Software Developer vs Engineer: What’s the difference?

Saffron Wildbore

~ 5min read

Arrows decoration graphic
Grid decoration graphic

~ 5min read

Software developer and software engineer sound like two very similar job titles. It's safe to say that there’s confusion for those wanting to get into the tech industry.

Whilst the roles share similar responsibilities and experience backgrounds, there are differences between software developers and software engineers. Software engineers design solutions, whilst developers build those solutions.

Have a read of our guide below to find out the specifics related to each role, how they’re similar and how they differ.

> What is a software developer?

Software developers typically build and implement certain softwares, computer programs and applications to meet user requirements. Compared to software engineers, developers will focus more on specific solutions to consumer problems.

There tends to be two main types of software developers in the field, application software developers and system software developers. Application developers focus on mobile or web applications, while system developers focus more on enterprise system solutions.

Both types of developers focus on the entire software lifecycle, from analysing and testing to implementing, maintaining and upgrading software.

They will collaborate with other teams, including software testers and quality assurance analysts to ensure smooth sailing.

Software developer skills

  • Coding and programming languages

  • Developer tools

  • Math and problem solving skills

  • Industry knowledge

Find out more about becoming a software developer.

software engineers working in office

> What is a software engineer?

A software engineer is someone who applies engineering to the maintenance, design and development processes of software systems. They tend to focus on the whole lifecycle of software rather than specific solutions.

Software engineers typically are involved in designing web and mobile applications, operating and network systems and robots. They may also write original code for these softwares.

Similar to a developer, they will work with other teams, such as programmers, analysts and engineers.

Software engineer skills

  • Strong knowledge of testing and writing code

  • Understanding of user needs

  • Design and problem solving skills

  • Industry knowledge

> Which one is right for me?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for software developers and engineers is projected to grow by 25% from 2021 to 2031. Some organisations use "software developer" and "software engineer" interchangeably, while others may assign specific meanings to these titles based on their organisational culture and expectations. Both roles often share similar skill sets and collaborate closely on projects. The choice of terminology may reflect the company's culture, industry norms, or regional practices.

The rise of AI, machine learning and cloud computing is currently transforming the technology landscape. This means that both developers and engineers are likely to require broader skills. On the other hand, this rise is lending a hand to opening greater possibilities for innovation and efficiency. It’s essential for professionals in this field to stay up to date on these trends.

Software developer positions usually require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. They will also need coding skills.

On the other hand, software engineers will likely need more experience. This is because they are more involved in decision making for the business and are involved in higher level systems. They may have a master’s degree or industry specific certifications.

Both disciplines require similar soft skills, and many of their day to day activities may overlap. Many people begin their careers in software development and work their way up to becoming a software engineer due to their industry experience.

In order to decide which role is right for you, we need to dive into your interests.

Do you prefer writing code and specific functionalities, whilst seeing immediate results from your work? Solving problems? If so, then a software developer sounds like the role for you.

If you’re more interested in strategising, drawing overall solutions and want to design more complex solutions then software engineering may be more suitable.

It can be useful to think about where you see yourself in 5-10 years. What does your career progression look like to you? Do you want to be managing a team and leading projects? Or specialising in a certain field?

In reality, both career paths are great options.

> Future career pathways

As technology evolves, so do the roles for software engineers and developers. The future career paths for software developers and engineers are surprisingly long, there's far more that they can do than write software.

Software Developer/Engineer:

  • Application Developer: Creates software applications for end-users, such as mobile apps or desktop software.
  • Web Developer: Specialises in building websites and web applications.
  • Embedded Systems Developer: Focuses on developing software for embedded systems like IoT devices or hardware.

Systems Architect:

  • Designs the overall structure of a software system, including its components and their relationships.

DevOps Engineer:

  • Manages the development and operations of software, focusing on automation, collaboration, and efficiency in the development lifecycle.

Database Administrator (DBA):

  • Manages databases, ensuring they are secure, scalable, and performant.

Cloud Engineer:

  • Specialises in designing, implementing, and maintaining cloud infrastructure and services.

Security Engineer:

  • Focuses on the security aspects of software development, identifying and addressing vulnerabilities and implementing security measures.

Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer:

  • Ensures the quality of software through testing and debugging.

Machine Learning Engineer:

  • Works on developing and implementing machine learning models and algorithms.

Data Scientist:

  • Analyses and interprets complex data sets to inform business decision-making.

Game Developer:

  • Creates video games, involving programming, design, and sometimes graphics or animation.

UI/UX Designer:

  • Collaborates with development teams to create user-friendly and visually appealing interfaces.

Technical Lead/Manager:

  • Leads development teams, making technical decisions and overseeing project timelines.

Product Manager:

  • Focuses on the overall strategy, development, and success of a software product.

Technical Writer:

  • Creates documentation for software products, explaining usage, features, and troubleshooting procedures.


  • Works independently or with a consultancy to provide expertise on specific projects.


  • Conducts research in academia or industry, pushing the boundaries of technology and knowledge.


These paths can often overlap, and you may transition between them over the course of your careers. Staying updated on industry trends and continuously learning new technologies is crucial for success in the ever-evolving field of software development.

> How can I become a software developer or engineer?

With the help of mthree, you can get a foot in the door to the tech industry. We will train and develop you so you have the skills required to excel. Our graduate programme allow you to go down many routes within the industry.

We will also put you up for an interview with our clients, who will offer you a paid placement on-site.

Discover our current openings and get your foot in the door with mthree.

Saffron Wildbore is a Senior Marketing Executive at mthree. She has worked in marketing, specialising in creating content for over 4 years. Saffron focuses on writing tips for graduates, Alumni interviews and more!


Wiley Edge is now mthree

We are excited to announce that we have been acquired by Inspirit Capital and returned to our roots as 'mthree'. 

Read the press release >> >>