Software Engineer vs Programmer: What's the Difference (And Which Pays More?)
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What are the technical, career path, and salary differences between a software engineer vs programmer? Here's the quick guide to your software career options!

Software engineers and programmers are two professionals that are often confused. Though both work in a similar field, the job descriptions are quite different.

To understand the difference, one should know a little bit about each. Read on to see the difference between a software engineer vs programmer.

Software Engineering

Software engineering can be also be described as software developers. Either way, they are responsible for the overall design of a project. A software engineer can design an app, game, or computer software.

Software engineers are the architects responsible for building a whole system. They oversee a project from conception to completion and usually work as a team. 

When working with a client, an engineer is responsible for the design of a project. They then determine how they will develop the software for the concept.

The issues they face on a project tend to be on a larger scale. For such reasons, software engineers usually get paid more than programmers.

Software developers who work on projects related to public safety face a lot of pressure. For example, if a software fails in a medical or nuclear field, they are responsible for lives being at risk.

As with most high paying jobs, software engineering can be a rewarding but stressful profession for some people.

To become a software developer, one may need a specialized degree in either information technology or computer programming.


Programmers usually work in isolation to write code for software that is being developed. Though they do much more than write, a programmer primarily concerns themselves with testing and debugging code. 

Programming is more of a technical skill whereas software engineering is a team effort. A programmer usually takes instruction from a superior and develops the code for certain software.

The main difference between a programmer and a software developer is that programmers tend to work on just one aspect of the development process.

They are proficient in different code development languages. Some examples include Rails, Java, and Python.

While software engineers usually make between $90,000 and $110,000, programmers tend to make around $80,000 to $90,000 a year. 

Programmers face hardships while writing code if the software is flawed or hard to maintain.

Sometimes, programmers find flaws in a project pretty late into the coding process. This leads to a difficult process of unwinding where they went wrong and trying to fix it may take a long time.

To become a programmer, one usually needs a bachelor’s degree in computer science or math to start. You may be able to find work writing code in an entry-level IT job shortly after graduating.

Differences Between a Software Engineer vs Programmer

Software engineers are responsible for overseeing and evaluating the design and development of a software concept. Programmers realize the concept by writing and debugging code for the software. 

Both professions have a lot of overlap, but these are key differences between a software engineer vs programmer.

Choosing a career path can be difficult. If you're thinking about changing your profession, check out our blog for some helpful tips.


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