Software Engineer vs. Web Developer: What’s the Difference?


The work of software engineers and web developers often overlaps, but the two professions differ in important ways. Software engineers have a rigorous technical background, while web developers specialize in web-based platforms.

Few tech professions are confused more often than web developers and software engineers. To a layperson, they sound like synonyms. In reality, these two job titles refer to different skills, work environments and end products.

Read on to learn how to distinguish web development from software engineering, and the skills and education you need to start a career in both fields.

What do software engineers do?

Software engineers create software products that meet the specifications of operating systems, networks, and hardware. Thanks to software engineers, we have software for word processing, information organization and games.

To work as a software engineer, you typically need knowledge of computer science, math, and a variety of programming languages.

Software engineering involves researching and developing new software programs and systems, writing and testing computer code, and evaluating software products for user experience and operational efficiency. The knowledge and skills of a software engineer often include specializations in computer science such as machine learning, database systems, and robotics.

You can often find software engineers in the technical departments of computer systems design, software publishing, and management-related companies. They usually work full-time and focus on maintaining existing software, researching user needs, and long-term projects in the development of new software.

What do web developers do?

Web developers create and maintain websites and other applications for web-related platforms. You can thank web developers for writing the code that enables websites and mobile applications to work properly.

There are two main types of web developers: front-end and back-end. Front-end web developers write the code that creates the user interface that users encounter. Backend developers specialize in code infrastructure that delivers data and services to the frontend.

To become a web developer, basic computer skills and knowledge of common programming languages ​​such as Python, C ++, and Java are required. These professionals should be familiar with user experience, graphic design, and database management concepts.

The most common web developer employers are marketing and IT-related.

Web developers work part or full time, often as freelancers. On a typical day, they might juggle multiple projects, including creating layouts or wireframes, writing code, and integrating backend data from various sources.

Comparison of software engineers and web developers

Web development has fewer training requirements than software engineering – this is one of the key differences between the two. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two career paths.

Required training

Software engineers

To become a software engineer, you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Some employers may prefer candidates with a Masters or higher. Software engineers are highly qualified professionals with basic knowledge of computer science, mathematics, and programming languages.

Bootcamps are often touted as a college alternative, but for software engineers they can be mixed. Completing a boot camp can expand one’s skills, but it cannot replace the technical background that software engineers need.

Web developer

Web developers often need little more than an associate degree in web development, computer science, or graphic design to get into the field. Studying computer science is an advantage, but not absolutely necessary.

The lower threshold to becoming a web developer also means coding bootcamps will give you the programming skills you need. A boot camp and maybe you are ready for the job market.

Salary comparison

Software engineers

Software engineers earn top salaries in return for their technical skills and knowledge.

In 2020, the median annual wage for software engineers was over $ 110,000. Top employment industries like software publishing and manufacturing pay even more. At the highest skill levels, software engineers can earn $ 200,000 annually.

Web developer

Web developers do well in terms of salary, but not quite as well as software engineers. The average annual wage for web developers in 2020 was around $ 77,000.

These salary expectations make web developers one of the best professions with fewer educational barriers to employment. In fact, 10% of web developers earn more than $ 124,000 annually.

Employment growth and employment demand

Software engineers

Software engineers have very positive career prospects. the Labor Statistics Office (BLS) predicts software engineer employment will increase 22% by 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As technology advances, more and more industries are relying on software. This requires engineers who can develop and test new types of software to solve problems as they arise.

Web developer

Web developers are also in great demand. BLS data estimates that the employment of web developers grow by 13% above the average for all occupations by 2030.

Mobile apps and other web-based applications are essential for marketing, financial services, and retail, so web development skills are valuable.

Helpful certifications

Software engineers

Certifications can help you stay one step ahead in software development by validating your knowledge of programming languages, cutting-edge computer science topics, and industry-standard tools. Some essential software engineering certifications include:

You can expect to pay around $ 150 to $ 300 for most professional software engineer certifications. Certification in software engineering usually also requires several years of experience.

Web developer

Web development certifications can help you advance your pay grade, role, and skills. A professional qualification can help you move from a freelance job to a salaried position. Popular certifications for web developers include:

Although the credential requirements for web development are relatively loose, it is still common for web developers to get certified in order to stay competitive.

The next steps on the career ladder

Software engineers

Software engineers have legroom to move forward in their field. Extensive software engineering experience can lead to a higher paying executive position as a senior software engineer or software engineering manager. However, you can also use software engineering as a launch pad to advance your technology career elsewhere.

Some software engineers switch careers to become computer or data scientists. Still others use their industry experience to become product managers or senior management in companies related to computer systems. It all depends on your professional goals.

Web developer

Web developers can advance through specialization. User experience researchers and game developers often do more than a low-level web developer. Some developers end up working as web content managers overseeing web developers.

The multifaceted nature of web development provides access to various areas of technology, including software development, information systems management, and database management. Mastery of graphic design and workflow management can lead to a position as an art director or project manager.

Which is right for me: software engineering or web development?

Although web development and software engineering have a common basis, both professions serve different interests and strengths. Take these differences into account when choosing a career.

Software engineers typically need a gift for math and reasoning and an interest in computer science. Even a budding software engineer usually knows several programming languages.

In contrast, web developers do not need the high level of education and stronger technical background that software development requires. These professionals succeed by combining computer skills and basic programming skills with design and user experience concepts.

Can a software developer be a web developer?

A web developer is technically a software engineer who works on web-based applications. Some trained and trained software engineers may choose to work in this field.

Is a software developer the same as a software developer?

Some employers refer to software engineers as software developers. The two terms “developer” and “engineer” are used synonymously in this context.

As a web developer, can I work from home?

Some web developers may be able to work from home, especially if they are freelancers. Since their work is web based, they may not need to be in an office setting.

As a software engineer, can I work from home?

Software engineers typically have to commute to work and work closely with a team. You often need quick feedback on projects that is easier to collect in an office setting.

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