Difference Between Software Engineer & Software Developer

Software engineers and software developers have similar training, earn comparable salaries and work in similar environments. The programs they design perform different functions, which is discussed further here.

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Comparing Software Engineer to Software Developer

Software engineers and software developers are computer program design experts who help make software for people to use. Software engineers design plans for programs that don't exist or modify existing software to improve how it functions. Software developers may specialize in developing software for applications or developing computer operating systems. More detailed career information is available in the table.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Software Engineer Bachelor's Degree $106,860 9-13%
Software Developer Bachelor's Degree $102,280 17%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Software Engineer vs. Software Developer

Software engineers and software developers may both be involved with writing code so that a software program will function properly. Software engineers focus on developing programs that people use on computers. Software developers are typically classified as applications software developers or systems software developers. They either work on the software programs that make applications run properly, or they work on the code for different types of operating systems, such as Windows.

Software Engineer

Software engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a comparable discipline. A master's degree may be an asset, particularly for those who are interested in managing projects, and they should be capable of doing computer programming tasks using C++, Java, Ruby on Rails or similar languages. The types of programs they create can vary widely and could be used for medical purposes, by the military or designed specifically for businesses. They may have to change existing software so that it can be used with new computer hardware, or they may be responsible for designing new programs to fit their client's needs. Software engineers work in office environments and may spend a lot of time working on computers or attending meetings.

Job responsibilities of a software engineer include:

  • Study existing software programs and identify areas for improvement
  • Assess the programming needs of their client
  • Monitor computer programmers as they write program code
  • Test code to make sure it works properly
  • Determine how new software will be installed

Software Developer

Software developers are responsible for ensuring that computers have functional operating systems that allow people to use programs on their computers. Some may also oversee programmers writing the code that determines how applications, such as web browsers, will function. To prepare for this career it's necessary to earn a bachelor's degree, and aspiring software developers most commonly study computer science or computer programming. They typically work regular business hours in an office, and they may also need to work overtime when faced with a deadline.

Job responsibilities of a software developer include:

  • Collaborate with clients and other developers to create programs
  • Identify how the software needed should function
  • Assess existing software and recommend upgrades
  • Create software that will make computer applications work properly
  • Provide programmers with a diagram so they can write and test the code

Related Careers

Since there are a lot of similarities between what software developers and software engineers do, so those who are interested in either profession may also want to explore what computer programmers or video game programmers do. Computer programmers use the designs software developers and engineers create and write code so that the programs will work. Hardware design engineers build the physical components used in computers.

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