Software Engineer vs Software Developer
by Svitla Team
Contesting fields: Software engineering vs software development
The fields of software engineering vs software development have, for a long time now, faced each other as correlated terms that are used interchangeably without hesitation. Experts in the IT industry know the difference between a software developer and a software engineer, but they are sometimes hard to differentiate to the untrained eye.
In this article, we walk alongside you in the journey to compare and evaluate how the roles of software engineer vs software developer differ. In order to do that, we must first clearly define how each role contributes to their specific field and how they fare in the comparison of software engineering vs software development.
What is software engineering? As defined by The Economic Times, it is a “detailed study of engineering to the design, development, and maintenance of software.” This collection of words, while simple enough, can be further broken down to explain that software engineering is the application of engineering concepts, such as scientific and technological principles, to the development of software via software programming languages in a framework that is systematic and process-oriented.
The software engineering approach to software development promotes the use of repetitive, quantifiable, and systematic practices in a controlled environment to build, test, execute, maintain and evaluate all aspects of software.
Next, let’s ask: What is software development? Techopedia states that it is the “process by which standalone or individual software is created using a specific programming language.” So, software development is a logical process that is geared and designed to build software solutions exclusively through coding to solve unique sets of needs and wants.
In essence and within the framework of the software development lifecycle, software development is directly linked to the practice of coding to develop, test and deliver software solutions.
Now that we know the fundamentals of what software engineering vs software development entails, let’s take a look at the different roles associated with these fields: software engineer vs software developer.
Who is a software development engineer?
Perceived by many as the most sophisticated and advanced term in the comparison of software engineer vs software developer, the software development engineer can be thought of as the enabler of software development.
Software engineers are involved in numerous aspects of software development, from system architecting, design, modeling, DevOps, testing, deployment, maintenance, user support and more. They enforce engineering concepts and methodologies to develop processes and architect systems.
Typically, the software development engineer creates instructions that are then handed down to software developers and programmers to code. Also, software engineers may operate with different software from vendors, like Microsoft Office, SAS, ERP, and other ready-to-use software. While written as a simple statement, creating detailed instructions for programmers is a labor-intensive activity for software engineers that involves algorithms, diagrams, data structures, statistics, flow charts, design blueprints, and more.
Who is a software developer?
The software developer is a professional who takes care of the coding side of developing software. They bring software solutions alive by writing the code that is necessary to run the application or system. By default, software developers are proficient in coding and testing, different programming languages, several development platforms, and know how to structure code.
In essence, the software developer is thought of as the individual who gathers requirements and writes the necessary code to create a software application or system. The Software developer also may be integrated to a software development team. Typically, software developers are generalists who are capable of working with different programming languages and platforms.
Software developer vs software engineer goals
As we’ve mentioned, it is easy to confuse and mix together the roles of a software developer vs software engineer. From different fields to entirely different job descriptions, these two roles are very important in the IT industry and as such, have grown exponentially in demand.
The main difference between a software developer and a software engineer is in terms of the goals they are set out to achieve.
As you can gather, a software engineer covers a wider spectrum of skills and responsibilities inherent to the job title. With a wide range of software engineering tasks to create software, software engineers use system principles to get the job done. Typically, software engineers participate in the software development life cycle by linking client needs with technology solutions.
On the other hand, software developers work deeply at the core level of computer programs. Software developers write, test and execute and are responsible for the coding facet in the software development lifecycle.
With an examining look, let’s review the unique, as well as the shared, skills that a software engineer vs software developer holds to gain a greater understanding of how their goals and responsibilities fare against one another.
Some of the differences between software engineer vs software developer include the following:
- The software engineer architects software components to build a system while programmers create the code needed to complete a program.
- The software engineer works as part of an assembled team of specialists who design and architect large software systems in a systematic fashion while programmers have more freedom to perform activities via different methods and practices, differing from one programmer to the next.
- Software engineers usually instruct programmers on what the system program must be. Programmers are solely dedicated to translating those instructions into code needed for the software to run.
Skills of a software engineer
A software engineer must be well-versed and excel at both analytic and numerical skills, on top of conceptual problem-solving skills. This well-rounded professional is usually required to hold at least a masters degree in an engineering field to complement their portfolio of skills. Here, we take a look at some of the key technical knowledge areas and skills software engineers should possess to be successful:
- Computer science fundamentals.
- Information and system analysis.
- Conceptualization of requirements and design concepts.
- Software design.
- The architectural process of software systems.
- Cloud Systems.
- Fundamentals in programming and coding
- Data structures.
- Testing and Debugging.
- Documenting detailed technical specifications.
More specific skills include:
- Experience to formulate requirements from business needs to software projects.
- Modeling and simulation.
- Source code and version repositories.
- Experience with operating system and programming languages etc.
- Familiar with UI Toolkits and frameworks.
- Database experience.
