It’s time to answer the age-old question. Software engineer vs web developer: who’s better?
To the untrained eye, these jobs might seem a little too alike. However, the question isn’t “Who’s better?” it’s “Who’s a better fit for my business or project?”
A web developer and software developer often have similar skill sets and speak the same programming language. What separates them is the niches they work in, which shapes their overall career paths and knowledge of specific tools and computer programs.
So, which one is right for you? CreateApe is here to help you break down the similarities and differences between the two in the ultimate battle between computer programmers!
Software Engineer vs Web Developer: What’s the difference?
What is a Software Engineer?
Like any other epic battle, we have to set the stage with some basics.
The technical definition of a software engineer is someone who uses computer sciences, engineering principles, and mathematics to create and update original software systems.
Think of your web browser or even a multimedia or graphics system you use. A software engineer creates the blueprint and ensures it always runs as smoothly as possible.
EX: Most software engineers follow the agile development process. It’s pretty similar to the UX design process as it allows for several rounds of testing and iteration.
Like most careers in tech, software engineers have a vast knowledge of operating systems and programming languages to create anything from websites to video games.
On top of strong problem-solving skills and excellent attention to detail, the best engineers are also well-versed in software testing and object-oriented design.
Typical Coding Programs Used by Software Engineers
What is a Web Developer?
The technical definition of a web developer is a programmer that specializes in websites and web applications using a client-server model.
Software engineers and web developers are both responsible for creating websites and apps, but web developers also make sure the website looks as good as it functions. This makes them a natural fit for user experience and user interface design!
Web developers typically write code and test it to make sure everything works as it should. The big difference between software engineer vs web developer is that web developers are usually involved in the design of the user interface (everything the user interacts with—icons, navigation menus, multimedia, etc.)
Types of Web Developers
- Front-End Developer - A front-end developer handles everything on the client-side of a webpage. The structure, design, page content, and API integrations are implemented by the front-end developer in HTML or CSS.
- Back-End Developer - A back-end developer writes the code that creates the website's structure, builds the APIs, and makes sure everything between the database and the browser communicates as intended.
- Full-Stack Developer - A full-stack developer gets you the best of both worlds. They can create everything from the front, client-facing side to the back, server-side to give you a fully functional final product. At CreateApe, we consider ourselves a full-stack web development team.
On top of their typical coding languages and computer programs, web developers should also have a solid knowledge of testing, UI design, responsive design, and technical search engine optimization (SEO).
Typical Coding Programs Used by Web Developers
- CSS (Sass, SCSS, LESS)
Software Engineer vs Web Developer: What Is Their Professional Background Like?
From the breakdown above, we can see how much the skill sets for these two jobs overlap. Both require a lot of technical know-how and analytical abilities (plus, some good communication skills never hurt anyone).
Web developers generally need an associate's degree or higher in computer science or graphic design (and a few coding bootcamps under their belt). Software engineers usually need a bachelor's degree or higher in a computer science program.
Both take home nice yearly salaries, but a web developer salary usually hovers around 70K a year in the United States while a software engineer salary is about 125k.
The big difference is the types of industries they find themselves in that shape their career path. Software engineers, for example, are better suited for building web-based software and operating systems with their mathematical skills. Web developers are better suited for more creative projects.
You’ll generally find web developers working at agencies or as freelancers on shorter-term projects. They’re also far more likely to join marketing or UX/UI teams with their visual design aptitude. You'll find software engineers in the technical departments of large companies creating the software for their networks and platforms.
How Do I Pick Between the Two?
Now that you understand what makes these positions unique, let’s put software engineer vs web developer and decide which one is a better fit for your company.
First, define what kind of company you are. Are you hiring for a tech giant like Google to create a new word processor or search engine? Or do you need a website redesign and a mobile app to match? This is the first thing you should consider when choosing between a software engineer vs web developer.
Think about whether you need this person full-time or on a project basis. If you need someone full-time to build, maintain, and regularly update your product, then a software engineer would fit right in at your company.
The nice thing about hiring a web developer is that you can pick between a freelancer for short, one-and-done projects or hire one full-time if you have frequent development needs. You also have the choice of hiring an agency and keeping them on retainer so you have a full-stack crew (for example, our full-stack web development team at CreateApe) at your disposal.
Budget can also play a factor in who you end up hiring (remember that six-figure salary we mentioned earlier for software engineers?) If you have the money to pay a software engineer’s salary to solve some complex engineering problems, then go for it!
The average freelance web developer charges about $50-80 an hour depending on their skill level, but to keep an agency on retainer, it can cost anywhere from $100-150 an hour. Not a bad price to have web development experts in your back pocket!
Tech is a rapidly growing field, and if you ended up here then you’re probably wondering if it’s time to add some specialists to your team. There is a huge demand for both experts across many industries (marketing, SaaS, E-commerce, and more) and as our society becomes more dependent on technology, the demand is only going to go up!
Now that you know the difference between a software engineer vs web developer, you can decide which computer science expert would be most helpful for your company.
Want to see some web development in action? Check out our Web Development case studies.
If you’re ready to start a web development project, check out our services page to see how CreateApe can help you out!