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Full-Stack Developer Vs. Software Engineer

Those seeking a stable career in the tech industry would be intrigued to learn the difference between a full-stack developer vs. software engineer. 

Because both roles share a few similarities, they are often used interchangeably. However, there’s a fine line between the area of specialisation, the project types they work on, and the amount of authority they have on a specific project.

Here’s a quick guide highlighting the common roles, responsibilities, and skills of both positions.

Who Is a Full-Stack Developer? 

A full-stack developer is a professional with knowledge in back-end and front-end programming. So, not only do they manage the visible (client-side) website but also the infrastructure behind it (server-side). 

They work on application programming interfaces (APIs) and databases to design and code applications. Besides, interacting with clients, learning about their preferences, and tweaking solutions for the best possible outcome are also a part of their job.  

Full-stack developers must know several programming languages like JavaScript, C++, HTML, CSS, etc. Also, familiarity with front-end frameworks like Vue, React, and Angular is essential. 

Depending on the project type, they may work on the web, smartphone, or native app stacks. 

Responsibilities of a Full-Stack Developer

Working across the stack requires full-stack developers to possess several competencies. They must be proficient with all technological layers to develop and maintain an app or website’s functionality, from user interface design (UI) to server configuration. 

Generally, a full-stack developer creates and maintains apps, websites, products, and databases. However, other responsibilities may include the following. 

  • Test and debug software to ensure its maximum functionality 

  • Keep the code bases organised and comprehensible 

  • Work closely with designers to understand their concepts and turn them into a reality through coding. 

  • Communicate with company decision-makers and project managers to discuss deadlines and objectives of a particular project 

  • Enable cross-platform compatibility across various platforms like Android, iOS, Windows, etc 

  • Create application programming interfaces, allowing software programs to communicate with each other.

Skills Required to Become a Full-Stack Developer

Full-stack developers are famously called the jack of all trades, and that’s what they technically are, given their vast skill set and multiple responsibilities. 

Here are a few skills you need to become a full-stack developer.

Full Stack Developer Non-Technical Skills 

Full-stack developers must be efficient leaders with strong communication skills. This allows them to collaborate with other team members to produce effective solutions. 

Besides, attention to detail and time management skills are crucial to completing each project efficiently. 

A lack of observational skills can make their projects prone to errors. This requires them to repeat coding, slowing overall productivity. Besides, a dearth of time management skills leads to missed deadlines. 

Therefore, managing time and being keen on each project is a must to contribute positively to a company. You must also have creative skills to design visually compelling UIs and target the ideal audience.

You must have expertise in programming and coding languages to grow as a full-stack developer. 

Common front-end languages include CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. On the other hand, popular back-end languages include Ruby, PHP, Python, and Java. 

Besides, proficiency in structuring code, separating files, web architecture, and structuring data in databases is always welcome. 

Project Management Skills

Companies often assign leadership roles to full-stack developers for web or app development projects. It allows developers to utilise their project management skills to handle projects from the initial stages till the end. 

They are involved in the pre-planning phase, consultation stages, and project completion. 

A full-stack developer with efficient project management skills can handle the project’s budget and tasks effectively. Besides, the ability to lead the team and address client problems are a few other skills that go into project management skills.

Who Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer uses computer science and mathematical knowledge to build software for numerous platforms like consoles, smartphones, desktops, tablets, TV, and more. 

They use engineering principles to create personalised systems for their clients. As such, they are familiar with several programming languages like C#, Swift, Java, C++, and computer operating systems. 

They work closely with a company's programmers, business analysts, and designers. Competent software engineers must know how to pick suitable algorithms to overcome memory storage, OS compatibility, and processing power limitations.

Responsibilities of a Software Engineer 

Software engineers must understand how different systems communicate and focus on developing unique and latest solutions to take businesses to new heights. This requires them to be fluent in several programming languages. 

The primary responsibilities of a software engineer include the following. 

  • Discuss proposals and project status with other team members and clients. 

  • Test software to identify whether an app works optimally and meets client needs  

  • Optimise apps by determining their shortcomings and executing related updates 

  • Oversee the software documentation process 

  • Analyse software operations through several production stages

  • Develop layouts and flowcharts to spot solutions and requirements

  • Write well-designed, clean codes 

  • Integrate software elements into a fully operational software system

Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer

Although software engineers handle programming, for the most part, they must have a wide variety of skills to land a suitable job. Here are some common skills software engineers are expected to have.

Software Engineer Non-Technical Skills

Software engineers work within a team as well as independently. This requires them to have strong organisational and time management skills to complete tasks timely and meet deadlines. 

Besides, they must have analytical and attention to detail skills to resolve programming problems efficiently. 

