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What is the Difference Between a Software Developer and a Software Engineer?

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16th Jan, 2022
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What is the Difference Between a Software Developer and a Software Engineer?

The use of software and mobile applications has undoubtedly made our lives more manageable. As the software market continues to thrive, the demand for skilled and certified software engineers increases. Furthermore, with SaaS (software as a solution) products ruling the market, the careers of software developers and software engineers are only bound to move ahead. As per a LinkedIn report, the current value of the SaaS industry is $278 billion. It has created plenty of job opportunities in the software industry. 

Read on to find out more about key differences between the two. 

Software Developer vs Software Engineer

The terms developer and engineer are often used synonymously, but there are significant differences between the two. Here are some relevant factors that will help you understand the difference between a software developer and a software engineer.

1. Meaning

As the name suggests, a software developer is a professional who creates, develops, or programs various software. A developer uses coding and programming to build software solutions. They design applications and operating systems for both desktop and mobile devices.

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On the other hand, software engineers are professionals who ensure the effective development and functioning of the software. Software engineers use technology and engineering principles to build tools that help developers create software or computer programs. Also, a software engineer tests various software products to ensure that they are working efficiently.

2. Job description

Now that you have understood the primary difference between a software developer and an engineer, let us dive into their responsibilities in detail.

The role of a software developer comes with the following responsibilities:

  1. Communicate with the clients and figure out their requirements.
  2. Develop, design, and implement new software.
  3. Test new programs for any bugs.
  4. Figure out the scope for modifying existing software.
  5. In the program cycle, the job of a software developer is to research, develop, test and then launch the program.

A software engineer has different responsibilities from a developer.What is the difference between a software developer and a software engineer?

  1. Offer technical expertise and apply engineering principles in software development.
  2. Work closely with a team of managers, graphic designers, and other professionals.
  3. Monitor and correct software defects.
  4. Software engineers have to write diagnostic programs and design codes for operating systems.
  5. Prepare diagrams for developers to help them understand what specific codes are required for developing software.

3. Salary

In terms of compensation, both software development and software engineering jobs nearly pay the same. In 2019, software development was ranked as the best technology job in the US. It was rated second-best out of 100 jobs in the US. It was also the second-best STEM job in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a software developer in the US is $110,140 per year.

In 2021, there were more than 687,276 software engineers in the US. The average starting salary of a fresher software engineer in the US is $65,000 per year. For experienced software engineers, the average salary in the US is $115,006 annually.

4. Growth opportunities

When you compare the career growth trajectory of both jobs, there exists a neck-to-neck competition between the two. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs are likely to rise by 22% by the end of this decade. In 2020, there will be a total of 1,847,900 software development jobs in the US. It is expected that there will be over 400,000 new software development jobs by 2030.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the software engineering jobs in the US are likely to grow by 21% from 2018-2028.

5. Skills Required

Software developers must possess the following skills:

  1. Data and algorithms
  2. Coding languages like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python
  3. Database knowledge
  4. Source Control Management (SCM)
  5. Cloud computing skills like Azure and AWS
  6. Git and Github
  7. VIM
  8. IDEs
  9. Database and SQL
  10. Linux
  11. Object-oriented programming
  12. Computer networks

Software engineers are required to possess the following technical skills:

  1. Software testing and debugging
  2. Coding and computer programming
  3. Object-oriented design
  4. Software development

What should you choose: software developer vs software engineer?

Choosing between software engineering and development profiles can be confusing. However, the best job for you depends on your interests and preferences. If you are passionate about coding and developing software and seek opportunities to create solutions, you will be a good fit for a software development role. Contrarily, in software engineering, you must build tools that will assist software developers in building software tools and solutions. A software developer solves problems for the customers, whereas a software engineer acts as a problem-solver for the developer. 

As a software developer, your main job would be developing software from scratch. However, as a software engineer, you can perform various tasks like designing, building, installing, and maintaining applications. The design philosophy of a software engineer is different from that of a software developer. Therefore, if you feel like working on similar tasks can become monotonous, you can choose to be a software engineer.

Can you switch careers between a software engineer and a software developer?

Since the roles of a software developer and an engineer often overlap, a software engineer can act as both a developer and an engineer. A software engineer’s job includes software development, testing, debugging, and modifying existing software. Therefore, it is relatively easier for a software engineer to take up the role of a software developer. 

On the contrary, since software developers primarily deal with the development part and are not responsible for applying engineering principles, it becomes difficult for a software developer to switch to an engineer’s job.

How To Build Your Career as a software developer or engineer?

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To build a career in the software industry, whether as a software engineer or developer, a degree in computer science is a must. Along with that, you must also be familiar with all the crucial concepts in computer science and various programming languages. Moreover, since the IT domain is continuously evolving, you must stay updated with upcoming technologies and upskill to acquire industry-relevant skills. 

upGrad’s Executive PG Program in Software Development is an ideal course for working professionals to polish their skills and learn relevant programming languages and tools like Python, Java, Hadoop, Burpsuite, Spring, GIT, etc. This program offers a specialization in either of three fields, namely, full-stack development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. Apart from upGrad’s 360-degree career support, students get to interact with a vast network of peers and mentors worldwide.


Both software development and engineering are promising career options with plenty of career opportunities. Even though the job descriptions of a software developer and an engineer are different, there might be an overlap of responsibilities since both jobs are related to the software sector. Therefore, it is best to acquire the relevant skills required for both jobs. 


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Are software developers and software engineers the same?

No, software engineers and developers are not the same. Even though some of their roles might overlap, they have clear, distinct, and defined work descriptions. A software developer builds software, whereas an engineer designs the tools and applications that facilitate the development of different software products.

2Which is better, software engineer or software developer?

If we consider salary, job opportunities, growth properties in the future, and other similar factors, software engineer and developer jobs are almost on the same level. However, the best job for you will depend on your interests. Therefore, we suggest you go through the job description of both profiles before choosing one.

3Can software engineers become software developers?

While software developers are masters at developing software programs, software engineers are a part of the bigger picture as they build software and apply engineering principles. They know how to develop software and can also build tools and applications that enable the development of software applications. Hence, a software engineer might easily double up as a software developer.

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