Full Stack Developer vs. Software Engineer: What You Need To Know
For many who are considering a career in computer science and development, you can choose many career paths. With demand for full-stack developers and software engineers expected to grow by 23% and 25%, respectively, by 2031, both of these careers have a bright future.
But which do you choose? We’ll compare the two careers to help you decide which path is a better fit.
What is a Software Engineer?
A software engineer is a programmer who develops software and applications to improve business functions and systems. To build successful systems, software, and applications, a software engineer must have extensive knowledge and proficiency in computer science and several programming languages.
What is a Full Stack Developer?
Full-stack developers primarily develop websites and web applications. Full stack means this developer may work both frontend and backend development of the website. This can be everything from:
- Database architecture and management
- System design
- User interface and client-side interaction and experience
Essentially, a full-stack developer can handle all aspects of web design, programming, and systems.
Is a Full Stack Developer the Same as a Software Engineer?
No. A full stack developer and software engineer are two very different and distinct vocations that both use programming languages to build products. But these two career paths differ in many ways.
Key Differences Between a Full Stack Developer vs. Software Engineer
Here we will highlight the key differences between a software engineer and a full-stack developer:
When it comes to job responsibilities within a project, a full-stack developer may work on any part of the project’s scope. Their responsibilities can shift depending on the needs of the website or web application.
Software engineers tend to focus their efforts on a specific part of a project. They may be assigned to a portion of the software, system, or application where they ensure their piece is efficient and clean.
Interaction Within a Team
Full-stack developers interact with and often head the project team because they can work on all aspects of the project. They generally work more collaboratively and dynamically to meet the needs and requirements of the project.
Software engineers are less interactive within the team because each team member is responsible for their specific piece or area of the project. They may help other team members when needed but tend to have more autonomy within the project scope.
Software engineers build software, systems, and applications with clearly defined functionality. A full stack developer focuses on all functionality of building websites and web applications. Their scope can change depending on the needs of the user or website.
Skillset and Knowledge Base
Most employers prefer their full-stack developers to have a bachelor’s degree in web development or computer science. And more certifications in additional programming languages can make you more marketable.
Because they must know all frontend and backend web development skills, a full stack developer must be proficient in the following:
- HTML and CSS
- Web architecture
- Critical thinking
- User Interface (U.I.)
- User Experience (UX)
73% of software engineers have a bachelor’s degree, and 20% have a master’s degree. A software engineer needs a broad mix of soft and hard skills to be effective:
- Data structures and algorithms
- Databases and Database Management Systems (DBMS)
- Operating systems
- System design
- Software Development Life Cycle
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Is a Software Engineer Higher than a Full Stack Developer?
While software engineers require a higher level of technical skill, they aren’t necessarily ranked higher within an organization. Because the positions work on vastly different projects, it’s not exactly comparing apples to apples.
Full-stack developers often work in leadership roles because they can work on all aspects of a project. A software engineer may need more schooling or years of experience before taking on a leadership position.
What are the Career Paths of a Full Stack Developer vs. a Software Engineer
Full stack developers generally start in web development as frontend or backend developers. Once they gain experience and proficiency, they often become certified in any skills they lack, depending on which end their lacking. Then they often apply for full-stack positions within their company.
Software engineers will often start as junior engineers within their program language specialty. They move to lead developer and senior engineer positions as they gain experience and proficiency in other programming languages. Some also move into architect positions depending on their expertise.
Who Earns More: A Software Engineer or a Full Stack Developer?
Both full-stack developers and software engineers earn competitive salaries. The average salary for a full-stack developer is $99,610 per year. In the U.S., full-stack developers make between $85K to $139K, based on experience and location.
The average salary of a software engineer is $92,216 per year. In the U.S., software engineers make between $75K to $200K, depending on experience, location, and skillset.
So while a full-stack developer has a higher average salary, the software engineer has a higher pay range based on experience. Sr. software engineers earn significantly more than entry-level software engineers.
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Either Career Path is a Solid Choice
You can’t go wrong when deciding if full-stack development or software engineering is the right career path for you. Both paths will be challenging, rewarding, and in high demand for years to come.
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