In the world of software creation, the job titles of Software Engineer and Software Developer are often used interchangeably. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes no difference, placing these two roles into the same category in the employment outlook handbook.
However, for people in the IT industry, these roles are not the same. Just as a doctor would not call themselves a doctor’s assistant, a software engineer would not use the title software developer.
The difference between these two roles lies in the technical training required, the scope of the job function, and in most cases, the level of authority.
In this article, we will explain the ins and outs of the gap between software engineers and software developers.
What is a Software Engineer?
The keyword in this job title is “Engineer.” According to Engineer’s Edge, “engineering is the discipline, art and profession for acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social and practical knowledge to design and build.”
Engineers use engineering principles to build new systems or solutions to a problem. Rather than designing a specific solution for a particular customer, an engineer innovates a solution to a problem experienced by the general public or a large number of people. Solutions are designed according to scientific methods, and there must be empirical evidence to support the plan as a viable real-world solution.
When an Engineer designs a solution there can be no ambiguity or open-ended questions, otherwise the design is likely to fail – either functionally or in an attempt to solve the problem in question, or both. For example, according to an engineering mindset, the equation 6 ÷ 2 (1 + 2) = x is too ambiguous to solve, because it lacks the brackets necessary to indicate which specific function should be performed first in a situation where the order of operations completely changes the final result.
When it comes to software (software), an Engineer is responsible for the entire product development life cycle. This means the Engineer is aware of a need (or is given a problem) and designs a holistic solution, including all the interconnected components. Before starting their design, they consult with stakeholders and gather project requirements. And once their design is implemented and new software is deployed, Software Engineers will likely provide demonstrations, monitor the system, and interview users to further optimize the software experience.
To develop the technical expertise required for this, software engineers complete at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another engineering discipline, or – as these training programs become more robust – they must at least pass coding bootcamps.
There is no universal engineering principles book that all engineers use in their designs. On the other hand, each Engineer can set their own principles and apply them to each software solution in their specific environment.
However, many software engineering teams subscribe to what are known as the 12 principles of agile development – or variations of them. These are the original principles as stated in the Agile Manifesto:
- The highest priority is to satisfy customers through initial and ongoing delivery of this valuable software.
- Deliver software in frequent cycles.
- Collaboration of stakeholders, including IT teams and business teams, is essential throughout the project.
- Build a culture of trust, motivation, and support for getting work done.
- Face-to-face communication is the most effective way to convey information.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- The development process must be so efficient that it is sustainable indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence.
- Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
- The best architecture, design and requirements emerge from self-organizing teams.
- Reflect regularly as a team on how to be more efficient.
Software Engineer Job Description
Even in job descriptions, the terms Software Engineer and Software Developer are sometimes used interchangeably, but diving deeper into the job description itself should reveal which of the two roles the organization actually hires. Here are some of the skills, qualifications and responsibilities you might find in a software engineering job description.
- Experience creating and maintaining IT architectures and databases
- Problem solving skills
- Design and experience patterns with cloud-based infrastructure
- Development / debugging experience
- Experience on multi-core CPU or SMP
- Knowledge of various programming languages including C / C ++
- Design, develop, unit test, and maintain network software
- Work closely with the QA team in developing a test plan
- Liaise with product marketing and customer success teams
- Work across teams to provide technical guidance and support the entire product development process.
What is a Software Developer?
Now we know what a software engineer is, but what about a software developer?
If a software engineer is an architect, a software developer is a carpenter. They carry out the plan by programming the individual components of the system and ultimately bringing solutions to life.
In general, the developer or developer is not responsible for designing the entire system. Instead, they only focus on one project as part of the whole. To build software solutions, they rely less on mathematical and scientific principles and more on informal methods. They do not need to prove the feasibility of their designs with empirical evidence and are given a more creative government in building the software as they see fit.
While engineers design, connect, supervise, and lead projects, software developers write code from their hands to bring the project to life.
Software developers must analyze the software requirements provided to them and determine how to build system-specific functions. They must have mastery of at least one front-end or back-end programming language and be familiar with agile development practices and test-based development.
During the manufacturing process, software developers will likely work closely with graphic designers, customer representatives, product managers, senior managers, and decision makers. And because building software is an iterative process with changing requirements, the developer must have good communication skills and receive feedback from all members of this team (and from users).
As their experience grows, Software Developers can start designing parts of the solution architecture and managing various parts of the system, thereby taking on the responsibilities of an Engineer and eventually moving up to these positions.
Software Developer Job Description
As we discussed, Developers usually perform certain functions, such as front-end development or back-end development, in a larger IT system and can specialize in a specific development framework to accomplish those functions. This specialization is reflected in job posting, with companies posting advertisements for roles such as “Back-End Java Developer” or “Front-End React Developer.”
These are some of the skills, qualifications, and responsibilities that can be found in a software developer job description.
Software Developer Skills and Qualifications
- Able to write clean and maintainable code
- Experience building front end applications with ES2015 +, NodeJS, jQuery, HTML5, and CSS3
- Experience in front-end tools and workflows with Git, Grunt / Gulp
- Experience in responsive web design
- Understand cross-browser compatibility
- Contribute to the continuous improvement of the UI architecture
- Explore cutting edge technology to create new innovative features
- Build tools to increase internal productivity
- Participate in creating iterative iterative prototypes based on project requirements
- Collaborate with designers, front-end engineers, product managers, and QA engineers to maintain UX quality
Then, what does all this mean?
It all comes down to the training background and different scope of responsibilities of the two positions. In almost all cases, the Software Engineer role includes Software Developer skills. However, a developer does not have to have the technical knowledge and experience to perform the design engineering role and manage the entire system as a software engineer has.
Some IT professionals equate senior software developers with software engineers, while others will still say that these two terms represent different job functions and levels of experience.
In practice, the terms are used interchangeably, and you won’t make friends where someone has used the wrong title. Therefore, if you are proud of your expertise, it makes sense to have a discussion with your manager or colleagues about a position you like.
And that’s a complete explanation of the difference between a software developer and a software engineer. Hopefully this article was useful for you and let you know the difference between the two. Good luck 🙂