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 sound close to synonyms. In reality, these two job titles relate to different skills, work environments and end products.
Read on to learn how to distinguish web development from software engineering, and what skills and education 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 computer scientists that we have software for word processing, information organization and games.
To work as a software engineer, you generally 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. The knowledge and skills of a software engineer 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 typically 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 makes websites and mobile apps work well.
There are two main types of web developers: the frontend and the backend. Front-end web developers write the code that creates the interface that users encounter. Back-end developers specialize in the code infrastructure that delivers 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 user experience, graphic design, and database management concepts.
The most common employers of web developers are marketing and IT.
Web developers work part time or full time, often freelance. In a typical day, they can juggle multiple projects, including creating layouts or wireframes, writing code, and integrating backend data from a variety of sources.
Comparison of 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.
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 above. Software engineers are highly skilled professionals with basic knowledge of computer science, mathematics, and programming languages.
Bootcamps are often touted as an alternative to college, but for software engineers they can be a mixed bag. Completing a bootcamp can add to one’s skills but cannot replace the technical knowledge that software engineers need.
Web developers often only need an associate’s degree in web development, computer science, or graphic design to enter the field. While a major in computer science is a plus, it is not essential.
The lower threshold for becoming a web developer also means that coding bootcamps can give you the programming skills you need. A bootcamp and you might be ready for the job market.
Software engineers earn top salaries in exchange for their technical skills and knowledge.
In 2020, the median annual salary for software engineers exceeded $ 110,000. Major industries such as publishing and software manufacturing pay even more. At the highest levels of experience, software engineers can earn $ 200,000 per year.
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 lower educational barriers to employment. In fact, 10% of web developers earn over $ 124,000 per year.
Employment growth and job demand
Software engineers have very positive employment prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the 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 are also in high demand. BLS data estimates that web developer employment will increase 13% by 2030, above the average for all occupations.
Mobile apps and other web apps are essential for marketing, financial services, and retail. Web development skills are therefore invaluable.
Certifications can help you stay ahead of the curve in software engineering by verifying your knowledge of programming languages, contemporary computer problems, and industry standard tools. Some essential software engineering certifications include:
You can expect to pay around $ 150 to $ 300 for most professional software engineer certifications. Software engineering accreditation usually also requires several years of experience.
Web development certifications allow you to increase your pay level, role and skills. Professional accreditation can help you move from self-employment to a salaried position. Popular web developer certifications include:
Although the accreditation requirements for web development are relatively lax, it is still common for web developers to seek certification to stay competitive.
Next steps in the career ladder
Software engineers have leeway to progress in their field. Extensive experience in software engineering can lead to a higher paying managerial position as a Senior Software Engineer or Head 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 computer scientists. Still others use their industry experience to become product managers or senior executives in computer systems companies. It all depends on your career goals.
Web developers can progress by specializing. User experience researchers and game developers often do more than a low-level web developer. Some developers end up working as web content managers overseeing web developers.
The multifaceted nature of web development provides access to different areas of technology, including software engineering, information systems management, and database administration. Proficiency in graphic design and workflow management can lead to working as an art director or project manager.
What is right for me: software engineering or web development?
While web development and software engineering share common ground, the two careers meet different interests and strengths. Keep these differences in mind when choosing your career path.
Software engineers generally need an aptitude for mathematics and logical thinking, as well as an interest in computer science. Even a novice software engineer is usually familiar with several programming languages.
On the other hand, web developers do not need the high level of education and more solid technical knowledge required for software engineering. These professionals succeed by combining computer literacy 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 trained and educated software engineers may choose to work in this field.
Is a software engineer the same as a software developer?
Some employers call software engineers 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 work from home, especially if they work as freelancers. Since their job 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 usually have to get to work and work closely with a team. They often need quick feedback on projects, which is easier to put together in an office.