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

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7th Sep, 2022
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Full-Stack vs. Software Engineer: Which One Should You Choose?

In my years navigating the tech industry, the debate of “Full-Stack vs Software Engineer” has been a constant companion. As an expert who’s walked both paths, I’ve come to understand the unique nuances that define each role and their significance in the tech ecosystem. Do you want to become a full-stack developer? A Full-Stack Developer, as I’ve practiced, is akin to a Swiss Army knife, equipped to handle both front-end and back-end challenges, offering a comprehensive solution to product development.

On the other hand, a Software Engineer often specializes in creating complex systems, focusing deeply on either the user-facing side or the server-side logic. This distinction is crucial for aspiring professionals to grasp, as it guides your career trajectory and influences the projects you’ll undertake. Each role has its demand, challenges, and rewards, shaping the digital landscape in its way. This article aims to dissect these roles further, helping you make an informed decision on which path aligns with your aspirations and skill sett.

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

A Full-Stack vs Software Engineer debate often arises when discussing the roles and responsibilities within the tech industry. 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.

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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. 

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

A business manager has to handle multiple things, including managing databases, clients, servers, system developments, and more. One of their most important responsibilities is to approach a full stack software developer. A full-stack developer can handle all the above modules in a single project. With their expertise, they can quickly develop prototypes for new projects depending on the client’s requirements and specifications.

They help their teammates in a situation when any problem arises in the development process, regardless of the module or functionality assigned to the team. Instead of solely focusing on software development and related aspects, a full stack software developer has to focus on multiple aspects including solving team issues.

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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. 

With the cutting-edge trends and technologies emerging daily, the software also requires an update to fulfil the system architectural requirements like graphics and user interface. Owing to the developments in automation applications, there is a huge demand for full stack software engineer to build applications depending on concepts like AI and ML. In such a situation, a knowledgeable and experienced full stack software engineer who can efficiently handle any complex development process is required. These engineers must effectively guide you based on your requirements.

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Both Full-stack engineers and software engineers have lot of differences as well commonalities in between them. Here is a table of differences between full-stack vs software engineer:

AspectFull-Stack EngineerSoftware Engineer
Scope of KnowledgeBroad, covering both front-end and back-end technologies.Specialized, focusing on specific areas such as software development, system architecture, or algorithms.
Project InvolvementEngages in both client-side and server-side tasks, offering a holistic view of the development process.Focuses on specific components or systems, delving deep into software design, development, and maintenance.
Problem-SolvingAdopts an integrative approach, addressing challenges across the full stack.Employs a concentrated focus, tackling complex problems within their domain of expertise.
Career PathOffers versatility and broad opportunities in various roles across development.Provides depth and the opportunity to become highly skilled in specific areas of software engineering.
CollaborationActs as a bridge between front-end and back-end teams, necessitating wide-ranging communication skills.Involves deep technical collaboration within their specialty, focusing on optimization and implementation.

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. 

A full-stack developer’s skill in programming suggests that they should be able to deal with how the app receives and shares information to guarantee the app’s core functionality.

A full-stack developer’s responsibilities don’t end when the application is deployed. Instead, they are responsible for handling the application’s back-end support. They should be able to adapt the software structure and manage the data within the database while retaining security.

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. 

Software engineers are expected to team up with the development teams and work on the program’s specific aspects. Hence, a full-stack software engineer must be able to effectively communicate issues, suggestions, or requests to their teammates to guarantee consistent development.

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. 

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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. 

When it comes to the learning path, we can categorize them into degree and experience and further understand the full stack engineer vs full stack developer difference.

Degree: Similar to a software developer, a successful full-stack developer is expected to own a bachelor’s in computer science. Also, similar to a software developer, a full-stack developer can ensure career success by pursuing a graduate degree.

Experience: A full-stack developer candidate is expected to have at least several years of professional experience to be considered for a job role based on the company.

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. 

Bachelor’s Degree: A potential software engineer is usually expected to own a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Earning this degree increases their chances of getting recruited by a reliable firm.

A Master’s/Doctoral Degree: A master’s/doctoral degree requirement is usually negligent for a software engineer; they can have better job positions if they have this degree. Certain leading software companies are on the hunt for post-graduate software engineers.

Experience: Just like other job roles, the software engineer job role, too, demands a few years of experience. Many firms may look for a software engineer with at least 1 to 5 years of professional experience.


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. 

Work duties:

The work duties of software engineers and full stack developers are occasionally similar, but the differences between these roles may differ based on industry or project. For instance, there may be more absolute distinctions between these two job roles when working on a major project with a huge team. On the other hand, smaller projects that include a few team members may combine the two positions’ shared duties.

Both software engineers and full stack developers work to achieve the project’s and client’s objectives. But there is a significant difference between full stack engineer vs full stack developer. Usually, full stack developers hold leadership roles, whereas software engineers may work below the management of full stack developers and implement their skills to build specific project features. Though these professionals usually work as part of a team, many software engineers and full stack developers work as freelancers or contractors.


With the software development’s growth projection expected to rise in the upcoming two decades, job security for full-stack developers and software engineers is in a better position than in several other industries. But, they are still not entirely risk-free.

In software development, new project objectives or previously unidentified issues with the work being completed till now may create a hurdle in finishing a project before the deadline. In the competitive software industry, failure to meet the goals may damage your career. Hence, a full-stack software engineer should consistently think of the big picture right from the project’s commencement.

Another prominent risk is that project teams may lose members with time. If a member leaves the team, the whole project can suffer and delayed project completion until a replacement is found. This risk can be mitigated by the software engineers’ communication skills. 

Hiring Cost:

Startups and companies offer rewarding packages to full-stack developers because they simultaneously manage multiple responsibilities. Moreover, full-stack developers help these firms to cut down their hiring costs and boost their productivity. On the other hand, the hiring cost is not low for full stack software engineering.

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.

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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.

Selecting between the team-based, singular mission objectives of the software engineer and the sharp-sighted live service objectives of the full-stack developer comes down to the business requirements. Whether it’s about excelling at completing a single project or fulfilling long-term investments, both positions are important for companies.  With the use of proper tools and expertise, both full stack developers and full stack software engineering can improve business efficiency.

Read our Popular Articles related to Software Development

Final Thoughts

The difference between full-stack vs 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.


Arjun Mathur

Blog Author
Arjun is Program marketing manager at UpGrad for the Software development program. Prior to UpGrad, he was a part of the French ride-sharing unicorn "BlaBlaCar" in India. He is a B.Tech in Computers Science from IIT Delhi and loves writing about technology.

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