Lastly, a blend of collaboration and communication skills helps them involve other team members for the best possible outcome.

Hard Skills 

Software engineers, like full-stack developers, are familiar with multiple coding languages. Although they might be well-versed in 2-3 languages, they generally understand all programming languages. 

These include Python, C++, C#, Ruby, Java, etc. Software engineers are also familiar with database architecture, optimisation techniques, and data structures.

Design Skills 

Professional software engineers focus on honing their web and design skills. They also thoroughly understand web design elements like aesthetics, content, interaction, and more. They may work closely with the client to develop app designs based on their preferences.

Full-Stack Developers Vs. Software Engineers: What’s the Difference?

The primary differences between both roles revolve around their specialisations, tasks, and coding languages. Here’s what makes both roles unique in their entirety.

Salary 

According to Indeed.com, the average salary of full-stack developers in Ireland is around €68,000+ annually. 

On the other hand, software engineers make €63,000+ yearly in Ireland. Since a full-stack developer is a versatile role and requires professionals to possess several skills, it makes sense why the salary is higher than a software engineer. 

It is worth noting that these are base salaries and do not consider any annual bonuses or incentives a company may offer. Besides, the precise salary range varies depending on the business’s size and location.

Tasks 

Full-stack developers handle designing and implementation tasks throughout the project development. However, software engineers typically perform one or another task (design or execution), not both.

Specialisation

Full-stack developers are versed in several areas, from data warehousing to business intelligence (BI). On the flip side, software engineers have experience in a single domain.

Programming Languages 

Full-stack developers must be proficient with front-end programming languages like CSS and HTML, back-end programming languages like Python and JavaScript, and SQL for databases. 

On the other hand, software engineers must understand Java, C, and C++ to work with multiple software applications.

Program Accessibility

Full-stack developers administer most - if not all - project phases. This explains why they have access to all program resources. Having complete access to every project feature enables them to guide team members when resolving issues. 

On the other hand, software engineers do not have complete access to a project’s resources. They generally have access to only those programs that require their skills during the development cycle. 

However, they can gain access to project aspects as desired when working with team members.

Full-Stack Developers Vs. Software Engineers: What’s Similar?

There’s a reason why people confuse the roles and duties of full-stack developers and software engineers and end up using the terms interchangeably. The reason lies in their similarities. Here’s what makes both positions identical.

Product Testing 

Product development doesn’t happen overnight. A lot of work goes into testing the product until it meets client requirements and caters to customer needs. Full-stack developers and software engineers create environments to simulate real-world scenarios. 

This helps them test products before officially releasing them. Therefore, both positions are familiar with various test types and best practices to follow during testing.

Business Role 

Full-stack developers and software engineers actively coordinate with programmers, computer experts, data analysts, stakeholders, and other technical personnel to plan and develop new technologies. 

A collaboration lets them design, create, and develop software that helps companies gain an edge over their competitors.

Programming Methodologies 

Both full-stack developers and software engineers are expected to know programming methodologies like Kanban and Agile. This allows the team to implement them to boost collaboration and project quality.

Which Career Path to Choose? 

A full-stack developer is an ideal role for someone who prefers working independently. The position gives the freedom to handle the project and shape its progress. Besides, reporting the progress to other team members and guiding them is also a part of the job.

As a software engineer, you’re required to collaborate with others actively. So, it compromises your independence. You’ll constantly communicate changes with product managers, stakeholders, and other team members. 

Therefore, if you prefer a flexible route with greater independence, a full-stack developer role might suit you best. Conversely, software engineering is a way to go if you enjoy working in collaborative environments and struggle managing things alone.

FAQs

Which Is the Best: Full-Stack Developer or Software Engineer?

Both full-stack developer and software engineer are prestigious roles in the tech industry. However, your preferences will determine the best role. You can go the full-stack developer route if you like a versatile role with greater flexibility and exposure. Those willing to focus on specific skills and a narrow area of expertise can pick software engineering. 

Is a Full-Stack Developer an Engineer?

Yes, a full-stack developer is a high-level engineer who creates, tests and executes multiple software applications. They develop websites, apps, and software and oversee coding teams to enhance productivity.

Conclusion

There are a few similarities in full-stack developer vs software engineer roles. However, a deeper dive into skills and responsibilities reveals their differences for the most part. 

Full-stack developers know a bit of everything, whereas software engineers handle narrow areas like testing or web architecture. 

If you go the full-stack route, a Full-Stack Software Development course from UCD Professional Academy will certainly help. 

By the end of the course, you’ll have enough expertise in programming languages and technologies to scale your career. You can utilise the programming knowledge from the same course if you choose a software engineer career path. So, it’s a win-win for either role.