Software Developer vs Software Engineer

Nowadays IT and technology are probably the sectors offering the best work conditions. All the best countries to work offer great jobs in these sectors! Technical disciplines like mechanical and structural engineering have been around for centuries but this is not the case for software. Software is a much newer domain that is not so well known to the public. This article will answer your question: Software Developer vs Software Engineer, what is the difference? while guiding you towards the opportunities in the software sector.

Software engineer vs developer: education


The word engineer reminds us of hard days studying maths at University. But do you really need a college degree to work in software environment?

One main difference between software engineer and developer is the fact that engineers usually require an engineering degree, while this is not the case for developers. In fact, although in industry and recruitment the terms engineer and developer are often used interchangeably, this is not the case in academia.

Can I become a software engineer without a degree?

Most software college degrees are in fact called Software Engineering, not software development. One of the most common questions from people trying to enter this sector is how to become a software engineer without a degree. The answer is: without a degree you can work as a software engineer but not call yourself a software engineer. In fact, in many countries, engineering is a protected profession, meaning that you are not allowed to call yourself an engineer unless you have an engineering degree.

Software Developer vs Software Engineer: job descriptions

Software engineer codes

As previously mentioned, you will often hear the two terms being used interchangeably in the industry. That’s because the two jobs presents some similarities. At the end of the day, they both code and work with software. However, when looking into the details there is a big difference between software developer and software engineer.

The software engineer is an actual engineer, therefore works more on the engineering design of the software and is more involved in the IT architecture. A software engineer also often cooperates with other engineers in the development of multidisciplinary engineering products. Let’s pick the example of a self driving car, a software engineer will cooperate with other engineers to create the correct architecture to connect hardware and software.

Developing vs Engineering software

C++ Java coding

A software developer generally develops his/her product (software) while working in close contact with his/her customer. A developer “develops” a software in such a way that meets all specifications that are required. That does not mean that a developer is only implementing someone else’s design. A developer is in fact in charge of choosing his/her own way to design the software. Without getting lost into technicalities, a software developer is much more than a programmer! Just to be clear, let’s go a little bit in depth into the programmer’s duties and see what’s the difference between a software engineer and a programmer.

Software engineer vs programmer

First of all, what is a programmer? A programmer is very different from a developer or an engineer, mostly because a programmer is only focusing on coding. A programmer is generally an expert of a coding language (e.g. C++) and only does the coding without developing the design or the architecture of the software.

To sum up, the main difference between software engineer and developer is the title engineer. In conclusion, a good software engineer should also be able to work as a developer but only few developers can work as software engineers.

Other roles in Software jobs

Programming C++ Java Android

As in any other industry, in software there are many different roles with different job perspectives and conditions. Most people approaching the software world will start as a software developer or as a software engineer. With the right seniority, typical promotions can be in three directions: people management, project management and architect roles. Do not let yourself being fooled by the absence of the word ̈manager ̈ in the architect title, an architect is often more important than a manager. Architect are normally the highest people in the software food chains.

Many software companies work with Scrum. In this case, roles such as product owners/managers and scrum masters are used instead of standard management roles.

Both software developers and software engineers have great possibilities to grow towards these leadership positions.

Software developer vs software engineer… not a mystery anymore

These two jobs are very similar and both offer some of the best employment conditions on the market. Some great countries to work in software are the Netherlands and Ireland. And if you don’t want to commit to a real office, that’s no problem, many software engineers work remotely nowadays. Our article about Working from home will help you to develop the skills you need for this!