Personal Development

Software Developer vs. Software Engineer

You know that you need to hire a software professional for your startup – but what is the exact role that you’re looking for? The issue of software developer vs. software engineer tends to confuse many executives and leadership teams, and organizations are often unsure which one they actually need to hire. 

Software developers and software engineers both use advanced technical skills in order to create computer programs, and their roles do overlap in many ways. But while these two professions can share similar responsibilities and often have similar educational backgrounds, their methods and outcomes often differ. 

In this guide, we’ll explain the nuanced factors that set these two occupations apart, with the aim of helping you understand which role your company actually needs to fill. We’ll cover the similarities and differences between software engineers and software developers, and we’ll discuss how to find the right talent for the position you’re looking to fill. 

How are Software Developers and Software Engineers Similar?

Despite some technical differences in their day-to-day jobs, the roles of software developers and software engineering certainly overlap. In fact, many employers use the terms interchangeably. Engineers and developers often work together to create dynamic software products that require contributions from both types of professionals. 

Software developers apply advanced insights to create, test, and refine computer applications. They build programs and apps targeted to consumer markets based on data about user needs. Software engineers, on the other hand, apply engineering principles to app creation. But both use similar skills and have related knowledge. 

While these positions are similar, it is important to hire for the right kind of role when you’re looking to fill a position at your startup. 

How are Software Developers and Software Engineers Different?

In the tech industry, there are a few different commonly employed models to describe the differences between these two professions. One such model describes engineers as the creators of the architecture powering computer applications and developers as the individuals who use that architecture in order to complete programming tasks. 

Another model describes engineers as the professionals who invent and design solution-oriented systems, while developers are the ones who apply technical skills to refine and execute those systems. A common metaphor here is to think of it like a restaurant: The software engineer designs the menu while the developer cooks the food.

Still, other organizations divvy up the roles with varied terminology. Some call software developers “front-end developers” and call software engineers “back-end developers.” Most people believe software engineering is a more complex discipline, an ideology that’s reflected in engineers’ higher average pay rates. 

How Do You Decide Which Role Your Startup Needs?

When deciding between a software developer vs. a software engineer, you are basically deciding if you need a big-picture worker or someone who’s more focused on the details. Software engineers and software developers often have similar skill sets, but engineers take a bigger picture view than their developer counterparts. 

Developers are focused on user-centric solutions to immediate problems. Engineers are looking for structure design and solving the problem at hand while minimizing the trade-offs that other parts of the system and its architecture might experience. 

For nontechnical executive teams, it can be important to outsource this search process to someone who is an expert in the field. That’s where a technical recruiting agency can come in handy. 

How Should You Find the Right Person for the Job?

When you’re hoping to recruit a software developer or engineer, you will need to consider the needs and budget of your company as well as the ways in which you can attract qualified candidates. The hiring process can be stressful and time-consuming, not to mention expensive. But when you work with a recruiter, you can mitigate some of those effects. 


This is especially crucial as a startup, when costs and time are paramount. If you do choose to work with a recruiter, make sure that it’s a technical one with a focus on startups. You want to make sure you’re partnering with an agency like Upside Jobs, who will understand the nuances separating closely related positions like software developer vs. software engineer. 

A specialized recruiter can help you navigate the hiring process, reduce costs, and cut down hiring time from months to as little as two days. When time to market and cost control are of the essence, as they are in many startup environments, it’s clear that a recruiter is the only way to go. You need top-tier talent, and you don’t have time to waste on underqualified candidates. 

Closing Thoughts

The distinction between a software engineer and a software developer can get a little foggy, but it’s important to understand the nuances separating these two roles. As you set out on your journey to hire one of these professionals, consider working with a technical recruiter like Upside Jobs to ensure you’re getting only the best candidates. 

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