Is software development the same as software engineering?

Often, people ask us: What’s the difference between software development and software engineering? The two roles overlap quite a bit, and to a newcomer they can seem very similar. But there is a difference. While both involve coding and creating programs, the two roles have different aims and goals. Software engineering is more like an architect, planning and designing the blueprints. While development is more like the constructors themselves, building the house that the software engineer dreamed up. Let’s look into their individual roles and responsibilities to clear up any confusion.

What is a software developer?

Software developers create software. It’s the job title that most people associate with programming. They’re the builders.

What are their key responsibilities?

A software developer will be responsible for the actual code of a program. They’ll come up with the algorithms necessary, creating the most efficient code possible, and debugging it. Aside from that, a software developer will be responsible for making any changes that the client wants or from user feedback. It’s worth noting that it’s a relatively solitary role. Even if you’re working in a team, you’ll spend most of your time programming by yourself and solving very specific problems.

What is a software engineer?

Meanwhile, software engineers are the strategists. They oversee a project and work on the overall design and how it all pieces together. A software engineer needs to completely understand the entire code, and how it affects the whole system. This doesn’t mean that they don’t program. But they’re more likely to create very specific parts, perhaps to link two systems together. Or they’ll create the tools and engines that a software developer might use.

What are their key responsibilities?

Ultimately, it’s down to the software engineer to plan, design and test the software. They’re responsible for the broad strokes, the user interface and overarching issues. They’re the ones that take the brief and make sure that the software meets all the criteria. This makes it a very team-based role, rather than working individually.

What are the major differences?

There are four key differences between a software development and software engineering:

  1. Team vs individual. A developer largely works on their part of the code, while an engineer is engaged with the entire team and working a lot more with management to define and set the criteria.
  2. Whole vs part. An engineer will be overseeing the entire project, from start to finish. This also means that they’re likely to be somebody in-house, sticking with a piece of software for its entire life-cycle, while a developer might be a contractor that comes in for just a few months to add a specific feature.
  3. Degree vs skill-based. A software engineer is much more likely to have a degree in the theoretical side of programming. For example, they might have studied computer science. Meanwhile a software developer doesn’t necessarily need a degree: if they can program in the language and have good logic skills, they can get started straight away.
  4. Design vs creation. Ultimately, this is what it all comes down to. A software engineer is the designer, while a developer creates.

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the necessary skills. Both need to know how to program. Both need to understand how their roles affect the whole system. But it’s about their approach to the task at hand. Developers are there to create and meet a brief, while an engineer is designing, iterating and testing the software.

Learn the ropes for either

Both roles need a solid foundation in theory and how to program. So if you’d like to start your career in either software development or software engineering, then you should consider a 14-week bootcamp to get you up to speed.

Get in touch, and we can see which would be most suitable for you.

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