Programmer vs. Developer: Which Role Is Right for You?

computer programmers working on a project in front of a computer

Earning a degree in technology can lead to a rewarding career with diverse opportunities for employment. Two common careers include a programmer and a developer. When considering employment as a programmer vs developer, first consider the differences between these IT roles.

What Is a Computer Programmer?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.” This means that computer programmers must use a number of programming languages to develop and refine applications and programs. They also test the outcomes of their coding to ensure there are no errors.

What Is a Software Developer?

A software developer, according to the BLS, “creates the applications or systems that run on a computer or another device.” Software developers are the designers behind an application or a piece of software. They oversee the entire development process. Their goal is to ensure that the end-user can interact with the software in the way that it has been designed.

What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

A computer programmer spends most of their day coding. They create and test new code. They check for errors and fix any glitches that they find. They may also go through old code to simplify or update it. This ensures that there are fewer errors and makes the code easier to work with in the future.

What Does a Software Developer Do?

A software developer thinks about the end-user. They work to ensure that people can engage with the application or software easily. A software developer also thinks about the functionality and security of what they create. A person in a software development job must have excellent coding skills because they are in charge of determining the functions of an application or program as well as being responsible for the front-end and back-end designs.

How Do Computer Programmers and Software Developers Work Together?

A software developer plans the design of an application or piece of software. They map out the usability of the product and determine the functionality that is needed. The software developer then hands off these plans to a computer programmer who writes the code to build the product. The software developer and computer programmer work closely together throughout the process to refine the design.

What Skills Do Programmers and Developers Need?

Both of these tech jobs require strong coding skills. Computer programmers and software developers need to be able to code in several languages, including SQL, Java, JavaScript, C#, Swift and Python. They must also know about object-oriented programming and databases. Software developers also need skills in project management and development processes. Since they design the product and oversee all parts of the build, developers must be able to manage other workers, such as the computer programmers on their team.

As computer programmers and software developers will work together on the same product development team, they must also have non-technical skills related to teamwork, planning and communication. People in these roles need to be good collaborators. Even when a computer programmer is working independently on writing a piece of code, they need to seek out the help of other programmers or work with the software developer when problems arise.

How to Become a Programmer vs. Developer?

Earning at least a bachelor’s degree is the preferred route to a career in both computer programming and software development. About 79% of employers are looking for computer programmers with at least a bachelor’s degree.* Managers also want computer programmers who stay up to date in the constantly changing field of technology.

Employers are looking for software developer candidates with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Hiring managers are especially looking for software developers who have coding experience, so job applicants with computer science degrees are well suited to the role. In addition, it is important for software developers to understand the industry they work in, such as healthcare or energy.

Job Outlook for a Programmer vs. Developer

Both computer programmers and software developers can earn good salaries. Jobs in computer programming are projected to fall by about 9% over the next ten years, while software development roles are projected to rise by 22% in that same period.**

Which Tech Career is Right for You?

If you enjoy coding and want to spend most of your time writing new programs or expanding the features of existing programs, then computer programming may be the right career for you. If you are more interested in the design of an application or program and want to see it through from inception to launch, then software development might be your ideal field. These two careers have some overlap, and you may find that a computer programmer is expected to know how to design products and that a software developer must know how to code. If you are still unsure about the right career path for you, take time to interview people in both roles and get to know what each job might be like.

Grand Canyon University offers several degrees that lead directly to careers in technology. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Programming or a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science to start your journey toward becoming a computer programmer or software developer.

Received from:

*, December, 2020

**, December, 2020

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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