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Which do you prefer to be called: software engineer vs. web developer?

The titles 'web developer' and 'software engineer' are often used interchangeably even though there is technically a difference in definition. Interested to hear from engineers if they have a preference or care at all about what they are called?


23 Replies

Shilpi Gupta
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0
Shilpi Gupta Entrepreneur
Software Development Manager, Amazon Video - Content Experience Platform at Amazon.com
I would prefer being called as software engineer or software developer. Web developer narrows the scope and i believe if your basics are solid, you can work at different layers of the tech stack - ui/backend application layer/system layer.
Kevin Goldstein
0
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Kevin Goldstein Advisor
IT
yes - it makes a big difference. it's all about the type of software you are developing. for example, if you are developing trading applications that run as services with an ecosystem, and have no single front end, this is a large difference from what web-developers do.

web developers are a specialization of software developers that deal with the front end (web-page), mobile presentation, and deploy services into containers (such as jee containers)... they are commonly concerned with LAMP development, while general software engineers won't even look at apache or PHP...

obviously - there are a lot of different kind of software engineers and web developers, I just threw in some examples to help clarify the case.

David Schwartz
5
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David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
It sounds like you believe that the entire universe of software development involves web-related technologies. Not too helpful for people who do embedded real-time process-control stuff, like aircraft systems, eh?

Software engineering (aka computer science) is a discipline. Software development is a practice. Web development is a specialty. There are dozens of specialties in the software development world.

I dare say that even the term "coder" represents a specialty -- someone who takes a design and writes code to implement it. Unfortunately, I see it used synonomously with "Software developer" these days, as if there's not much to the field of software engineering other than taking some chicken scratch from a napkin and reducing it to lines of code in python or ruby.

If it was that simple, they wouldn't have 4-year college degrees, Masters Degrees, and PhDs in the field.
Amir Yasin
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Amir Yasin Advisor
Developer, Architect
Since I do much much more than just web development I'm a software engineer (software architect really). I'm honestly not sure what a web developer is...just writing html our css isn't development in my mind and if you're working in a programming (as opposed to markup) language to create software then you're somewhere on the spectrum of software developers.
Tim Cullen
0
0
Tim Cullen Entrepreneur
Principal Software Engineer
To my way of thinking there is quiet a difference in the terms. A Software Engineer is someone who is capable of performing a wide range of software development tasks. Be they embedded development, OS level work, networking protocol development, etc. A web developer is someone who works with web based technologies. The former is considerably more varied and versatile than the latter.
Gabriel Magaña Gonzalez
1
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Systems Architect
I personally don't care, specially if the person using the term does not understand the difference. They could call me "the computer guy" and I'd be happy with that too.

To me, if you want to get specific about what a computer professional can and cannot do, then you need to go beyond the title and see exactly what they are versed in. Titles are very often out of sync with what the professional actually does anyway. Woe be to him or her who comes to any sort of conclusion about someone based on a job title, specially in a field as varied as tech.
Tim Scott
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Tim Scott Entrepreneur • Advisor
President, Lunaverse Software
I prefer software developer.

Web developer makes me think of someone who can whip up a nice brochure site but couldn't explain the difference between and inner and outer join and has never written a console app.

"Engineer" is the favored designation these days, but I personally have a hard time calling myself that out loud. The analogy is not empty, but it feels pretentious. Architect is closer, but unfortunately that'scome to mean a person who got tired of coding and wants a raise without having to fire people and do performance reviews.

If you're the one doing the hiring, I would follow the trend and use the more flatteringsoftware engineer. You don't want your positions to sound ghetto in comparison with others bidding for them.
Ming Tsui
0
0
Ming Tsui Entrepreneur
HabitatForAll.org

good way is by saying software engineer is mostly one earned a 4 year degree in CS

where web developer could be anyone who have learned to code web page presentations

and also scripting language for communicating with the internet. The web developer also

could have earned a 4 year CS degree also but maybe not. I think the software engineer

title to more to the person with a college degree and a web developer could be anyone

on the street who is determine to learn the trade of web development. This is why you could

see many con artists trying to make money helping people develop web sites.

David Schwartz
0
0
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
I agree with Amir ... knowing a markup language like HTML and CSS does not make you a "programmer" or even a "developer". Especially since the vast majority of "web developers" use Adobe Creative Suite to do their stuff. The term "designer" seems to have been hijacked to describe this kind of work these days. Not sure what they're calling "software design" now because "designers" ain't doing that kind of stuff.

There's no logic involved in web pages, unless you're talking about a back-end programming platform like php, ASP, python or ruby. If that's the case, then things get a bit murkier.
Valerie Lanard
0
0
Valerie Lanard Entrepreneur
Senior Software Engineering Manager at Salesforce
No question - web developer implies more junior, possibly self-taught, definitely no degree, narrower range of expertise.
Software engineer (even if in fact a web developer who's junior, no degree, self-taught) sounds more legit, experienced, respected, well-rounded -- in a job title, that is.
Software engineer is the broader term, can encompass web development but implies a greater breadth of knowledge and domain (as mentioned, could be offline and online, backend and frontend, scripting, web, database, etc). CS majors traditionally start as software engineers, though a fair number of software engineers don't have degrees.

I wouldn't consider being called a web developer an insult (because it's one of many skills I have), but on a job listing it would definitely read as somewhat junior and narrower in focus than a software engineering role.
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