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Software Developer vs Software Engineer - Differences and Comparison

Updated Jun 20, 2019

In the contemporary scenario, it is common to find the terms software developer and software engineer being used interchangeably. This is particular true with regards to job applications and interviews wherein there seems to be little difference between the definitions of a software engineer and software developer. However, to the trained eye, there is little confusion with regards to who is a software engineer, who is a software developer, what are the key functions of a software engineer and developer, the differences between both, etc.

Through this article, we will help you understand more about the two titles, who is responsible for building and writing codes, smart ways of distinguishing between both, etc. We begin with a comparative chart depicting the key differences between a software developer and software engineer.

Software Engineering vs. Software Development

Basis of Differentiation

Software Developer

Software Engineer

Basic Functionality

Software developers write and builds up codes at all times. They may also be generalists in IT who are called in to take care of other tasks related to the software development process.

Software engineers apply a disciplined, systematic, quantifiable approach with regards to the conceptualization, development, implementation and maintenance of varied software solutions and products.

Use of Engineering Principles

Not applicable.

Along with coding, developers with an engineering degree apply learned engineering principles when they create software designs.

Degree of Specialization

While a software engineer may be hired as a software developer, the vice versa may not fit the bill.

Generally, it is believed that software engineers are highly qualified and more specialized than their other counterparts in software development.

Quantification Metrics

Software developers qualify for software development processes only. As this qualification is quite subjective and unmeasurable, they have to go via their acquired knowledge and feelings. This may result in project failure as it may not meet the parameters of practicality, budgeting, meeting deadlines, etc.

Software engineers quantify things. They utilize various software metrics to calculate the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. They can find anything that’s not correct and can fix the same or reduce its overall risk.

Academic Qualifications

Software developers have several alternatives to choose from to attain their degree - software programming, software engineering, computer science, etc. They may opt for development degree courses at the associate or bachelor level.

Software engineers require a minimum of Bachelor or a Master’s degree. Knowledge of engineering principles have to be the main element of the degree course.


Software developers require excellent analytical skills.  They have to consistently compare client needs with the available software capabilities. Familiarity with computer languages is a must to operate with computer programs.

Engineers in software should be proficient in pattern design, fault-tolerant systems, automated testing, etc. They should be able to create as well as maintain data stores, IT architecture and cloud-based systems.

What is the Definition of Software Engineer?

In the software industry, a software engineer holds responsibility for the complete product development lifecycle. A software engineer notices/ assesses a particular need/ problem and creates a holistic solution comprising of all interconnected components. It is important for him/ her to sit along with all stakeholders and discuss the design, project requirements and output before going ahead with the product design. Once the design created by them is implemented and deployed, software engineers are expected to offer demonstrations, keep a close eye on the system and keep taking user feedback to make the software experience more optimized.

Skills and Qualifications of a Software Engineer

  • Experience in designing, implementing, maintaining and upgrading software architectures/databases.
  • Problem solving skillsets.
  • Experience in creating patterns/ designs, specifically with cloud-based infrastructure.
  • Experience in debugging/ embedded code development.
  • Ability to handle multi-core CPU/ SMP.
  • In-depth knowledge of OOPs and other programming languages.

Responsibilities of a Software Engineer

  • Conception, design, development, testing, implementation and maintenance of embedded networking software.
  • Working in union with the QA team with a view of developing test plans.
  • Liaising with customer success/ product marketing teams.
  • Work along with other teams, offering technical guidance, supporting the development process of software products, etc.

What is the Definition of Software Developer?

A software developer helps in executing plans by coding individual components of a given system and bringing it to life. Instead of designing the full software product/ solution, software developers focus on a specific part/ parts of the whole. They may or may not be reliant on maths/ science principles and focus on informal methods to get their work done. As these professionals are not solely responsible for proving the viability of the design created by them via empirical evidence, they enjoy more leverage in building up the software/ solution as per their creativity.

Skills and Qualifications of a Software Developer

  • Ability to write accurate, functional and maintainable codes.
  • Experience and expertise in ReactJS, AngularJS, Javascript, jQuery, NodeJS, HTML5, CSS3, ES2015+, responsive web design, etc.
  • Experience in handling front-end tooling as well as workflows with the help of Git, Grunt/Gulp, etc.

Responsibilities of a Software Developer

  • Contribution to the continual improvements/ maintenance of UI architecture.
  • Exploration of cutting-edge, front-end tools/ technologies for developing new innovative features.
  • Developing tools/ features for making improvements to internal productivity, etc.

Key Difference Between a Software Engineer and Software Developer

1. The primary difference between a software engineer and software developer lies in their job function. While a software engineer works on software development, very few software developers have the qualification of engineers.

2. Software engineers apply engineering principles for creating software products and solutions. They are fully active across the entire development life cycle and connect with client needs using relevant technology solutions. On the contrary, software developers serve to be the creative driving force behind programs. They are hired to take care of the entire development process.


The term “software engineer” generally refers to a type of builder who has a fair idea of design processes and can apply established patterns/ principles to applications. Then, there quite a few software developers who also fit the bill and can be referred to as software engineers interchangeably. In case you have any further queries with respect to the difference between a software developer and software engineer then please feel free to write to us. We will try to get back to you at the earliest.