Two of the computer science careers playing a pivotal role in today’s workplaces are software engineering and software development. Though these two fields overlap, there are important differences to consider, especially with regard to computer science and technology-related education.
Differences between software engineers and software developers
Software engineers and developers create new applications and programs. They both use knowledge of computer programming languages and development frameworks in their daily jobs. However, the two roles have different scopes and goals.
Software engineers oversee every aspect of a software development project. They often start with an issue that their employer or client needs to solve or a task to complete. Software engineers find a solution, design a program that delivers the solution and plan the steps to build it.
Engineers also oversee testing, debugging and deployment of the finished software. In other words, software engineers create the entire blueprint that software developers, coders and other computer science professionals follow to complete the project.
Software developers are different from engineers because they focus on specific software engineering aspects of the project. For example, software developers may design, code and test specific parts of a program. Their exact role can vary depending on the team, employer and project.
Software developers may have input into the design of the software and the plan for the project. They almost always start with a concept created by a software engineer or software architect and hand the project back to them for final approval after they finish coding, testing and debugging.
The goals of software engineering revolve around delivering a functional program that meets the needs of the employer or client. Each step in the design and software development process leads toward this aim. Software engineers look at the outcomes of software developers, computer programmers, product testers and other related professionals to ensure they move the project toward its overall goal.
Software developers aim to ensure their assigned portion of the software functions correctly and efficiently. They may be concerned with how their portion of the software fits with the other components but aren’t concerned with the functionality of the other parts.
Similarities between engineers and developers
Engineers and developers work as programmers on the same software development projects and often interact. Though the roles are not interchangeable, they are similar. If you have a strong knowledge base of programming languages, you may apply for both positions depending on the specific job requirements and your interests.
Here are some similarities between software engineers and software developers.
Engineers and developers have similar educational backgrounds. While a college degree alone may not be enough to qualify you for a job, it can provide a knowledge base for creating, designing, developing, coding and testing software.
Technology degrees help students develop tech skills, and a computer science degree can provide experience in coding, computer languages and development processes. Finally, IT degrees provide a general skill set for both engineering and development.
According to BLS, it’s important for professionals to have analytical, communication and problem-solving skills. It’s also important to have interpersonal skills since collaboration is critical to the success of projects.
On occasion, engineers and developers may also need to communicate with project managers to provide updates, learn about potential or existing issues, and provide general software maintenance to fix or prevent said issues.
Typically, a large software team has both engineers and developers. While engineers are ultimately responsible for designing a project and delivering a fully functioning version, they can get input from developers, who may have a deeper understanding of programming languages and how components of the software work with one another. Engineers may also work with developers during the concept and design process to gauge the feasibility of their plans.
Because they work on the same projects, engineers and developers often find employment in the same industries. And those industries are prolific. Digitization across industries has led to a wide range of employment opportunities for computer science professionals. In addition to being employed by IT departments, software development companies and tech service providers, for example, software engineers and developers may work in information security, web development, or business or data analytics. They could also work with mobile apps or in industries like retail, government, financial services or healthcare.