Software Engineer Vs. Web Developer: Who Does What? Inc. Video

Computer science could be considered the next “gold-rush” as many individuals are screaming to get into one field or another of it. Software engineers and web developers are two widespread titles that are thrown around, but many individuals actually don’t know what they are or what their differences are. Let’s find out. 

Both software engineers and web developers can have back-end, front-end, and full-stack developers. A web developer is a type of software engineer, although a software engineer does not have to be a web developer. Engineers design, create and implement systems or applications outside of the web while web developers work on websites and web applications. 

If you are looking to join the world of IT as a career path but get confused with all the titles and who does what, then this article is for you. We will outline and detail precisely the differences and similarities between a software engineer and a web developer and explain the different branches of software engineering and web development. Lastly, we will take a look at who earns more and why?

Software engineer and web developer overview

In order to see who does what between a software engineer and a web developer, we will have to look at each in detail and then compare the two. Additionally, there are many various branches that both a software engineer has and so to a web developer. We will need to cover them all to see if any overlap, and thus, perhaps one will be able to do the other’s job.

It is important to understand although many individuals use terms such as developer and engineer in interchangeable situations, they are actually quite different, as we will find out, and there is the reasoning behind the madness even though the lines between a software engineer and web developer may be blurred sometimes. 

engineer vs developer
A web developer is one variation of a software engineer out of many.

What is software engineering?

Software engineering in its basic form is the application and development of software.

Software engineering can be regarded as the systematic application of scientific and technological knowledge, methods, and experience applied to the design, implementation, testing, and software documentation.

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) defines it as “the application of a systematic, disciplined, and quantifiable operation, and maintenance of software.”.

Take note that software engineering is a tiny branch of computer science, as is with web development. 

You can think of software engineering as individuals who work on creating the operating systems for your computer, laptop, or Mac, as well as individuals who create aviation software and automotive software systems and/or applications. 

What are the categories of software engineering?

As we stated above, not only is software engineering a branch of computer science, but it itself has subfields (categories) that we will need to take a look at.

Applications development and product engineering

This type of software engineering is problem-based, non-web-based software development that includes the use of programming languages such as Java and C+.

This engineer will work hand-in-hand with the development team to develop new ideas for an app and will subsequently try to design and create the app. 

Systems development

These software engineers will design and code the background software that is created to support application development. Programming languages used by these developers include C and C++. 

Web development

Web development software engineers design applications to run in a web browser. Typically, you will see them using programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, and PHP. 

We can see that web development is a subcategory of software engineering, but before we look closer, let’s see if there is any more overlap between the two. 

Embedded systems development

Embedded software engineering is the process of controlling various devices and machines that are very different from traditional computers. Integrated software engineering with non-computer devices leads to the formation of embedded systems.

Embedded systems are typically very popular in the fields of medical science, consumer electronics, aviation, and automotive technology. 

What are the types of software engineers?

Now that we know the software engineering fields let’s look at what types of software engineers you can get and classify them accordingly.

Front end software engineer 

Front-end software engineers design and develop Ui (User Interfaces) for software applications, web applications, and any sort of product. These developers are also known as UI/UX engineers. 

Front-end engineers handle cross-browser capability, troubleshoot, and bug fix their code in order to have whatever it is look as though it was intended to look that way. 

An example of a front-end software engineer is someone who would work on the UI and UX of a CAT scan program (application)

Back end software engineer

Back-end engineers will often, at times, work hand-in-hand with front-end engineers. This is because a lot of the time, the back end will dictate what the front end looks like. 

Back-end developers focus on the underlying core logic of the software environment. They do so in order to prioritize application performance while focusing on scalability.

Scalability is vital for a back-end developer because as the product, user, or company grows, they have to make sure that the back-end code and logic make sense.

They achieve this by integrating with data systems, caches, and e-mail systems. Furthermore, they use application programming interfaces, also known as API. 

An example of a back-end engineer could be someone who works on making sure that the machines on a factory line work in conjunction with the servers or computers that run them. 

Full-stack software engineer

An engineer who can handle both the back and front end of development is known as a full-stack engineer. 

Furthermore, they have the skills to develop a fully functional web application from start to finish. You will typically find these engineers as part of a small team in a startup company. This is due to the fact that many individuals at a startup usually do the job of a few individuals because they are understaffed.

