Industry Insights


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

software engineer vs web developer

The untrained eye may think that software developers and web developers are the same job, under different titles. While they are similar, the two are not the same, especially in their day-to-day responsibilities.

To keep it simple, let’s start with what they are

Software Engineers vs. Web Developers: What They Do

Web developers and software engineers both study programming and learn to write code. However, many web developers are self-taught or learned web development at a bootcamp.

Software engineers use their computer science background to create software products, including web-based software as well as software designed for operating systems. Web developers focus solely on building websites and other web applications.

What do Software Engineers do?

If you want to make (or have these made for you) games, web and desktop applications, robots, operating systems, network systems, and more, then you need a software engineer.

To work as a software engineer you typically need knowledge of computer science, mathematics, and a wide array of programming languages. As you can imagine, software engineers are required to learn a lot of different coding languages so they can hop onto any program with ease. You can, of course, hire or become one who is a master in one language as well.

This opens the door for you to become either a native or a cross platform software engineer who can work on projects that are for one platform, or many. Both are in high demand! You can commonly find software engineers in the technical departments of computer systems design, software publishing, and management-related companies. They usually work full time, focusing on maintenance of existing software, research into user needs, and long-term projects in new software development.

It’s more than making games or systems, though. Software engineers also are required to research and develop new software programs and systems, write and test computer code, and evaluate software products for user experience (UX) and operational efficiency.

What do Web Developers do?

Web developers also build and maintain digital technologies, but unlike software engineers, they strictly stick to web-related platforms and websites. They aren’t making games or network systems – they are developing websites for multinational corporations, local boutiques, and upgrading websites that are in high demand. For example, Agile 451’s website here was made by a web developer using Drupal!

There are two main types of web developer: frontend and backend. Frontend web developers write the code that creates the interface users encounter.In other words, they’re in charge of making things that you, the user, interact with and see. They make beautiful websites function beautifully.

On the other end, backend developers specialize in code infrastructure that delivers data and services to the front end. If done correctly, the user will never know this code exists. It’s meant to be covert and to work without any issues.

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

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

Web Developer vs. Software Engineer: How to Choose?

If you're interested in pursuing a tech career, you might be wondering how to choose between web development and software engineering. First, consider the skills required for each trade and then what each trade does. If you’re more interested in developing games, then software engineering is for you. However, if you’ve always been interested in building websites, then web development might be the better choice.

No matter which you choose, know that both industries are currently in high demand and the need for developers and engineers who can stand abreast with all of the new technologies is at an all-time high. So choose based on your passions!

Finally, keep in mind that every job will require different skills. You may be a web developer who needs to know Java and Drupal, but you could also be asked to figure out a coding issue with a C++ website. Or in software engineering, you may primarily work in applications, but you could be brought in to help with a security breach.

Regardless though, both require imagination, patience, and skill, as well as a yearning to find what works, what doesn’t, and to discover what doesn’t yet exist in the digital world. Which is right for you? Only you can answer that question!