Software Engineer vs Software Developer

Over the last few years, there has been a notable increase in demand for software engineers and developers worldwide, driven by exponential technological advancements. However, many people tend to have the misconception that software engineering and software development are the same. 

In fact, the titles of both roles are often used interchangeably. Though they share many similarities, the nature of their jobs differ, and they are involved in varying areas throughout projects. Let’s learn more about what they actually do.

What is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are the masterminds behind the design, development, maintenance, improvement, testing, and implementation of software programmes through the application of software engineering principles.

What is a Software Developer?

Software developers are the creative professionals who write code from scratch and develop new programmes to meet users’ needs.

Software Engineer vs Software Developer: A Career Overview 

Software Engineer Software Developer
A bachelor’s degree in software engineering is preferred compared to one in software development. Degree A degree in software development is considered a specialisation in the areas of information technology and computer programming.
Software engineers work with other engineers to build complex systems.

Software engineers oversee projects on a larger scale. Hence, there is not much room for creativity as they are more focused on providing logical solutions to users’ problems.

Nature of Job Software developers write complete programmes from scratch.

The roles of software developers are usually limited in scale, providing them with room to conceive creative solutions.

Software engineers usually work in a team.

They play a part in the complete process of a project.

Working Style Software developers typically work alone even though they may interact with their colleagues sporadically.

Software development is only one of the many aspects of a project.

  • Software Architect
  • Software Designer
  • Software Engineer
  • Software Consultant
  • Software Test Engineer
Career Path
  • Software Developer
  • Software Architect
  • Web Developer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Database Administrator
Develop new tools to write software.

  1. JetBrains
  2. GitHub
  3. CMake
  4. Vaadin
  5. Eclipse
Tools Develop applications with existing tools.

  1. Atom
  2. GitHub
  3. Chrome DevTools
  4. Buddy
  5. IntelliJ IDEA

Skills Required as a Software Engineer

  1. Analytical skills

Software engineers are required to have the ability to quickly identify and analyze problems, detect patterns, and brainstorm for systematic solutions. Equipped with strong analytical skills, they should be able to present solutions after evaluating multiple scenarios.

  1. Programming languages

It is essential for software engineers to be familiar with the common programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, Python, and C++ currently used in the industry. Though it is not required for one to be fluent in all coding languages, mastery of a specific programming language will make you more attractive to employers.

  1. Software testing and debugging

Even in the age of automation, software testing and debugging are highly valued core skills in the industry. It requires a critical mind and a meticulous eye for detail to ensure software products meet professional standards.

  1. Object-oriented design (OOD)

In the last few decades, object-oriented design has been gaining popularity. With abstraction, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism as fundamental concepts, software engineers are expected to create flexible and reusable software.

Skills Required as a Software Developer

  1. Data structures and algorithms

Data structures are methods of organizing data, while algorithms represent steps executed by a computer. Together, these two ensure highly optimized and efficient code. This skill is regarded as a priority by many companies as it determines a developer’s problem-solving and coding skills.

  1. Programming languages

According to Stack Overflow’s 2021 survey, the top five programming languages in 2021 are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, SQL, and Java. Aspiring developers should have a good command of at least one programming language depending on the area of interest, as they are the creative force building programmes by writing code from scratch.

  1. Text-editing

Text editors are essential tools for software development that help boost productivity and efficiency. They offer a fast and flexible interface to examine coding mistakes and suggest edits. Nowadays, there are plenty of text editors available, including Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, Brackets, and Visual Studio Code, available on the market.

  1. Source control

Also known as version control, source control helps software developers store and track changes to code. With a running history of code development, conflicts can be resolved or avoided when merging contributions from different sources. Git is currently the most popular version control system in use.

Challenges as a Software Engineer

  1. Safety-critical systems

Examples of safety-critical software systems include aircraft, weapon systems, and nuclear power plants. Software failure in such areas may put lives at risk and cause significant damage to the environment. Hence, software engineers should be meticulous when designing and be quick to respond to crises. 

