Software developer vs. software engineer – do these positions really differ?


Software developer vs. software engineer – do these positions really differ?

Software developer vs. software engineer – although sometimes used interchangeably, their scope of work differs. What are the similarities and differences?

Software developer vs. software engineer – do you happen to confuse these positions? While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they differ in work scope, skills, and responsibilities. In addition, software developers and engineers hold a variety of tasks in companies. This article highlights the differences and similarities between them.

Where does the confusion between the software developer and software engineer positions come from? First of all – the scope of their work and required competencies may overlap. In general, the role of a software engineer has a bigger variety of functions and scope of responsibility. Therefore, it requires a broader set of skills, e.g., in management field. And, the role of a software developer is more specialised. This professional may be a specialist in one or two software languages ​​or focus on a selected niche, such as developing mobile applications. 

Software developer – job description

A software developer is someone who is creative and has the technical knowledge to come up with an innovative program and be able to implement it. They design and build desktop, mobile, and web programs. 

They participate in the entire process – apart from software development, they are also involved in the final testing and implementation. 

This role may require collaboration with the client during the theoretical design, but software developers generally work alone. They follow a software development methodology or project delivery framework such as Scrum, XP, or Kanban.

Responsibilities – software developer: 

  • writing code for programs and applications,
  • creating software documentation,
  • reviewing the code, generating ideas for its improvement,
  • testing the software before implementation to make sure that it will work in real situations, 
  • resolving bugs and fixing the code to increase its performance,
  • ensuring high quality and consistency of the software,
  • managing own work to meet deadlines. 

Competencies – software developer:

  • knowledge of programming languages, e.g., Java, C #, C ++, Python,
  • understanding the logic of the code even in languages ​​they don't know,
  • experience in using code repositories, such as GitHub,
  • excellent analytical skills (to compare users needs with software capabilities),
  • great attention to details,
  • good communication skills,
  • ability to participate in parallel projects at various stages of development. 

Software engineer – job description 

Software engineers apply engineering principles to database construction and the development process, i.e., the product life cycle, as well as mathematical analysis and computer science principles to software development. They are proficient developers who are capable of managing complex systems. 

Moreover, they are experienced enough to build a fully functioning application. Still, most of all, they know how to create  easy to refactor, self-documenting, and, as a result, easily debuggable software. 

Engineers are to some extent software developers because, at some stage of their work, they can take over their roles, but the purpose of their work lies in the architecture and supervision of the system as a whole

Responsibilitiessoftware engineer:

  • playing an active role in projects as a leader, consultant, and individual contributor,
  • researching, designing, developing, and testing a software,
  • analysing user needs to define software requirements,
  • consulting with clients on specification and design,
  • assessing project feasibility, timeframe and budget,
  • managing resources, coordinating programming tasks,
  • collaborating with IT, operational, and development staff throughout the software lifecycle,
  • coordinating implementation and installation of a software.

Competenciessoftware engineer:

  • technical knowledge and experience in working on a wide range of projects,
  • proficiency in designing patterns to create fault-tolerant systems,
  • ability to use test automation with tools such as Gherkin or Cucumber, 
  • creating and maintaining IT architecture, large-scale data warehouses, and cloud systems,
  • ability to work both independently and in a team,
  • overseeing complex programs for analysis, design, and development of systems.

Fundamental differences – software developer vs. software engineer 

  • Software developer is the creative force of programming and part of its cycle, which deals with the design and implementation of programs; software engineer participates in the software life cycle on a larger scale, combining customer needs with appropriate technological solutions. 
  • Software developer writes software using existing tools; software engineer designs and plans to apply engineering principles to software development. 
  • Software developer focuses on code and functional programming and has the technical skills needed to create products; software engineer follows a systematic process of understanding requirements, collaborating with stakeholders, and developing a solution that meets their needs.
  • Software developer does not always have the same technical knowledge and experience as a software engineer to be able to implement a comprehensive project and manage the entire system. 
  • Software developer usually works alone; software engineer is a part of a larger team. 

Earnings – software developer vs. software engineer

Earnings in Poland (monthly)

For both positions, earnings depend on: location (voivodeship, small/large city), company size (higher in smaller ones), experience (seniority), contract type, and specialisation

Software developer

Their earnings depend on their experience and the technology they specialise in. According to the Randstad report for junior positions, it is PLN 6,000–14,000 gross. According to the Hays report Java developers earn PLN 12,000–20,000 gross for UoP. Similarly, JavaScript developer 12,000–15,000 zł. Form the other hand, according to, gross earnings range from PLN 7,860–11,930.

Software engineer

According to most data, the average gross monthly salary is around PLN 10,000–11,000. However, according to a portal, it is in the range of 7,000–1,400 (average 9,100) PLN. According to Indeed, a senior software engineer earns PLN 16,000.

Earnings in the UK (yearly)

Software developer

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary is £39,943 per annum. A junior software developer earns £27,034, a senior developer earns GPB 55,359, and a Java developer earns GPB 49,883. In contrast, according to Payscale, the annual average is £31,363.

Software engineer

According to Jobted, the average salary is £48,000 gross (approximately £3,000 net per month), which is £18,400 (+62%) higher than the national average salary. This specialist can expect an average starting salary £26,000; and the highest salaries can exceed £130,000. In contrast, according to Payscale, their yearly salary is GPB 38,946.

Software developer vs. software engineer – which position is for you? 

Both software developer and software engineer should represent similar traits: creativity, logical thinking, and mathematical skills. Their hard skills often overlap, but in the case of engineers, they go beyond technical knowledge.

Software engineers must use best practices in systems engineering when managing data. They usually work with the same technology as a software developer but also use analytics, testing, scaling, and excellent communication – with programmers and users. 

The work of software developers is more specialised. They focus on technical and functional elements. They can be a specialist in one or two software languages ​​or concentrate on a selected niche, e.g., creating mobile apps. Software developers rarely implement a comprehensive project or manage the entire system. On the other hand, they have more space to expand their skills. Thus, they can have and open path to software engineer position. 


Finally, it is worth mentioning that defining the scope of work of software developer and software engineer largely depends on the specific company. Therefore, before applying for a selected position, it is worth carefully examining the requirements described in the job offer; and, during an interview – establishing a common understanding of the scope of duties for a given position with recruiters. 

Do you already know in which job you will perform better? See our job offers for developers: Career in WEBSENSA! 👋🏻

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