Software Engineering vs. Web Development: What’s the Difference?

Tech Career Hub
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
May 30, 2023

Explore the key differences between a software engineer and a web developer, including their roles, responsibilities, and the skills required for each profession.

In the world of tech, some job titles sound like they might be interchangeable. Software engineering and web development have many overlapping qualities, but they’re actually different jobs. Although both of them use many of the same coding languages (like JavaScript) and both jobs meet with clients, work with colleagues, and solve complex technical problems, once you drill down, you’ll start to spot some key differences.

So what, exactly, is the difference between software engineering vs. web development? And which one might be the right career path for you?

What is a Software Engineer?

Let’s start with what a software engineer does.

Software engineers create products for operating systems, networks, and hardware. These products can include apps, games, or network servers. Software engineers do a lot of back-end development and collaborate with clients and team members to write and test code. They’re often tasked with developing new software features that respond to client needs or changes in industry standards.

Software engineers sometimes specialize in one aspect of software development, such as machine learning or database management.

A typical day in the life of a software engineer might include:

  • Writing code
  • Updating or debugging the code to keep up with client needs
  • Meeting with clients or collaborating with peers to get feedback and brainstorm ideas
  • Working on several projects at the same time

In other words, software engineers work on anything that needs software, including – but not limited to – websites.

What is a Web Developer?

So, what does a web developer do?

Web developers build and maintain websites using code. They oversee the technical aspects of a website’s performance, including the site’s speed and bandwidth. They may also develop site content, including graphics and other visual/interactive aspects of the site – this is called front-end development. They’ll usually create mockups or prototypes of websites for testing and collaboration with team members, team leaders, or clients.

Web developers usually specialize in front-end, back-end, or full-stack web development. Full-stack web development means working both front- and back-end and is a highly sought-after skillset.

A typical day in the life of a web developer might include:

  • Writing code
  • Testing web applications
  • Meeting with clients or collaborating with peers to get feedback and brainstorm ideas
  • Observing the performance and traffic of the website

Learn More:

Web Developer vs. Software Engineer: the Differences

While there is some overlap between the jobs of software engineers and web developers, there are also plenty of differences. Those differences can help you decide which career path to follow. Here are some of the key differences between the duties of a software engineer and those of a web developer.

COMPARISON FACTORSWEB DEVELOPERSOFTWARE ENGINEERSkillsBasic coding languages like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Python, and Ruby to build web applicationsBasic coding languages, plus more advanced ones like C++ and C#; solid understanding of software best practices and methodologiesProjectsWebsites and applications as individual contributors, freelancers, or contractorsAll projects that require coding, including apps, networking systems, and moreSystemsCreate and develop client systemsProvide solutions based on client systemsSalaryAverage starting salary of $70,489Average starting salary of $104,367Job DescriptionWrite code for a website or web applicationBuild software for a range of products and servers

Essentially, the biggest difference between web developers and software engineers comes down to what they work on. Web developers specialize in building websites. Software engineers build software for all kinds of devices and systems, not just websites.

Web Developer vs. Software Engineer: the Similarities

Because both web developers and software engineers work with computer code, there are some similarities between the two jobs. No matter which road you choose, these are some things you can expect to encounter.

Getting a Job

Both jobs require you to know coding languages such as JavaScript and Python. Getting either job will also require you to have a programming portfolio of projects you’ve completed and examples of problems you’ve solved. Both jobs will probably ask you to do a whiteboard interview as part of your interviewing process.

Writing Code

As we’ve mentioned, both web developers and software engineers need to know how to write code. The codes they use may vary, but both jobs will require knowledge of some of the most common languages used today, like JavaScript.

Working with a Team and/or Clients

With few exceptions, being either a software engineer or web developer will have you working with a team, a client, or both. You’ll meet regularly with your team to discuss project progress, brainstorm ideas for problem-solving, give and receive feedback, and ensure everyone is on the same page.

You’ll also work for a client or clients. Whether you freelance or get hired for an in-house tech job, your role will be to make the client(s) happy. This will mean regular check-ins, good communication skills, the ability to meet deadlines, translating client needs into code, and the ability to work under pressure.

Learn More: Teamwork & Communication Skills in Software Engineering

Solving Problems and Debugging

One of the biggest items on your plate as a web developer or software engineer will be solving problems. Working in either job means you’ll need to be able to identify problems, strategize solutions, and use creativity and critical thinking to solve them. And you’ll need to be able to fix glitching code (debugging).

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both software engineering jobs and web developer jobs are projected to grow by over 20% by the year 2031. That’s because we live in an ever-connected world where technology is growing by the day. Companies and organizations need more and more coding experts to help them stay relevant and competitive. And as machine learning and AI grow in importance, so, too, will the need for people who can take on the tech jobs that matter.

Both web development and software engineering are great jobs for people who want job security and fulfilling work.

Can a Web Developer Be a Software Engineer? Can a Software Engineer Be a Web Developer?

Yes! Web development is a subset of software engineering. However, since both careers focus on writing code and solving problems, there’s usually enough overlap between them that it’s not out of the question to make the transition from one to the other. It mostly involves learning some new or specialized skills. Those skills will be easier to pick up once you already know the basics as a software engineer or web developer.

Start Developing Your Skills with App Academy

App Academy’s coding bootcamps are designed especially for the web developers and software engineers of the future. Not only do we teach you the coding languages you’ll need to know for your first jobs in tech, but we guide you through the process of getting those jobs.

Take our online quiz to learn which program is right for you, sign up for a live online info session to learn more, schedule a 1:1 call with one of our team experts, or submit a request with our convenient online form. Start your software engineering or web development career today with App Academy!

And, if you’re ready to dig in deeper, start exploring our programs to see which one might be a good fit for you!

Full-Time, Online Coding Bootcamp - Full-Time, Online Software Engineer Program

Part-Time, Online Coding Bootcamp - Part-Time, Online Software Engineering Program

Learn to Code for Free at Your Own Pace - App Academy Open


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