Jun 26th, 2024

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Naveen Kumar Singh
Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia... Read more

Ever wondered what the difference is between a software developer and a software engineer? You're not alone. The tech industry throws around a lot of titles, and it can be confusing to understand the specific roles behind them. This is especially true for those starting out in their careers or considering a switch to the exciting world of software development.

If you've ever stared at a job listing unsure whether your skills align with "software developer" or "software engineer," you've felt the pain.  These titles might seem interchangeable, but there are key distinctions in responsibilities, skill sets, and career paths.

This blog will be your one-stop shop for clearing up the confusion. We'll break down the differences between software developers and software engineers, helping you identify which path best suits your interests and goals. No more resume rewrites for the wrong positions!

So, let's start the journey to set Software Developers and Software Engineers apart!

Who is a software developer?

A software developer is a technical professional whose primary role is to design, create, and launch computer programs and applications. They are responsible for transforming client requirements and user needs into functional software solutions. Software developers possess a deep understanding of programming languages and employ their creativity to develop software that meets the demands of end-users.

While software developers are proficient in writing code, their responsibilities extend beyond just programming. They are involved in the entire software development life cycle, from analyzing client expectations and user experience to rolling out updates and new features. Effective communication and collaboration with other team members, such as graphic designers, product managers, and business analysts, are essential for software developers.

Software developers can work as permanent employees within a company or as freelancers, offering their services to multiple clients. 

Their tasks typically include:

  1. Understanding client requirements and end-user needs.

  2. Designing and developing software solutions that meet these requirements.

  3. Testing and debugging software to ensure functionality and quality.

  4. Maintaining and upgrading existing software applications.

  5. Documenting the software for future reference and collaboration.

It's important to note that while software developers and programmers share some similarities, the role of a software developer is more advanced and encompasses a broader set of responsibilities beyond just writing code.

Who is a software engineer?

A software engineer is a professional who applies principles of engineering, computer science, and mathematics to the design, development, testing, and maintenance of software systems. Software engineers take a systematic and structured approach to solving complex problems and creating robust software solutions.

While software engineers share some overlapping skills with software developers, such as proficiency in programming languages, their role is more comprehensive and encompasses a broader range of responsibilities. Software engineers are responsible for overseeing the entire software development life cycle, from inception to deployment and maintenance.

Software engineers are tasked with designing the overall architecture and structure of software systems, ensuring seamless integration and communication between different components. They analyze user requirements, evaluate feasibility, and determine the most efficient and scalable solutions within the constraints of time, budget, and available resources.

Their tasks typically include:

  1. Designing and developing software solutions for a wide range of clients and applications.

  2. Improving existing software by enhancing user experience, adapting to new hardware, or fixing bugs.

  3. Coordinating system software deployment and integration with hardware components.

  4. Overseeing and guiding the work of software developers and programmers.

  5. Evaluating user needs and translating them into technical specifications.

Ensuring the successful completion of software projects within defined timelines and budgets.

Software engineers often work in teams, collaborating with other professionals such as project managers, system analysts, and quality assurance specialists. Their strong analytical and problem-solving skills, combined with a deep understanding of software engineering principles, enable them to design and implement robust and scalable software systems.

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Are “Software Engineer” and “Software Developer” Used Interchangeably?

"Software Engineer" and "Software Developer" are often used interchangeably in the tech industry, there can be distinct differences in the scope and responsibilities of these roles. However, the job title assigned may vary depending on the company and the specific software team involved.

In some organizations, the terms are used synonymously, with no clear distinction between the roles. In such cases, the responsibilities and tasks associated with software development and engineering may overlap significantly. However, in other companies, these titles are assigned based on specific job scopes and expectations.

To truly understand whether these terms are being used interchangeably or not, it's crucial to consult the job description and engage in open communication with the hiring manager during the interview process. By analyzing the role's responsibilities, day-to-day tasks, objectives, and how it fits within the team structure, you can gain better insights into the specific scope of the position.

During the interview, it's advisable to ask clarifying questions about the role's duties, the team's dynamics, and the expectations surrounding software development and engineering tasks. This dialogue can help unveil whether the company distinguishes between these titles or uses them synonymously.

