Software Developer vs Software Engineer: what’s the difference?

Many companies use the titles ‘Software Developer’ and ‘Software Engineer’ interchangeably, so it’s not surprising that they are sometimes confused with one another. The roles are similar and do work on parts of the same areas, but there are some differences between the two roles. In this article, we look at the key differences between Software Developers and Software Engineers.

software developer and software engineer

What do Software Developers do?

Software developers have a wide knowledge of both programming and design. Ultimately, they are responsible for designing and building software to meet the needs of the end user. Part of their job involves meeting with clients to understand the different requirements of a project and building proposals which answer these requirements. They should have expertise in debugging and troubleshooting to solve problems which may occur during the software development process. A good software developer will be constantly looking at improvements to what they’re doing, comparing with the needs of the client and evolving the product to better suit these.


Key examples of hard skills of Software Developers:

  • DevOps
  • Full-stack development
  • Cloud computing
  • Languages such as Java, Python, HTML, C++
  • Testing & debugging
  • Cybersecurity
  • AI


Key examples of soft skills of Software Developers:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Patience
  • Time management
  • Adaptability


Responsibilities of a Software Developer:

  • Meeting with a client to determine needs from a project
  • Produce efficient programming to deliver based on specifications
  • Testing & fixing software
  • Integration of third-party plugins and software to enhance offering
  • Gather and analyse feedback
  • Improve and evolve systems as required
  • Maintenance of systems once up and running


Average salary of a software developer in the UK: £51,000


What do Software Engineers do?

Software Engineers execute full lifecycle software development using engineering principles to create applications. Engineering principles are logic and process-based questions which are used to guide a software project. Good software engineers will easily be able to identify the best programming language and platform to deliver on a client’s brief. Whilst software developers tend to do a lot of their work individually, software engineers will be more collaborative, working with other engineers and developers to ensure the best course of action is happening. Put simply, Software Engineering is more of a top-level view of the entire project, whilst Software Development is more focused on the coding/debugging.


Key examples of hard skills of Software Engineers:

  • Excellent knowledge of coding languages such as Java, Python, HTML, C++
  • Software testing & debugging
  • Data science
  • Systems development life cycle
  • Object-oriented programming


Key examples of soft skills of Software Engineers:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Active listening


Responsibilities of a Software Engineer:

  • Execute full software development life cycle
  • Analyse user requirements
  • Research and design new software systems
  • Determining operational feasibility
  • Troubleshooting & debugging
  • Manage software development projects


Average salary of a software engineer in the UK: £58,000


It’s clear to see that Software Developers and Software Engineers have many similarities in their roles, and both are heavily involved in the production of software & programming to suit the needs of the client. There are many crossovers in both hard & soft skills between the two roles, and it’s very common for candidates to undertake both job functions at some point within their careers. They both work towards the same goal of delivering functional, efficient and well-designed software for the client, which would explain why some employers use the titles interchangeably.


The main difference between software developers and software engineers is that Software Engineers generally look at the bigger picture and use key engineering principles to determine the best approach to a project, whereas Software Developers are more immersed in the coding and programming language, building quality code to bring a client’s project to life.


Browse the latest software roles on Women in Tech jobs.

Interested in learning to code? See our top 5 free coding courses for women.