We’ve all heard these terms thrown around in a way that makes them seem completely interchangeable. And if you’re not in the tech industry, they might be interchangeable to you. Adding an area of focus into a title such as the systems, platforms, and programming languages can differentiate a skill set far more than the two basic titles of software developer and software programmer. But once you understand the difference between these two positions, you can begin to understand what the more compound titles are talking about.
So, let’s start there.
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The software programmer is the tool behind the software development. It is an important task because they do most of the project’s coding. Rather than making decisions about the course of a software development project, they usually take direction from the developer.
The developer is more of a multi-faceted than the programmer. To develop a software system or program, they need to communicate across channels and departments and have a more comprehensive idea of the project’s objectives and know how to execute the steps to achieve those objectives. Although a software developer needs to understand the ins and outs or writing code, they will also be creating, adapting, modifying, troubleshooting and maintaining programs. They also need to spend time communicating with the client, understanding the market, and use different learning objectives beyond just math and science.
Before we go any further let’s get one thing straight: no - neither one is better than the other. Based on these two career paths the difference is the action they take while working, the skill set, and the motivation. If we sum up the difference in one phrase, we would say that developers spend less time coding, and more time thinking about the bigger picture. But there is also an order in which these two careers can occur. When applying the chronology of education, the programmer seems to have a lower developed skill set and pay scale, which we explain below:
While a programmer position can require a bachelor’s degree, in many cases a mix of certifications and experience will suffice. The developer, however, is almost always required to hold a bachelor’s and more commonly - a graduate degree. The developer is going to have to apply mathematics and scientific principles to his or her work, as part of the larger design process. Usually, they have required a rigorous educational requirement that includes a sequence of calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra. Depending on the situation, either may also be required to have specific certificates.
Programmers write code. This code acts as an instruction set which a computer or application will use to perform its given tasks. Programmers also develop, maintain, debug, and test computer programs. To work as a programmer, you need to have fluency in certain computer languages – for example, Java. Developers’ skill sets, on the other hand, are more comprehensive. In school, they learn how to construct, analyze, and maintain software, but they also need to have a degree of interpersonal and managerial proficiency – at least more than is required of the programmer.
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The median salary in May 2015 for programmers was $79,530, and between $98,260 and $105,570 for developers.
Projected job growth (2014-2024)
Sadly for programmers, their projected job growth is -8%, while that of developers is between 13% and 19%. This projected decline for programmers is due to outsourcing, automation, and the fact that users are beginning to be able to code themselves.
So, you can see that, although the programmer and the developer overlap in many areas, they are different from one another by the developer having a more comprehensive job, with a broader scope of requirements, and higher pay. While all developers should be programmers as well, programmers are not necessarily developers.