While the interchangeable use of these terms may create confusion, it's essential to recognize that the responsibilities and skills required for each role can vary across organizations. By thoroughly understanding the job description and engaging in open communication during the hiring process, you can make an informed decision about whether the position aligns with your career aspirations and expertise.

Key Differences between Software Developers and Software Engineers

While both software developers and software engineers bring their talents to building awesome software, there are key differences in their skill sets and career paths. Let's break it down:

Skillset Differences

While both roles involve coding, problem-solving, and analytical thinking, there are some notable distinctions. Software developers primarily focus on proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, C++, and their ability to write and test code. They need to have a keen eye for detail, both in terms of the big picture and the small steps along the way. Creativity and presentation skills are also valuable assets for developers.

On the other hand, software engineers need to have a more extensive knowledge of a wide range of programming languages, as well as a solid grasp of advanced mathematics and engineering principles. They're expected to apply these principles to the software creation process, which often involves designing scalable systems, creating domain-specific tools, and ensuring the overall architecture is robust and efficient.

Career Path Differences

Software developers tend to have more flexibility and variety in their roles. They can choose to work remotely or freelance more easily than software engineers. Additionally, their career trajectories can be a bit more diverse – some may choose to specialize in areas like front-end, back-end, or mobile development, while others may pursue managerial roles like lead developer or technical architect.

Software engineers, on the other hand, often follow a more linear path within a company's structure. They may start as entry-level engineers, working their way up to senior roles, and eventually taking on leadership positions like tech lead or engineering manager. The ultimate goal for many software engineers is to become a chief technology officer (CTO), overseeing an organization's entire technological needs.

Degrees & Certifications 

For software developers, a bachelor's degree seems to be the most common educational path. According to statista, around 41% of developers had a bachelor's degree, and another 23% had pursued a master's degree of some kind. So, while a bachelor's is quite prevalent, many developers also opt for advanced degrees, probably to gain specialized knowledge or a competitive edge in the job market.

On the other hand, software engineers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, specifically in fields like software engineering, computer science, or information technology. For more senior or managerial roles, employers may even require a master's degree or significant work experience in the role.

Now, when it comes to certifications and alternative pathways, software engineers have a bit more flexibility. While degree programs are still common, some individuals may opt for intense bootcamps or industry certifications to gain the necessary skills for entry-level software engineering roles.

It's worth noting that employers often look for at least two years of work experience in a computing role when hiring software engineers, regardless of their educational background.

Ultimately, both software developers and engineers can explore various computing career options based on their specific education, industry, and location. For instance, developers could pursue roles like full-stack development, while engineers might venture into fields like information security analysis, data science, or systems analysis.

Salary Structure 

Starting with software engineers, we see that some of the highest-paying countries in Europe are Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway. In Switzerland, the average software engineer can expect to rake in around $7,949 per month, which translates to a whopping $95,000 annually. Not too far behind are Denmark at $5,350 per month ($71,000 yearly) and Norway at $6,012 per month ($70,000 yearly). [1]

On the software developer front, the salaries tend to be slightly lower, but still quite impressive in certain regions. For instance, in the UK, the average software developer salary is around $70,000 per year, while in Sweden, it's $69,000 annually. Other European countries like the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, and Portugal offer salaries ranging from $35,000 to $69,000 per year for software developers.

Now, it's important to note that specializing in certain programming languages can also impact your earning potential. Python developers, for example, can command over $90,000 per year in high-tech countries like the USA, Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark. Even in the UK and Israel, Python developer salaries can exceed $50,000 annually.[2]

Moving over to the United States, the average software engineer's salary is reported to be around $120,000, according to sources like SalaryExpert and Payscale. This figure highlights the high demand and competitive compensation for software engineers in the American job market.

Of course, these are just averages, and salaries can vary significantly based on factors like experience, specific industry, company size, and cost of living in a particular region. But overall, it's clear that both software engineers and developers can expect to earn quite lucrative salaries, especially in certain countries and specialized fields.


