The line between web and on-premises software has blurred considerably in recent years. Virtually all software applications and services seem to need a web connection. Has it eliminated most of the differences between a web developer and a software developer?
There are still crucial differentiators between these roles. Let’s explore how web developers compare to software developers, and how these two roles compare to software engineers. Recognizing these differences can help you focus your tech training and career aspirations.
What is a web developer?
Over a decade ago, the web shifted from a largely desktop-centric paradigm to a mobile-based paradigm, forcing web developers to quickly become familiar with mobile platforms such as iOS and Android (as well as their built-in browsers, etc.). If Silicon Valley’s most optimistic predictions of “web3” come to pass, web developers will need to master a new generation of concepts such as blockchain, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
In return for learning all of these skills (and more), web development remains a lucrative profession. According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings across the country, the median salary for web developers currently stands at $91,991. The profession is expected to experience very solid growth of 8.4% over the next 10 years, and the current time it takes to fill a vacancy is 40 days (which is relatively high for tech professions).
What is a Software Developer?
Software developers are ultimately focused on the tactical implementation of a software product, whether it’s a cloud application or service or something completely different. On a daily basis, they are the ones who write and test the code, fix bugs and iterate on current versions in order to provide a successful product to users.
Software development may involve web-based technologies, depending on the project, but it doesn’t necessarily need to touch the web in any way. Lightcast estimates the median salary for software developers at $98,728 per year, increasing even more with the right combination of experience and skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for software developers is $110,140, making it one of the highest paying roles in technology.
How are software developers similar to web developers?
Both types of roles rely heavily on coding, which means mastering programming languages, APIs, and frameworks. In addition to technical skills, web developers and software developers must possess “soft skills” (empathy and communication) in order to update team members and managers, as well as ensure buy-in and the resources of other stakeholders in their organization.
How are software developers different from web developers?
Depending on the specialization chosen, software developers may focus on a completely different set of technologies than web developers. For example, many software developers choose to focus on building and improving machine learning models, which may not involve the web at all. Other software developers might devote their efforts to applications that never involve a web browser.
How are software developers and web developers different from software engineers?
It should be noted that a software developer and a web developer differ significantly from a software engineer, who generally works on a larger scale. Their job typically involves designing and implementing entire systems, such as a service or network. While all of these roles require soft skills and communication skills, software engineering generally requires fairly strong project management abilities.
Depending on the project, software engineers may actually have to create the tools and frameworks that teams will later use to create the necessary software product. It’s different from web developers and software developers, who usually rely on tools, frameworks, and languages created by others. While web developers and software developers can move up to higher positions, software engineers with the right combination of experience and skills also have the opportunity to migrate into completely different roles including project manager, system architect , vice president of engineering or even CTO.