Software developers vs software engineers: a shared skillset

Today’s society increasingly relies on effective software. From keeping tabs on your bank account to finishing work projects, the best software helps you succeed and makes your life a bit easier. Software developers and software engineers both play important roles in developing secure and useful software. While their work is similar, there are a few distinct differences between them. In this article, we’ll explore the skills that budding software developers and engineers need to develop.

Software developers vs. software engineers

Before we take a look at skillsets to master, let’s explore each role a bit more thoroughly. The difference between software developers and engineers can be tough to understand. Baylor University, which offers an Online Master’s in Computer Science with a Software Engineering track, explains it well in its blog, but we’ll go into a bit of detail here, too.

Software developers and engineers both design software and test its effectiveness and security, but they do so on different scales. Software development is best described as a subset of software engineering. These professionals often focus on single projects and move on once the software in question has entered maintenance mode. Software engineers, on the other hand, focus on larger-scale projects. They might develop applications and computer systems for an entire organization or company and balance multiple software projects with unique user bases.

Because they manage different types and sizes of projects, software engineers and developers must master a few skills that are relatively (but not entirely) unique to their professions while also exploring a variety of complementary skills. Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of these skills.


The first skill that software engineers and developers share is coding. Professionals in both fields must demonstrate skill and competency in popular programming languages, but the scale differs from one to the other. Software engineers must typically master a wide variety of programming languages to best suit the different suites of software they develop and maintain every day.

Software developers, on the other hand, are required to learn one or more coding languages such as Python, C++, Java, and Scala. They might only specialize in one of the above, and because they only focus on individual projects, that specialization is a boon rather than a detriment. This is in direct contrast to engineers, where quantity is almost (but not quite) as important as quality.

Software development methodologies

Both engineers and developers need to have a thorough understanding of software development methodologies such as agile development, rapid application development, waterfall development, and DevOps development.

While not every methodology will be used in every project, each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses and can help developers and engineers in different ways. Agile development methodology, for example, is ideal for minimizing risk when updating functionality. Using this method, software is developed in stages, each of which adds a new feature from the new functionality. You might have seen this kind of method in things such as game updates, where developers often release ‘patches’ containing developments and features over time rather than all at once. Because the content is rolled out systematically, developers and engineers have plenty of time to remedy bug reports as they go.

Waterfall development is a great option for large projects with distinct milestones. Using this method, professionals move through a rigid linear model using the following phases:

  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Verification
  • Maintenance

This method is often favored by engineers rather than developers as they place more emphasis on long-term projects. Software developers often need to push content out more quickly than waterfall development, which is a slow and steady model, allows. Instead, developers often focus on rapid application development (RAD). This method is condensed and emphasizes moving quickly in a fast-paced environment where consumer needs change rapidly. Engineers can also use the RAD method, but since they tend to focus on long-term projects, it is not quite as widely used as in software development.

DevOps, the last method we’ll discuss today, is the first one that takes organizational culture into account. This kind of development focuses on company-wide change that impacts different departments working on different segments of the application or system. It encourages collaboration between users and often results in software that is better balanced to meet employee and employer needs than software that is created as a ‘cookie cutter’ offering. As you might expect, software engineers use DevOps development quite often.

Time management

Time management is another skill that both software developers and engineers must master. Both of them work with time-sensitive projects that require ongoing maintenance. It is also necessary that both developers and engineers are able to complete projects on time and fix any issues promptly.

Software engineers must be able to juggle multiple projects at once. Sometimes they even manage multiple ‘levers’ of users, providing level-specific information to each of them as the need arises. Software developers, however, need project management skills slightly less than engineers. Instead, they must manage their time carefully to ensure that the day’s goals are completed on time. This includes coding, giving presentations, and maintaining databases, among many other duties.

As you can see, software engineering and development are two sides of the same coin. Software engineers have a wider breadth of duties than developers, but both of them are crucial to creating and maintaining effective and secure software. Sometimes professionals even shift from one position to the other as their interests and needs evolve, aided by the complementary skills both developers and engineers must master.

Software engineering and development are growing fields

Are you interested in learning more about software engineering and development? Keep the information we have gathered here for you in mind and branch out! There is a wealth of information to help you not only answer any questions you might have but also find the best professional and educational opportunities for your goals.


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