Software Engineer

Software Developer


Bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or related field is typically required. Master's or doctorate may be needed for advanced roles.

Bachelor's degree is common, but not always required. A mix of degrees, bootcamps, and certifications is prevalent

Skill Set

Extensive knowledge of programming languages, advanced mathematics, engineering principles, software architecture, system design, and leadership skills.

Proficiency in popular programming languages, coding, testing, creativity, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Job Responsibilities

Design overall software architecture, ensure system integration, apply engineering principles, oversee software development life cycle, manage teams, and ensure project completion

Develop software solutions, write and test code, collaborate with teams, implement client requirements, and maintain/update applications.

Career Path

Often follows a linear path within a company, progressing from entry-level to senior roles, tech leads, engineering managers, or CTOs.

More flexible career trajectories, including specializations (front-end, back-end, full-stack), managerial roles, or technical architects.

Salary Range

Higher salaries, with a median annual base salary of around $99,000 in the US and up to $95,000 in countries like Switzerland.

Slightly lower salaries, with a median annual base salary of around $77,000 in the US and $69,000-$70,000 in countries like the UK and Sweden.

Job Outlook

Projected 25% growth from 2022 to 2032, with around 153,900 openings per year on average in the US.

Projected 25% growth from 2022 to 2032, with around 153,900 openings per year on average in the US.

Take the next step in your development or engineering career with Agilemania. 

While not mandatory, obtaining Scrum or SAFe certifications can significantly enhance your resume. The increasing adoption of Agile methodologies in the software industry suggests that certifications in Scrum and SAFe can provide a competitive advantage for software developers and engineers.  A staggering 86% of software development teams have adopted Agile practices. 

Certifications like Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Professional Scrum Master (PSM), and SAFe Agilist can open doors for leadership roles within Agile teams and organizations. These certifications can be valuable for software engineers and developers involved in complex software development projects that require scaling Agile practices.

Here are some popular Agile, Scrum, and Scaled Agile certifications that can help software engineers and developers:

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

  • This certification validates an individual's knowledge of the Scrum framework and their ability to lead and facilitate Scrum teams.

  • It is suitable for both software engineers and developers who work in Scrum teams or plan to take on a ScrumMaster role.

Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

  • Offered by Scrum.org, the PSM certification is more advanced than the CSM and focuses on the principles and practices of the Scrum framework.

  • It can be valuable for experienced software engineers and developers who want to demonstrate their expertise in Scrum.

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

  • This certification is designed for individuals who manage product backlogs and prioritize features and requirements.

  • It can be useful for software engineers and developers who work closely with product owners or plan to take on that role.

SAFe® Certifications

  • The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe® ) offers certifications like SAFe® Practitioner, SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master, and SAFe® Agilist for individuals working in large-scale Agile projects and organizations.

  • These certifications can be valuable for software engineers and developers involved in complex software development projects that require scaling Agile practices.

Wrapping Up

Whether you're a student contemplating your career path, a professional seeking a career transition, or an employer looking to hire the right talent, distinguishing between a Software Developer and a Software Engineer can be a daunting task. While both roles involve coding and working with software, the differences lie in their educational backgrounds, technical expertise, job responsibilities, and career trajectories.

No matter which path you choose, the future of software development is bright.  The demand for skilled developers and engineers is on the rise, offering endless opportunities for growth and innovation.  So, hone your skills, embrace continuous learning, and get ready to make your mark on the ever-evolving world of software!


The main difference is that software engineers take a more comprehensive and systematic approach, applying engineering principles to design overall software architecture and systems. Software developers focus more on coding, developing software based on requirements, and maintaining/updating applications.

Software engineers typically need at least a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science or a related field. For more advanced roles, a master's degree may be required. Software developers commonly have a bachelor's degree, though advanced degrees are possible.

On average, software engineers earn higher salaries than software developers. The blog states average software engineer salaries around $120,000 in the US and up to $95,000 in countries like Switzerland, while software developer salaries are slightly lower, around $77,000 in the US and $69,000-$70,000 in the UK and Sweden.

Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia Pacific. He works with the software development team and product team to develop awesome products based on empirical processes.

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