Full-Stack vs. Software Engineer: Which One Should You Choose?

Do you want to become a full-stack developer? Or are you interested in software engineering? Maybe you’re confused between the two. Don’t worry because many of us feel such confusion at a point.

To help you overcome that doubt and confusion, we’ve prepared a list of differences between these two fields. Let’s get started.

What is a Full Stack Developer? Why Do We Need Them?

A full-stack developer handles the front-end and back-end development of a website (or web app); they are responsible for the design, database, clients, and system engineering. Full-stack developers are popular because of their varied skills and extensive knowledge of web development. Their demand reflects in their salary. Learn more about the future scope of full stack development.

Depending on the project and the customer’s needs, they might work on a native application stack, a mobile stack, or a web stack. As they know about both client-side and server-side development, they can oversee a project and keep the progress in check. They can help other developers (such as a back-end developer) in completing their tasks. 

Companies require the expertise of full-stack developers because they can handle multiple responsibilities and enhance the productivity of their teams. 

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What is a Software Engineer? Why Do We Need Them?

Software engineers have a lot of knowledge of their field. That’s why their demand is quite high in the market. They plan their projects and develop solutions that solve a particular issue. 

While a full stack developer focuses on web applications, a software engineer focuses on native apps that you might download on your system. The term software engineer is comprehensive as well, and it could mean a C++ specialist as well as an embedded engineer. In most cases, software engineers know the architecture of the system and determine the same for their team members. Many software engineers are specialists, and they focus on one particular aspect of software development. 

Full-stack development falls under software development. While the former deals explicitly with the handling of databases, client-side development, and servers, the latter covers many other areas of development, including those. 

Many skills of these two fields overlap each other even though they are quite different from each other. There’s a huge demand for both of them as well. 

Difference Between Full Stack and Software Engineer

Entering both of these fields requires a lot of knowledge and experience. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two:


Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers are experts in all the steps of application development. They can look after the client-side development as well as the server-side development. This means they can write APIs, program databases, as well as create the design of a website. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers build applications that work on a PC. All the software applications installed on a desktop are a product of software engineers. They code these applications, test them, and ensure that the product runs without any hindrances and errors. While working on an operating system, a software engineer is responsible for a particular aspect of the same. 


Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers can access any aspect of a web application without facing any issues. They can help their teammates in solving issues related to their fields. For example, a full stack developer can solve problems related to design and promote a front-end developer in this regard. 

Software Engineer

As software engineers are only responsible for a particular aspect of an application, their accessibility is quite limited. That doesn’t mean they don’t work with other team members. 

Read: Full Stack Developer Project Ideas


Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers create fast prototype designs for the product. They follow a holistic approach to the development of a solution. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers build a step of an application. Software engineers, in most cases, are responsible for a specific aspect of an application. Unlike full-stack developers, they have to look after that particular aspect of the development process. They have to ensure that it’s free from errors and works smoothly with other components of the application. 


Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers need to be familiar with databases, server management, client-side development, as well as system engineering. They need to know the programming languages associated with these domains as well. A full-stack developer should know front-end development languages, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, along with back-end languages such as Python and PHP. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers are well-versed in multiple programming languages because their selection depends on the project’s requirements. However, software engineers focus on programming languages that can build applications for operating systems. So they must learn C#, Java, Swift, and other software development languages. They should also be familiar with the fundamental concepts of Computer Science. 

Role in a Team

Full-Stack Developer

In most cases, a full stack developer is the head of a team. They help their fellow team members in completing their tasks properly. That’s because, as we mentioned earlier, they are familiar with both aspects of development. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers are part of a team and work in a particular area. They work with their team members to build different steps of an application. 


Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers work on web applications. Anyone can use their products if they have access to the internet and a web browser. Their solutions could serve multiple purposes (such as SEMRush) or could serve a single purpose (such as Grammarly). All web apps are products of full-stack developers. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers build native apps. This means their products remain installed in a device. You can access such an application only after installing it on your computer. Their products, in most cases, serve a singular purpose. Examples of their products include Adobe Photoshop, MS Word, Skype’s Desktop App, etc. 


Full-Stack Developer

There’s a huge demand for full-stack developers among startups. They hire them as technical support or a technical partner because they can take care of both the client-side as well as server-side of an application. Full-stack developers can also work as entrepreneurs because of their diverse skill sets. 

Software Engineer

Software engineers are in huge demand among major companies. That’s because they can focus on a particular aspect of an application and work with a team to solve any problems related to the same. Software engineers work in teams to look after the IT requirements of a company as well. 


Full-Stack Developer

The average salary of a full stack developer in India is 9.2 LPA. The lowest salary of a full stack developer is 4.6 LPA, while the highest it can go (at this time) is 17 LPA. Startups and companies pay lucrative salaries to full-stack developers because they are capable of handling multiple responsibilities at once. Full-stack developers allow companies to enhance their productivity and reduce overhead. Their pay increases along with their knowledge of different languages. 

Software Engineer

The average salary of a software engineer in India is 5.1 LPA. It can go up to 10 LPA while the lowest it can go to is 3.5 LPA. You should note that the pay of software engineers increases with experience. One notable fact is they can boost their earnings with better expertise in their particular domain. As software engineering is a broad term, it includes professionals from all spheres of this field. 

Learning Path

Full-Stack Developer

You don’t need to have a tech degree to become a full stack developer. You can learn about front-end development, back-end development, programming languages, and design to start a career in this field without any worries. You can take a course in full-stack development to get the required knowledge. 

Software Engineer

To become a software engineer, you should have at least a degree in Computer Science. The entry barrier is surely bigger in this field in comparison to full-stack development. 


Full-Stack Developer

As new technologies arrive in web development, the role of a full stack developer becomes more difficult. A full-stack developer has to keep up with all the latest developments and learn new skills as they arrive in the market. For example, HTML 5 entered the market in 2014, as a full stack developer of that time, you’d have to learn all about it to ensure you don’t lag. In many cases, full-stack developers spend most of their time in solving back-end problems. 

Software Engineer

Software engineering is a broad term and refers to many domains and skills. As a software engineer, you should be ready to solve numerous problems of different sorts. For example, you might have to update the old code of a program. Software engineers focus on particular aspects of development, and so, they usually work in isolation, i.e., away from team members. This can also be a significant challenge for someone. 

Full Stack vs Software Engineer, Which One Would You Choose?

Choosing between full stack vs software engineer can be tricky. But we hope that the differences we highlighted in the above points will help you in this regard. Keep in mind, both of them are exceptionally well paying and exciting careers. There’s a huge demand for both full stack developers as well as software engineers.

To choose among these two, you should take a look at your fields of interest. What intrigues you more? Websites or Applications? While as a full stack developer, you can build robust web apps, as a software engineer, you’ll get to build complex programs. Choose according to your interests.

Final Thoughts

The difference between full stack and software engineer is huge, and you might’ve noticed that in this article.

If you want to learn more about full stack development and software engineering, you should head to our blog. You’ll find many valuable resources there that would expand your knowledge, check out upGrad & IIIT-B’s PG Diploma in Full-stack Software Development which is designed for working professionals and offers 500+ hours of rigorous training, 9+ projects, and assignments, IIIT-B Alumni status, practical hands-on capstone projects & job assistance with top firms.

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