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Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: Difference Between Software Developer & Software Engineer

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20th Oct, 2020
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Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: Difference Between Software Developer & Software Engineer

Have you ever got confused between Software Developer and Software Engineer? Many times, these terminologies are used interchangeably. This blog will help you understand the difference between a software developer and software engineer in terms of their roles and responsibilities, prerequisites, challenges, salaries, and more so that you can make an informed decision.

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What Does a Software Developer Do?

Software developers are responsible for building software that runs across various types of computers. They design the application components and write code from scratch for diverse applications, including desktop apps such as Photoshop, web apps like Twitter and Facebook, and mobile apps such as Instagram. They are expected to execute development plans and programming software, monitor their projects end-to-end and juggle between tasks in different development stages simultaneously.

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What Does a Software Engineer Do?

A Software Engineer is responsible for applying software engineering principles for designing, developing, maintaining, testing, and evaluating computer software. They focus on structural design and look at the bigger picture. For instance, they often consider the trade-offs required to be made to the system architecture and other parts while building data pipelines or scalable domain-specific languages.

Read about: Software Engineer / Developer Salary in India

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer – In a Nutshell

Though both Software Developer and Software Engineer are highly skilled professionals and need some common skills, here are some of the fundamental aspects that throw light on how they differ –

  • While Software Developers build software, Software Engineers apply software engineering principles to different software lifecycle phases.
  • Software Development is a solitary activity, while Software Engineering involves team efforts.
  • Software Developers develop apps with readily available tools, while Software Engineers create tools to build software.
  • Software Developers write programs. Software Engineers work with other components of the hardware system.
  • Software Developers perform Software Engineers’ functions on a limited scale. Software Engineers cater to issues on a much larger scale as compared to Software Developers.

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Check out: Software Development Project Ideas & Topics

Difference Between a Software Developer and Software Engineer – In Detail

Now, let’s understand how these two professionals differ in various aspects.

  • Education – Software Engineer title often refers to holding Bachelor’s or higher-level degrees in Computer Information Technology. Software development degrees are considered as specializations for information technology or computer programming.
  • Work Process and Style – Software Engineers are involved in the complete process and work with other engineers while building a system. On the other hand, Developers take care of only development, which is one aspect of the project building process. Developers have more scope of creativity while offering a solution, while Engineers have to be more systematic.
  • Career Paths – A Software Developer can opt to be a Developer or a Software Architect and be highly skilled in specific technologies, e.g., DevOps, iOS, Java, etc. A Software Engineer has choices of being a Software Engineer, Principal Software Engineer, or Lead Software Development Engineer. They can also take generic roles such as sales engineer.
  • Salaries – Average annual salary of a Software Developer is Rs. 493,576 in India while that of a Software Engineer is Rs. 523,770.

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Essential Qualities of Software Developers

Software Developers are responsible for implementing the plan chalked out by Software Engineers. Some of the essential qualities of Software Developers are

  • Working knowledge of necessary frameworks and web development programs such as AngularJS, JavaScript, jQuery, and ReactJS.
  • Experience in developing responsive web designs.
  • Experience in front-end application development with different workflows, tools, and programs.
  • Ability to write easily maintainable, clean code.
  • Familiarity with cross-browser compatibility.
  • Team communication and collaboration ability.
  • Familiarity with agile development practices and test-driven development.
  • Ability to receive and analyze feedback.
  • Creative thinking.
  • Attention to detail.

Also read: Learn Java Free!

Essential Qualities of Software Engineers

Software Engineers should be able to direct their fellow engineers, programmers, and developers effectively. Some of the vital qualities that Software Engineers should possess are

  • Familiarity and knowledge of computer science.
  • Proficiency in advanced mathematics.
  • Experience in building and maintaining IT architectures and databases.
  • Ability to analyze, evaluate, and solve problems.
  • Experience in debugging software and systems.
  • Working knowledge of several programming languages like C++.
  • Proficiency in automation testing.
  • Working experience of multi-core CPUs.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Familiarity with creating scalable domain-specific pipelines and languages.
  • Ability to work alone as well as a part of a team.
  • Management and leadership abilities.
  • Resource management.

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Challenges Faced by Software Developers

Some common challenges faced by Software Developers are

  • Inability to cope up with changing requirements.
  • Misinterpretation of end-user requirements.
  • Software systems that are difficult to extend or maintain.
  • Working with the models that don’t fit together.
  • Poor-quality software, especially in low-cost projects.
  • Late discovery of crucial project flaws.

Challenges Faced by Software Engineers

Some of the challenges faced by Software Engineers are

  • High software-cost in safety-critical areas such as nuclear power plants, space, etc.
  • Communication between diverse software systems.
  • Increasing complexity of software systems.
  • Increased market demand due to Software Engineer Shortage adds to employers’ expectations in terms of roles and responsibilities.

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Best Practices for Software Developers

  • Understand how your code is useful in driving overall business.
  • Keep your code simple and consistent across your team.
  • Set your daily coding goals.
  • Continuously test from end to end.
  • Plan the approach for your immediate coding task.
  • Set realistic time and budget estimates.

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Best Practices for Software Engineers

  • The work of Software Engineers should be mutually beneficial – to their employer and client.
  • Should ensure that the systems and modifications they undertake meet the highest quality standards.
  • Should be supportive of their colleagues and demonstrate the highest degree of teamwork.
  • They should have the ability to promote an ethical approach for software development and maintenance.
  • They should maintain independence and integrity in their professional approach.

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

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Software Developers and Software Engineers are seemingly the same professions that differ in every aspect, including educational requirements, functions, and challenges. Software Development is a subset of Software Engineering.

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A Software Developer needs informal and specialized training but has more freedom to design and develop a creative solution. On the other hand, a Software Engineer needs to acquire formal training in the form of a degree, has a broad scope in the entire software development lifecycle, but needs to be more systematic with less scope of creativity.

Today, both these professions are the most sought-after career choices, and if you want to pursue them, upGrad can help transform your dreams into reality.

With M.Sc. in Computer Science by upGrad, IIIT Bangalore, and Liverpool John Moores University, you can pursue a Software Engineering career, while PG Diploma courses by upGrad and IIIT-B in full-stack development and blockchain can set your path on software development.


Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are the career opportunities for a Software Developer?

Organisations struggle to identify the perfect talent leading to a shortage of industry-specific skills and knowledge. The same is true for Indian software developers. Software development has become a mainline career option in India. These professionals assist the company in identifying, developing, installing, and maintaining programs. A software developer can progress to become a software engineer, which involves simple implementation system-level able to operate and mobile applications; a web designer can assist businesses in developing visually appealing and functional websites for a great user experience, and system analytics use statistical analysis and design to solve business issues and implement a viable solution.

2What is the scope of a software engineer?

Software Engineers can also pursue a career in education. You can also cooperate with public and private sector banks, educational institutions, and financial institutions. As a software engineer, you can also provide consulting services to clients to develop and repair software. A software engineering degree provides you with technological IT skills that can be applied to a variety of IT and web-based jobs ranging from application developers to webmasters. You can advance to become an application developer, translating software requirements into usable programming code and maintaining and developing programs for business use. You may also consider becoming a cybersecurity analyst, who aids in the protection of an organisation by utilising a variety of technologies and procedures to prevent, detect, and manage cyber threats.

3Do Software Developers primarily write code?