Software engineer vs web developer: what’s the difference?

The jobs of software engineers and web developers frequently overlap, but the two professions differ in important ways. Software engineers have rigorous technical training, while web developers specialize in web platforms.

Few tech professions are more often confused than web developers and software engineers. To a layman, they seem close to 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 what skills and training you’ll need to start a career in either field.

What do software engineers do?

Software engineers create software products that meet specifications for operating systems, networks, and hardware. It is thanks to software engineers that 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 wide range of programming languages.

Software engineering encompasses the research and development of new software programs and systems, the writing and testing of computer code, and the evaluation of software products for user experience and operational efficiency. A software engineer’s knowledge and skills often include computer science specializations such as machine learning, database systems, and robotics.

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

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 keeps websites and mobile apps running smoothly.

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

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

The most common employers for web developers are related to marketing and IT.

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

Compare Software Engineers and Web Developers

Web development has lower educational requirements than software engineering – this is one of the most important differences between the two. Read on to learn more about the distinctions between these two career paths.

Training required

Software engineers

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

Bootcamps are often touted as an academic alternative, but for software engineers they can be a mixed bag. Attending a bootcamp can add to one’s skills but cannot replace the technical knowledge that software engineers need.

web developers

Web developers often only need an associate’s degree in web development, computer science, or graphic design to enter the field. Although a major in computer science is a plus, it is not essential.

The lower threshold to become a web developer also means that coding bootcamps can give you the programming skills you need. One bootcamp and you might be ready for the job market.

Salary comparison

Software engineers

Software engineers earn the best salaries in exchange for their technical skills and knowledge.

In 2020, the median annual salary for software engineers was over $110,000. Higher employing industries such as software publishing and manufacturing pay even more. At the highest levels of experience, software engineers can earn $200,000 per year.

web developers

Web developers do well in terms of salary, but not as well as software engineers. The median annual salary 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 over $124,000 per year.

Employment Growth and Job Demand

Software engineers

Software engineers have very positive job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of software engineers will grow 22% by 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As technology advances, more and more industries depend on software. It requires engineers who can develop and test new types of software to solve emerging problems.

web developers

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

Mobile apps and other web applications are essential for marketing, financial services, and retail. Web development skills are therefore valuable.

Useful certificates

Software engineers

Certifications can help you stay ahead of the game in software engineering by verifying your knowledge of programming languages, contemporary computing issues, and industry-standard tools. Some essential software engineering certifications include:

You can expect to pay around $150 to $300 for most professional software engineering certifications. Software engineering credentials usually also require several years of experience.

web developers

Web development certifications allow you to increase your pay grade, role, and skills. Professional accreditation can help you transition from self-employment to salaried employment. Popular web developer certifications include:

Although certification requirements for web development are relatively lax, it is still common for web developers to seek certification to stay competitive.

Next steps on the career ladder

Software engineers

Software engineers have room to progress in their field. Extensive software engineering experience can lead to a higher-paying management position as a senior software engineer or director of software engineering. However, you can also use software engineering as a launching pad to advance your tech career elsewhere.

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

web developers

Web developers can progress by specializing. User experience researchers and game developers often earn more than a low-level web developer. Some developers end up working as web content managers supervising web developers.

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

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

Although web development and software engineering share common ground, the two careers cater to different interests and strengths. Keep these differences in mind when choosing your career path.

Software engineers generally need an aptitude for math and logical thinking, as well as an interest in computer science. Even a beginner software engineer usually knows several programming languages.

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

Can a software engineer be a web developer?

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

Is a software engineer the same as a software developer?

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

Can I work from home as a web developer?

Some web developers may be able to work from home, especially if they work as freelancers. Since their work is web-based, it may not be necessary for them to work in an office environment.

Can I work from home as a software engineer?

Software engineers typically have to go to work and work closely with a team. They often need quick feedback on projects, which is easier to gather in an office.