Difference Between Web Developer & Software Engineer

Web developers and software engineers both work with computers, but web developers build websites while software engineers create programs and computer applications. This article explores the differences between these professions in greater detail.

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Comparing Web Developers to Software Engineers

After determining what a website will look like, web developers program the site so that it looks and functions as intended. Software engineers are responsible for creating applications, operating systems or other programs used on computers, which could be used by web developers as they design a website. Outlined below is a more detailed comparison of these two occupations.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Web Developer Associate's Degree $66,130 27%
Software Engineer Bachelor's Degree $102,280 for software developers 17% for software developers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Web Developers vs. Software Engineers

Web developers and software engineers work with computers, and they create design plans. Their work can involve meeting with clients to discuss their needs and budget, and then creating what the client needs. Web developers specifically focus on designing and creating websites, while software engineers develop computer programs or applications. These engineers determine how computer programs will work and oversee programmers as they write the code that ensures the program functions properly.

Web Developer

Web developers are responsible for how a website appears and works. They can prepare for their career by completing an associate's degree in web design. Although a bachelor's degree is not always required for entry-level work in this field, possessing a bachelor's degree increases the possibility for web developers to advance in their career and manage projects. These professionals need to be creative so that they can come up with original site designs, and they also need to be capable of working at a computer for long periods of time while programming the site design. They need to pay close attention to their work to avoid mistakes that affect the function of the site. Web developers should be familiar with basic programming languages, such as HTML or XML.

Job responsibilities of a web developer include:

  • Discuss website needs with clients
  • Determine the technical needs of the site
  • Acquire or produce pictures, videos, graphics or written content
  • Program the site so that the material appears as intended
  • Test the website to ensure all components work properly

Software Engineer

Software engineers are technological professionals who typically work in offices. They normally need to have a bachelor's degree in computer science, and they should also be capable of writing computer programming code. A master's degree may be an asset, and it is possible for software engineers to advance to management roles with experience. Software engineers need to be creative to develop effective improvements to existing software or to come up with a plan for a new program. They also need to be analytical and to assess their work carefully so that they can assure they effectively address their client's programming needs.

Job responsibilities of a software engineer include:

  • Attend meetings with clients, computer programmers and other staff
  • Identify weaknesses in existing programs, operating systems or applications
  • Develop a plan to produce a program that meets their client's needs
  • Oversee the creation of the program
  • Test the program to ensure it works as intended

Related Careers

If web development seems like a good career option, you may also be interested in graphic design since web developers may be involved with producing graphics for websites. Another option for those considering a career as a software engineer is to pursue a career as a computer programmer since computer programmers and software engineers work together, and some software engineers advance to that role after gaining programming experience.

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