- Experience with Ruby, PHP, Python, JS, etc.
- Working knowledge of Java, C, C++, C#, etc.
As part of the soft skills they should hold, it’s important for software engineers to be excellent communicators as chances are they must constantly convey instructions, requirements, plans, training, tests, and more to other team members. Other important soft skills include collaboration, team player, problem-solvers, deadline-driven, detail-oriented, responsible, and commitment to see a project through from beginning to end.
Skills of a software developer
Software developers are computer science professionals who oversee and create software solutions, from full-fledged systems to applications. Here, we take a look at some of the key technical knowledge areas and skills software engineers should possess to be successful:
- Software architecture.
- Programming languages.
- Design patterns.
- Development platforms.
- Understanding business logic.
- Diverse software lifecycle methodologies.
- Writing and analyzing database queries.
- Enterprise database systems.
- Writing and analyzing queries. (same as above?)
- Documentation of software processes.
- Frameworks and libraries.
- Basics of cloud systems.
- Fundamentals of software testing.
More specific skills include:
- Programming experience in C, C++, C#, .NET, JS, etc.
- Coding structures.
- Unified Modeling Language (UML)
- Familiar with diverse development platforms.
- Experience with SQL queries and noSQL.
- Familiar with flow charts and diagrams.
- Unit testing.
- Experience with Git, GitHub, etc.
As part of the soft skills they should hold, software developers should have excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, basic project management skills, attention to detail, creativity, and problem-solving skills, to name the most prominent ones.
Common background: computer science, mathematics and software engineering
While both roles produce and focus on relatively different aspects of software solutions, they do share a common background. Most software engineers and developers hold bachelor’s degrees in computer science, information systems, information technology, or engineering with an emphasis on software systems.
Along with the common background the roles of both software engineers and software developers have in terms of education, they also share knowledge and skills in these areas: computer science, information systems. mathematics and software engineering.
- Computer science: This term often partially overlaps with software engineering, but in reality, it fulfills a different role. It is recommended that both software engineers and software developers are proficient in computer science as it deals with discovering, testing, and researching new ways to get things done in the realm of software development. Computer science learns about data by computer architecture, using algorithms, placing its greatest emphasis on data and the most effective ways to process, interpret, store, communicate and secure saved.
- Mathematics: The importance of mathematics for both software engineers and software developers cannot be stressed enough. Both roles rely heavily on the use of mathematical methods to understand, design, and create software that is accurate, precise, and effective. Mathematics plays a fundamental role in algorithms, statistics, modeling, analytics, data interpretation, data science and more, which are all important to both these roles as they aim to deliver valuable software solutions that are backed by pure, perfect mathematics.
- Software engineering: The use of systematic approaches to develop software, including software production, software development, and software maintenance is fundamental to both roles of software engineering and software development. Software engineering provides the scientific backdrop to create successful software projects that are thoroughly researched and designed.
Selecting the right job description: engineering or development?
As the demand for improved, more sophisticated software continues to grow, so does the demand for software engineers and developers. These two roles have turned into some of the most sought-after positions and constantly ranked among the most popular tech jobs.
In an industry where titles matter, it’s important to clearly define what each job entails to have a clear and concise idea of the type of professional you are looking for. As these two terms get jumbled together, it is easy to get lost in the blurry lines of job descriptions and job offerings that appear to depict the same type of individual, while in reality, a unique software solution requires unique profiles.
Now that we’ve walked together in the journey of clarifying how a software engineer vs software developer differentiate from one another, it should be far more simple to determine and select the right job description.
A job description for a software engineering role should focus on key operational aspects of understanding and applying core scientific and practical methods of developing software. These professionals should be advocates for analytical thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving, strong programming, and coding knowledge, to the manner born project manager, overall understanding of different programming languages, and more.
A job description for a software developer role should emphasize the importance of the coding facet within the software development life cycle. As mentioned previously, an all-inclusive software developer must be skilled and experienced in coding structures and programming languages to thrive. We recommend using the list of skills we detailed previously for a more thorough understanding of what to look for.
With this article, we hope to shed light on the key differentiators these two roles entail. They are both deeply-embedded concepts in the IT industry and given their rise to fame, they are bound to overlap with each other from time to time as they both tackle areas of software development.
In general terms, the concept of a software engineer is that of an individual who follows a methodical process to build software solution, oftentimes leveraging methodologies, patterns and other scientific principles to get the job done. While some developers can fall into this category, their role is not entitled to handle such tasks. Instead, they are the main actors in terms of coding software. For software developers, coding and programming is a sufficiently large task in itself without dealing with the complexities of the entire scope of the software development lifecycle using scientific methods to architect a software system.
To further summarize and conclude our article, we’ll put the software developer vs software engineer debate to rest by putting it in the simplest terms: software engineers architect and oversee the entire process of creating and supporting software while software developers are usually in charge of the coding dimension of building software.
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