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    The fundamental differences between software engineers and software developers

    As experts in the IT recruitment sphere, we wanted to take the time to address the fundamental differences between software engineers and software developers. This is so that you can better understand how they complement and work with one another and why they each can add value to your business in their own right. Software engineering refers to the application of engineering principles to create software. Software engineers participate in the software development life cycle through connecting their client’s needs with applicable technology solutions. 


    Therefore, software engineers systematically develop processes to provide specific functions. In a nutshell, software engineering equates to using engineering concepts to drive the development of software. Software developers are the driving creative force behind programs and they are responsible for the entire development process. They are the people who collaborate with clients to create a theoretical design. They then instruct computer programmers to create the code needed to run the software properly. Computer programmers will test and fix problems together with software developers. Software developers offer project leadership and technical guidance along every stage of the software development life cycle.


    Simply put, the terms software developer and software engineer are not interchangeable. A developer knows how to code and may have the technical skills needed to build meaningful products. A software engineer follows a systematic process of understanding requirements, working with stakeholders and developing a solution that fulfills their needs. A developer tends to work alone while a software engineer is often part of a larger team.


    Here, we explore the differences in more detail.


    Software engineer job description and core skills 


    A software engineer will be capable of managing a complex system and are not only able to build a fully functioning app but are experienced enough to know how to build it in a way that is easy to refactor, self-documenting and as a result easier to debug.


    They will play an active role as a leader, consultant and individual contributor on various projects. They must provide analytical advice in identifying and implementing new IT uses in order to help clients and the company reach strategic objectives. They must be able to manage resources, coordinate development tasks and supervise technical project plans. They often collaborate with IT, operations and development staff through the software development lifecycle.


    They know that consideration and forethought on the front end can save days of work and headaches down the road. They devote themselves not to making the cleverest code but to making their code obvious. They know the best piece of code is the one that never has to be written.


    Software engineers are expected to:

    • Have technical expertise, with experience working on a wide range of projects  

    • Be proficient with pattern design to create resilient and fault tolerant systems

    • Use testing automation using tools such as SmartBear, Cucumber or Ansible

    • Know how to create and maintain IT architecture, large-scale data stores and cloud-based systems. 

    • Build scalable deployment pipelines to support continuous integration and continuous delivery

    • They must be able to work effectively by themselves and with remote teams.

    • Senior software engineers must oversee complex systems analysis, design and development programs. 

    A Software engineer role will typically involve:

    • Research, design, develop and test their software as well as compiling and distributing software over the network

    • Modifying existing software is to resolve defects, adopting new hardware or improving its performance.

    •  Analyse user needs and assess software requirements, including design feasibility and cost/time constraints. 

    • Consulting with customers regarding specification and design

    • Coordination of system software for deployment and installation

    • Supervising is the work of technologists and engineers.

    Software developer job description and core skills 


    A software developer is not just responsible for the writing code, they must also review the current system, making ideas for improvements, including the effort required to do so. A software developer will work closely with analysts, end users/marketing  and designers.


    Software developers must also ensure their code works by testing it, using controlled and real situations before they can go to live. They must have an eye for perfection in order to properly solve bugs and revisions of programs to increase operating efficiency.  The best software developers are creative and have the technical expertise to come up with an innovative idea to solve a customer problem and are experienced enough to see problems before they arise.


    A software developer typically follows a development lifecycle methodology or delivery framework such as Scrum, XP or Kanban.


    Software developers must have:

    • Excellent analytical skills because they will be required to continually compare needs with software capabilities

    • They must be familiar with computer languages in order to effectively work with computer programs, such as Java, C#, C++ and Python

    • Be experienced with using open source tools such as GitHub

    • Great feedback and communication skills, with a strong attention to detail, as minor errors could result in major problems

    • Being detail orientated will help them manage simultaneous projects at different development stages

    • Understand the logic of code even in languages they are unfamiliar with.

    Software developers must continually monitor the changes they make, including resolving defects, to ensure high quality and consistency. Consequently, they must constantly shift between assigned work, managing deadlines and schedules.

    To summarise 

    A developer’s talents will often be focused on a single area without the need to know what the “bigger picture” looks like. So the software developer is mainly focused on developing code that is a part of a software development cycle. 

    An engineer designs and plans, applying the principles of engineering to software development. Always aware of the overarching goals, an engineer can assume the developer role but their core focus lies with architecture. 

    The main difference between software engineering and software development is that the latter oversees the engineering while the former focuses on creating functional programs.

    Both roles always have something new to learn, with many people switching between the two roles depending on the project and client.

    If you would like to learn more about our available software engineer or developer roles of discuss your recruitment requirements in more detail, please get in touch with the Claremont Consulting team: info@claremontconsulting.com