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Is There Any Difference Between Software Developer And Software Engineer?

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One of the biggest debate topics in the software industry is…is there any difference between software engineering and software development? Some industries and techy guys consider that both are the same thing, some consider it different. In the past few decades both the terms are completely messed up. Industries or employers are not able to differentiate both the terms.


Well, we are not going to decide this based on individual perception. We will analyze some facts, examples, job responsibility and other related terms to come up with a conclusion. If you want us to give a clear picture of everything then let’s start first discussing who coined the term “Software Engineering.”?
Margaret Hamilton….yes this lady coined the term “Software Engineering”. According to Hamilton “When I first started using this phrase, it was considered to be quite amusing. It was an ongoing joke for a long time.”

Let’s See the Differences with Real-Life Examples

Example 1: Consider the developer like a professional chef. He has to prepare tasty or delicious dishes understanding and targeting the taste of his customers. Now he will use a creative approach to prepare delicious dishes using resources that suit his customer taste. A software developer will take the same approach to deliver high-quality software understanding the expectation of his customer using his software tools or resources.

Example 2: Now consider a hotel where 3 restaurants are running depending on a single kitchen. The head chef of this kitchen is like a software engineer who has the responsibility to deliver the same level of quality food in each restaurant just like a professional chef running a single restaurant. So the head chef of this kitchen will manage all the restaurants without compromising the quality of dishes in any one of the restaurants.

Example 3: In industry, a software engineer can be considered as a musher who hooks up software developers to their sled as code dogs and mush them toward victory to complete a project across the frozen arctic. Now you might have understood two things very clearly…one is software engineers solve the issue on a much larger scale than developers and the other one is…software developers play an important role for software engineers to complete the project.

What is Software Engineering?

In software engineering, engineers apply scientific knowledge, engineering principles or engineering science to build a new system or to solve a practical problem with good quality, in budget and on time. So they look at the big picture and take the responsibility of the entire software development lifecycle or any existing problem. They need to come up with a common solution for a large number of people instead of a specific solution for a specific type of customer.

So scientific knowledge, mathematics, ingenuity is checked for software engineers. Developing solutions for technical, societal, and commercial problems are checked for software engineers. Designing systems considering limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and the cost is also checked for software engineers. Software engineers are responsible for managing the development task.

Consider an equation 6÷2(1+2)=x. Now instead of giving the solution 1 or 9 or something else, an engineer needs to understand the equation at a high level so this math problem lacks the bracket which is important to decide which function needs to be performed first if the order of operations completely changes the result. So they are expected to come up with a solution that the equation can not be solved due to ambiguity and in engineering, there cannot be ambiguity.

What is Software Development?

You can consider a software engineer as an architect and software developer as a carpenter. In software development, the main focus is on the art of making things. Software developers use their creativity, patterns, and practices to build things and focus on the development project as a part of the whole software development life cycle. They do not have to rely on any engineering principles or fundamentals of scientific methods like software engineers. Software developers work closely with graphic designers, product managers, senior managers, customer representatives, and other team members to build a specific project. Software developers are responsible to build the things taking the development task.
After some experience in the industry, a software developer starts managing multiple parts of the system. So a software developer can become a software engineer by gaining experience and expanding their scope of responsibilities.

So you can conclude two things from the above description…

  • A software engineer is engaged in software development but not all the software developers are engineers.
  • High-level software development work is very similar to software engineering.

Difference Between a Software Developer and Software Engineer

To understand the clear difference between both the terms will start the discussion from a programmer and then we will gradually move to the engineers.

Let’s See a Programmer Side First

A programmer is a guy who is allowed to talk to computers in a language that a computer can understand. A computer programmer translates or codes instructions for a computer to follow. You might say to a programmer “make me a network library in order to get HTML pages in C#“. What the programmer will do here is, he will complete this task bit by bit and he will send the report. So a programmer’s job is limited to do coding for networking and give it back to the person who requested it. So a programmer has not a huge amount of responsibility. If you will ask a programmer to retrieve a file from a certain place he will write the code for that, complete the task and that’s it. A programmer has to do one thing whatever he/she is assigned to do. When you jump into coding your journey start from becoming a programmer.

Now Let’s Make a Move to the Developer’s Role

Development is not far away from programming. As a programmer, you can expand your job responsibility and become a developer. Suppose someone is requesting you to build software. Now building software is not just going to be working on a simple piece of software (Making a network library is a piece of software). You need to think about the networking part, you may have to work with the server, you may have to work with the frontend or backend as well. So as a developer you need to work on all the pieces of software it means a complete structure of software. You also need to understand how to link all the different pieces of software. So a software developer understands the structure of what he is making.

Now Finally Move to the Engineers Role

Finally, let’s expand the role of the software developer and move to the role of a software engineer. When you request to build software to a software engineer, then he/she needs to consider a server, a website, an app that uses different technologies. Now a software engineer will manage the whole development tasks and assign them to the developers. One developer has to take the responsibility of the server, one would be responsible for the website and one would take the responsibility of the app. A software engineer needs to ensure that all these things can talk to each other. So a software engineer has a big responsibility than a software developer because he is the one who is taking the responsibility to build a product where everything works fine for its end-users or customers. So in short a software engineer outsource all the task to software developers.

Now you might have got a clear idea that how a programmer moves to the role of software engineer expanding his/her responsibility. Their salaries also differ from each other. A software developer will earn more than a programmer and a software engineer will earn more than a developer.

Conclusion: We can say that a developer starts his job by speaking to the customers, understanding their needs and then designing and developing the different components of applications meeting the customer’s needs. He manages the complete project from start to finish.
A software engineer does all the things that a developer does but considering a bigger picture or view than developers. They are responsible to take care of the complete architecture.


A software engineer is much more focused on the architecture side i.e. crafting the final product bringing all the system together whereas a developer concentrates more on individual tasks inside of that development.

Last Updated : 25 Nov, 2019
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