An example of a full-stack software engineer is someone who will write an application for a robot that can tie your shoelaces. 

Quality assurance software engineer

Quality assurance engineers are responsible for writing software that will validate the quality of the application. These engineers are also often referred to as QA engineers.

They create automated tests, tools, and methods to make sure that the product and processes run accordingly. 

Dev ops software engineer

Software engineers who are familiar with the technologies required to develop systems to build, deploy, integrate, and administer back-end software and distributed systems are Dev Ops engineers. 

They will typically manage the software infrastructure, such as the database systems, servers, and more. 

Security software engineer

These engineers will specialize in creating software, systems, methods, and procedures to test the security of a software system. They will usually exploit and fix these applications or systems.

We can further subcategorize Security Software Engineers into white and black hat engineers.

White hat security system engineers will attempt to penetrate systems looking for vulnerabilities and do so to help and fix them.

Black hat hackers will typically look for vulnerabilities in an application or system with the intent to exploit, damage, destroy or steal data. 

For example, a security specialist who works for Google will test and try to make sure that there are no vulnerabilities where hackers could exploit weak areas and either gain Google user information, damage, or destroy Google data. 

What is web development?

Now that we know what software engineering is, and we can see that web development sits in one of the subcategories of software engineering, let’s take a look at precisely what it is and what types of web developers there are. 

Web development describes the work involved in designing, developing, implementing, and maintaining a website or web application for the internet. Web development ranges to include developing anything from a static one-page site consisting of plain text to complex web applications, e-commerce sites, social networking sites, business sites, and more.  

Web development can include but is not limited to web engineering, web design, content development, client-side and server-side scripting, and working with clients. 

What does a web developer do?

A web developer will take a web design that has been created by a design team or client and, by using their knowledge of coding with various languages that can include HTML, JavaScript, PHP, and CSS, etc., will create the website. 

What are the types of web developers?

Just as with software engineers, you get various types of web developers. Here is where the lines between a software engineer and a web developer become blurred to a degree. However, we will detail and explain the differences between the two. 

Front end web developers

The front end of a website is what the user interfaces with directly, and this is what a front-end developer will work on, how the website looks and feels. 

For example, contact forms, fonts, colors, etc., are all driven by the front end. Front-end developers will use HTML to add content to a website by means of headings, paragraphs, and tables, while JavaScript enables the ability to use interactive elements, for example, a subscribe or like button.

CSS is a styling language that they will use in order to rearrange how the website looks by styling elements.

Front-end developers are responsible for making sure everything is in the right place and looks good, along with inserting and arranging the colors, fonts, images, banners, and more. 

Compared to a front-end software engineer, the only difference is that front-end web developers will design and create web-based applications and sites while other software engineers will work on applications and systems not intended for the web. 

Back end web developers

Back-end developers deal with the server-side environment and the databases. They will typically write code and create applications or systems that power the server, databases, and any other internal applications. 

While front-end developers are busy making everything look good, back-end developers are responsible for making sure that everything works correctly when there is communication between the servers, databases, and web browsers. 

The ability to create clean, efficient code is the main priority of a back-end developer. These developers will use programming languages like PHP, Python, Java, JavaScript, and Ruby. SQL is the language that will be used to work on and maintain the website databases. 

Once again, the only difference between a back-end web developer and a back-end software engineer is that the web developer works on the back-end of websites or web applications. 

Full-stack web developers

When one thinks of a web developer, then one typically thinks of a full-stack developer. A full-stack web developer can understand and undertake both the front and back-end obligations taking a website from conception to the final product. 

Once again, the only difference between a full-stack software engineer and a full-stack web developer is that the web developer works on websites or web applications. 

If you would like to know more about web developers and what other skills or knowledge they require, then check out my other articles on web developers here

Key differences between a software engineer and web developer

Software EngineerWeb Developer
They build software and systems that run on various types of machines and non-traditional computersAn IT professional that works on websites and/or web applications
Engineers create applications for stand-alone desktop and mobile platformsWeb developers will care for the framework, server-side and client-side functions, API integrations, and business logic of websites
Software engineers may use programming languages like C++, Java, and PythonWeb developers use programming languages like HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript
Build stand-alone applications that can be hosted anywhereBuild web-based applications hosted only on the internet
Engineers develop applications or systems compatible across different OS platformsWeb developers create websites or web-based applications that are compatible across different browsers
Table of main differences between software engineer vs. web developer

Can a web developer be a software engineer?