  1. Large and complex system requirements

Firstly, this indicates multiple restrictions possibly caused by a large number of users in terms of security. Secondly, having several functions within a system also raises an issue. Therefore, with the increased complexity of software, software engineers need to develop new applications.

  1. Software diversity

Diversity is found in many modern software systems to facilitate user requirements and increase confidence in quality assurance. Hence, organizational structures and appropriate communication among software engineers are required to handle software variability. 

Challenges as a Software Developer

  1. Misinterpreted requirements

Miscommunication between software developers and clients may cause misinterpreted requirements. Consequently, the end product provided will fail to meet the clients’ needs. Thus, software developers must be able to communicate clearly with the clients and liaise with various teams at the same time.

  1. System and application integration

By combining software parts, integrated systems display improved performance and increased functional significance. However, poor integration of third-party applications may cause software project failure. Therefore, it is critical for software developers to ensure robust systems integration to avoid any complications.

  1. Project infrastructure

Without the appropriate project infrastructure provided, software developers will hit a brick wall during the development and rollout of projects.  Thus, companies are required to provide software developers with proper environments and infrastructure for project developments and testing.

Software Engineer Salary

According to PayScale, the average base salary of software engineers in Malaysia is RM48,291 per year.

An entry-level software engineer with less than a year’s experience earns an average of RM 36,487. It is considered one of the highest starting salaries compared to other professions.

Software Developer Salary

According to PayScale, the average base salary of software developers in Malaysia is RM44,967 per year.

With less than one year of experience, an entry-level software developer earns an average of RM34, 882.

Job Scope / Role and Responsibilities of a Software Engineer

  1. Research, design, and write new programs

With technology continuously changing, software engineers need to identify and analyze real-world problems and assess user needs. Then, design and build programs that provide the most efficient, logical, and sustainable solutions.

  1. Software testing

Software engineers are responsible for testing new software products to ensure that they match user requirements and are free from defects. Bugs and errors should be identified and fixed during this process before distribution. 

  1. Improving system quality and existing codebases

Apart from formulating new ideas and building new programs, software engineers need to review and upgrade current software systems. To provide higher flexibility, usability, and efficiency, they must identify areas for enhancement and make appropriate recommendations.

Job Scope / Role and Responsibilities of a Software Developer

  1. Developing software that meets the client’s needs

After consulting the clients, software developers should come up with well thought out plans to produce programs that satisfy their needs. It is important to help clients distinguish themselves from other competitors by providing innovative yet scalable products.

  1. Evaluating new programs and identifying areas for modification

Software developers are constantly reviewing current systems and coming up with fresh ideas for system improvements in existing applications. Existing codes are often modified to keep up with business changes and technological advancements.

  1. Coordinate with UX designers, and business and systems analysts

Though software developers usually work alone, they often work closely with analysts, marketing, and designers to launch high-performing software programs. For example, UX designers may provide insights on how user requirements may affect the build specifications of an end product.

Where to study software engineering in Malaysia?

UOW Malaysia KDU Penang University College, Batu Kawan, offers a comprehensive Bachelor of Software Engineering (Hons) program specially designed to help students gain in-depth knowledge and technical skills required for the industry. Besides, students will be equipped with programming languages currently used in the industry and practical expertise in the function of different technologies and systems in projects.

In collaboration with the IBM Innovation Centre for Education (ICE), students can pursue a Diploma in Internet of Things or a Diploma in Business Analytics as their professional certification program. Students must complete 4 IBM modules in partial fulfilment of their computing bachelor’s degree to be eligible for an additional professional award from the IBM Innovation Centre.

In conclusion, a software developer mainly focuses on a single area in coding a program. Meanwhile, a software engineer oversees the big picture of the overall design and application of engineering principles in software development. Depending on the project and client, an engineer can or may sometimes need to assume the role of a software developer.

Should you have any queries about our program, get in touch with us for assistance or to find out more!


02 May 2022


Science and Technology