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Full-Stack Developer vs. Software Engineer: Top Differences

Are you thinking about pursuing a career in technology or computer science? Should you work in development or engineering?

If you’re not sure yet, that’s okay. It can help to first get a grasp on the differences between full-stack developers and software engineers.  

In the workforce, these professionals complete duties that sometimes overlap. However, these roles are not interchangeable. They differ in many ways, from the aspects of the projects they work on to their level of specialization.

This article will explain the differences between full-stack developers and software engineers. We’ll help you determine which career is best for you and how Coding Dojo can help you reach your career goals.

You can also check out our blog post that covers nine popular types of developers. Read through it and see what kind of technical skills you’ll need for each role.  

But first, let’s explore what you should know when it comes to becoming a full-stack developer vs. a software engineer.

What is a Full-Stack Developer?

As the name implies, a full-stack developer can handle a full stack. This person can build a website’s front and back ends. They can assist with all the different stages of development and can help all levels of the development team.

Full-stack developers can be considered a jack of all trades because they can easily switch between both the front and the backends. (Here’s a post that explains the differences between front-end and back-end development.) 

Their tech stacks may include languages like Java, Python, HTML, and CSS. On the job, a full-stack developer may:

  • Test or troubleshoot websites
  • Design or code websites
  • Write documentation for maintaining a website
  • Set up a website server and connect it to the client-side application

To become a full-stack developer, you typically need a combination of work experience and educational experience. This could mean earning a computer science degree, completing a bootcamp, or teaching yourself.

Check out our step-by-step guide for a breakdown of how to become a full-stack developer.

What is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer — aka software developer or programming architect — is someone who designs and creates computer systems and applications.

They use their deep knowledge of software development, computer operating systems, and programming languages to help solve real-world problems.

On a typical day, a software engineer may attend meetings, collaborate with team members, and write code. They usually work on several projects at one time, so if you’re thinking about this career choice, you should be flexible and quick to think on your feet.

Their other responsibilities may include:

  • Testing and debugging software
  • Analyzing project requirements
  • Choosing the right programming languages for a project
  • Coding software in phases

Many software engineers are self-taught, while others have a formal degree. Worried you’re not a math whiz or the smartest in your friend group? That’s okay. This is a career path that’s open to nearly everyone. You just need the desire to learn how to code and a willingness to master different programming languages.

This article explains how to become a software developer. It also busts some common myths, so see what misconceptions you might still believe.

Full-Stack Developer vs. Software Engineer: Top Differences

As a subset of software engineering, full-stack web development shares a few similarities with software engineering.

For instance, both fields demand a deep technical foundation. You should understand programming, databases, system relationships, and more.

But that’s about where the similarities end. It’s worth noting some important differences if you’re deciding between full-stack developer vs. engineer.


Full-stack developers work on all aspects of software, while engineers just work on one.


Full-stack developers know multiple programming languages. Engineers typically know just one or two.


Full-stack developers often perform design and implementation tasks through the development software. Software engineers usually do one or the other, but not both. Full-stack developers do a little of everything whereas software engineers usually work on narrower areas like back-end architecture or testing.


Web applications remain the primary focus for full-stack developers, while devs focus on native apps.


Devs with full-stack in their title are often more senior or in charge of a team. On the other hand, software engineers are typically entry-level if they know all stacks. They may also work independently or as part of a team while full-stack developers usually lead a team.


The average annual salary for full-stack developers, according to Indeed, is just over $119,000. Software engineers bring home an average annual salary of almost $109,000. Keep in mind that many factors influence salary, including employer, experience level, and geographic location.

Why You Should Learn Full-Stack Development

Learning full-stack development can set you up for long-term career success in many ways. It makes you a more well-rounded developer and can open the door to more entry-level job opportunities since you can work on any stack.

And when it comes to career progression, learning full-stack development can lead to diverse growth opportunities. Every time you move up the ladder, you can boost your full-stack developer salary.

Keep in mind that the IT field can be highly competitive. This is true whether you want to work as a full-stack developer or in some other capacity.

To set yourself apart from other job candidates, make sure you keep your skills sharp and current. You should know which technologies and tools could be most useful in a project.

You might also want to learn different programming languages. This will give you more experience under your belt and insight into how code works.

Learn Full-Stack Development at Coding Dojo

You can land your dream job as a full-stack developer or software engineer, and Coding Dojo can give you the foundation you need.

Our in-depth, three-stack course offers personalized support and hands-on learning. Schedule a 1-on-1 call to learn more about the coding bootcamp.  

If you’re ready to launch your career or make a change, why wait? Apply today and let Coding Dojo help you unlock your potential.