Software Developer vs Software Engineer. What is the difference?

Talent Acquisition
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12 min

Software Developer vs Software Engineer. What is the difference?

The line between software engineering and software development is often blurred. Both roles cross over each other, and both share some responsibilities and job aspects, so much so that some experts believe that the titles are redundant. But if we take a closer look, it would appear that there is enough distinction between these two roles to make them sufficiently unique and individual. Each role comes with a certain set of skills and responsibilities. 

This article explores what differentiates a software developer from a software engineer, and which role might be better suited for certain business requirements.

Software developer vs software engineer: definitions

Looking up the definition of a software developer and a software engineer is likely to yield thousands of pages, which is to say that there is no real consensus or 'official' definition of these roles. In very simple terms, software developers focus their time on writing code (i.e., a more functional approach), while software engineers apply their knowledge to design and evaluate the code created by the developers. Both roles are integral to the overall software development cycle.

Let's look at these roles from another perspective: software engineers liaise with clients to understand the software requirements for a specific project (that is, what the application is supposed to do, and how to do it). Engineers apply a set of engineering principles and concepts to design the software's framework, based on those requirements, and hand over the specs to software developers to actually create the code.

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Software developers

Skills

Generally speaking, software developers tend to have creative minds, as their work is largely focused on the creation of software applications.

Some of their skills might include, but are not restricted to:

  • Working knowledge of multiple programming languages
  • Great analytical skills
  • Technologically minded
  • Problem-solving
  • Good organizational and time management
  • Keen learner
  • Attention to detail
  • Understanding of Agile development methodologies
  • Teamwork
  • Strong mathematical skills, including data structures and algorithms
  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge of the latest stacks and market trends

Duties

  • Writing and testing code
  • Creating documentation
  • Communication with other developers
  • Gather and evaluate feedback from users and other developers
  • Deploy programs and systems
  • Create technical documentation
Software developers skills

How to ascertain a software developer's skills

Before hiring a new developer, or team of developers, it is essential to determine their skill and suitability for the role. Most, if not all, developers -whether junior or senior- are likely to have these two things besides their CVs.

A portfolio of previous work

Just like a photographer, video artist, painter, etc. creates and carefully curates a portfolio of their past work, it is essential for developers to have a similar asset that they can show to prospective clients and update as their career progresses.

A GitHub account

This is almost a condition sine qua non. Software developers tend to have GitHub accounts from early on in their careers. This is an invaluable tool for developers to showcase their experience, seniority, and overall attitude towards the software creation task.

Software engineers

Skills

Software engineers are responsible for the software system as a whole, and so they're likely to have a wide range of skills.

Some of these skills include, but are certainly not restricted to:

  • Coding
  • Research
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Debugging experience
  • Ability to manage complex software systems
  • Strong logical thinking
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Good writing skills to create accurate documentation
  • Ability to troubleshoot and debug
  • Resource management
  • Great communicator

Duties

  • Attend meetings with clients and programmers
  • Analysis and/or modification of existing software applications
  • Design and construction of new software systems
  • Drive innovation in the software space
  • Project management
  • Software integrations
  • Create reference documentation and software manuals
  • Build tools to improve productivity
Software engineer skills

How to ascertain a software engineer's skills

As we have established, there is substantial crossover between the role of a software developer and that of a software engineer. Because of this, a software engineer is also likely to have a portfolio and a GitHub account.

There are, however, specialized platforms that might help a prospective employer to determine the skill level and experience of a software engineer. Vidcruiter, Coderbyte, and Codility are just three examples of this. 

Key differences between software engineers and software developers

As explained during the introduction, and as highlighted in the skills section above, there is some crossover between both roles. But each position is different enough to require a certain skill set.

Software developers

  • Create applications and write complete programs, often using existing, off-the-shelf tools
  • Mostly works independently
  • Narrow focus for their work
  • Employ greater creativity
  • Focus on the execution of a design

Software engineers

  • Oversee the entire system
  • Focus on the architecture
  • Think about the design, consults with the client 
  • Apply engineering principles at every stage of the software development cycle
  • Work on individual components, rather than on entire programs
  • Tends to create new tools to write software, rather than using existing ones
  • Usually works in teams
  • Wider scope of work
Working software developer

Hiring software developers and software engineers with AllSTARSIT

Finding the right talent for the right job isn't easy. It takes a dedicated and passionate team to do it. A team working for a company with strong brand recognition and knowledge of the local legal framework. All these things come together in AllSTARSIT. We have mastered the recruitment process so you don’t have to spend your time on it. Plus, we offer an industry-leading range of benefits & perks. All our clients have to do is present an interesting project, and we take care of the rest. 

See our Expertise page to know more about our hiring process, industries we work with, and read some client reviews. 

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