must apply software engineering concepts to their job. Software engineering is a field of study where the primary goal is to solve a problem in a system or application. 

Most software engineers pursue at least a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or a similar field. However, some may only get an associate’s degree or certificate. 

Software engineers need to know Java and SQL programming languages. They should also have a thorough understanding of concepts like test automation, test planning, and software testing. 

Software Developer vs Software Engineer: Salary and Job Growth

When it comes to salary, software developers earn a bit more than software engineers. 

An entry-level software developer’s salary typically starts at around $66,000, depending on specialization (i.e., systems software vs mobile application developer). Meanwhile, the starting salary for a software engineer is typically around $42,000.1

Job growth for software developers and software engineers is on the rise and opportunities are expected to continue growing through the next couple of years.2

Companies that have hired software developers in the last year include Apple, Boeing, Oracle Corporation, and, Inc. In comparison, Deloitte, IBM, Oracle Corporation, and, Inc., have recently posted software engineering positions.

Deciding Between a Career as a Software Developer vs Software Engineer

Deciding between a career as a software developer or a software engineer depends on your current skill set and interests. 

If you are a keen problem-solver who likes to focus on constantly improving the quality and performance of a product, then becoming a software engineer may be a good option. If you like to be creative and come up with new software programs with the potential to change the game, then you may want to become a software developer. 

Ultimately, both jobs are incredibly valuable for software development and come with their perks. By knowing the differences between software developers and software engineers, hopefully, you’ll see which career aligns better with your interests and career goals. Learn more about SCI’s software developer or mobile application developer education opportunities, whether you’re interested in becoming a software developer or a software engineer, our technology programs are a great place to start.

Sophia Acevedo photo

Sophia Acevedo

Sophia Acevedo is a journalist based in Southern California. She is a 2020 graduate from California State University, Fullerton, and a proud Daily Titan alum.





  1. Starting salary is as reported by Emsi, a labor market analytics firm. The salary information is not specific to students or graduates of Southern Careers Institute. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location, and other factors specific to the individual. Southern Careers Institute does not guarantee employment, salary level, or career advancement.
  2. The estimated number of job postings over the past 12 months is provided by Emsi, a labor market analytics firm. This data may not reflect your local market conditions. Further, market conditions are dynamic and can change. This data is not intended to predict the market conditions that will be present when you graduate from your program.

This article was published on: 06/7/21 12:05 AM

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