We have included everything there is to know about software engineering and web development, and as you can see, a web developer is a type of software engineer. 

There are three types of software engineers that coincide with all three types of web developers. The only thing to consider is that web developers work on websites and web applications while other software engineers will work on systems and applications that are not designed for the web. 

For example, a software engineer (both front and back end) could be tasked with developing a system that works with a new piece of medical technology. 

Hence, web developers are a type of software engineer but are confined to web-based applications and sites. This means that they can be software engineers but only regarding web-based applications and websites. 

Remember that web developers may use different programming languages to that of other software engineers and ones specifically tied to web development. 

Therefore even though a web developer can be considered to be a software engineer, they may not necessarily be able to move into other areas of software engineering.

What’s the difference between a software engineer and a software developer?

Engineer and developer are terms that are often used interchangeably, but for the most part, they should not because there are differences, but the lines do seem to overlap, and some aspects do overlap.

This is because the official distinction between these roles is typically decided by the companies these individuals work for. The companies will have their own knowledge and experience, and with that, they will define the roles. 

Furthermore, the distinction can be further blurred because there are variations when it comes to differences and similarities in education in many regions. 

We already went over what software engineering is. However, let’s define it in a way that is comparable to software developers.

Software engineering will refer to the application of engineering principles that are used to create software. These engineers will take part in the software life cycle by means of connecting the client’s needs with according technological solutions. To round off, a software engineer uses engineering concepts to develop systems and software. 

Conversely, software developers are usually the creative driving force behind the software and systems. Developers are responsible for the entire development process. Developers are almost like middlemen or team leaders (management); you could say,  collaborating with clients, creating a theoretical design. They will provide project leadership along with technical guidance at every stage of the development life cycle. 

Developers then have engineers and programmers write the code needed for the software or system. The programmers and engineers will typically troubleshoot and fix any problems along with the software developers. 

Hence, developers typically know how to code and perhaps have added technical skills required to design, implement, and maintain software or systems (products). Engineers are rigid, always following a systematic process of engineering that requires the understanding of requirements, developing solutions, and implementing those solutions. 

Software engineer vs. web developer: Who earns more?

The average salary of a software engineer is approximately $107,909 a year, while the salary of a web developer is roughly $76,298 per year.

We can see that being a web developer means that you won’t earn as much as a software engineer. They earn approximately %20 less than software engineers, and there is a reason for this.

Although we said that web developers are software engineers in their own right, they are just restricted to websites and web-based applications; some may not have the skills that a software engineer has.

Remember that even though you do get both front, back, and full-stack developers, the programming languages they know and work with will be different. 

Moreover, the programming languages that software engineers use enable them to build applications and systems across any device and for many industries such as automotive, medical, and aviation. 

Conversely, web developers only know programming languages that allow them to build websites or web-based applications. Hence, you can see that software engineers are, for the most part, more versatile because you should remember, a web developer is a type of software engineer but one in a specific field. 

Video: Web Developer vs Software Developer vs Software Engineer


We discovered that a web developer is a type of software engineer, and you do actually get quite a few. Three software engineering titles overlap with web developer titles: back-end, front-end, and full-stack engineers and developers. 

In one regard, their jobs are the same. Both front-end engineers and developers are responsible for the UI and UX. However, web developers are responsible for the UI and UX on web-based sites and web-based applications, while other engineers could be working on the UI for medical equipment or the infotainment system in your car. 

The same goes with both back-end and full-stack developers. Web developers with this title will only work on web-based systems, while software engineers will work on systems that can be hosted on other devices, machines, or computers. For the most part, this is the difference between a software engineer and a web developer. 

Take note that we also discovered the differences between a software engineer and a software developer were. We concluded that even though their names may sometimes be interchanged with one another, they are, in fact, very different titles that determine specific job positions. 

Lastly, we discovered that a web developer gets paid approximately %20 less than a software engineer. This could be tied into the fact that, again, web developers are only able to design, create, implement, and maintain websites or web-based applications while other software engineers can work on almost anything. 

Hence, if you are mainly about the money, you should look at becoming a software engineer because, as it stands, for the most part, they are in higher demand than web developers.