Development, Software, Technology

Programmer vs. Software Developer: Responsibilities, Specializations, And Salary Comparison

Programmer and Developer viewing a laptop

Programmers and developers. These two terms are often used as synonyms, but they are not the same. This article will tell you the differences between a programmer and a developer so you clearly understand how to define yourself and to which positions you can apply.

Responsibilities and general role

The most straightforward answer is to read about the functions you will have to perform to find out if the job you are looking for is a programmer or a developer. The programmer, as the name suggests, is dedicated to programming. This specialist writes the code of the software or web page in a programming language. It doesn’t sound as complicated as it is because behind all the actions which programmers do stand hours, days, months, or years of learning, practicing, and self-improvement. If you are a beginner, you can undoubtedly feel the pressure of the enormous amount of information and lots of programming assignments that must be done in the best possible way. A programmer needs to develop patience and attentiveness, not be afraid to make mistakes and ask for help if necessary. Well, the work of a programmer can be challenging and has its peculiarities, which we will discuss later.

The developers have a much broader role. They assume all the tasks of software creation. The developer will have to fulfill different functions throughout the project, from the definition of the product to the final testing of the finished product. He might even be responsible for the subsequent maintenance.

So, the responsibilities are different. The programmer is responsible for his code, and the rest of the activities are the developer’s responsibility. Of course, the programmer also collaborates with the team to implement his code, but he will only be responsible for well-written code.

The developer needs to have a broader set of tools and knowledge because even if he is not dedicated to every task to delegate and supervise, he must have at least basic knowledge of all functions.

Specializations for programmers and developers

Programmers and developers are also differentiated by the specializations that each one can take in their area. These are just some of the many specializations that programmers have:

  • Application programmer: their job is to write code to create a program that solves something specific, for example, an accounting program for hotels.
  • Systems programmer: programmers who create and support computer systems, such as databases or operating systems.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning engineers are responsible for writing the code to create a program to improve efficiency in the tasks people usually perform (or used to perform). For example, a chatbot in charge of answering questions via WhatsApp.
  • Video game programmers: write and modify code for video games, whether web games, mobile apps, or consoles.

Specializations for developers

For their part, developers have the following specializations (although there may be more):

  • Mobile developers: they design applications for mobile devices. They usually specialize in applications compatible with a specific platform.
  • Full-Stack Developers: they understand how to create software’s Front End and Back End. Therefore, they can help design the user experience and how the program should work from the server side.
  • DevOps Engineers: they have a broad knowledge, which allows them to be the link between developers and those in charge of other IT functions, such as equipment maintenance and support. They can be the head of a team and coordinate the communication between it and the different areas of the company.
  • UI/UX developers: with diverse perspectives, UI and UX developers are in charge of designing the Front-End. They focus on how the user experience will be with the final product. They are also usually in charge of analyzing the reaction of potential users through focus groups, which allows them to know if it is necessary to modify the user interface.

What do I need to know to become a programmer or a developer?

The main rule is that you have to increase your knowledge. Some of that knowledge is gained through experience. Such as, for example, understanding the objective of the project and designing the application that best fits the client’s requirements (for a developer). For a programmer, it could be acquiring management skills or learning how business works. Such a combination can lead to becoming an extremely valued and trusted employee in a large company or even creating an online business itself.

So, whether you want to be a developer or a programmer, taking a Product Manager or Leadership course would be helpful. Soft skills, such as good communication and knowing how to manage people and delegate tasks, are essential to be able to lead projects.

However, remember that some responsibilities may overlap. That’s why a developer must also know how to program, just as the programmer has to learn programming languages. Programmers tend to use more libraries and frameworks. In contrast, developers tend to be more in touch with the Back-End and the application structure and can suggest improvements to programmers.

On the other hand, developers may work with other departments, such as marketing or design.

Salary comparison

The salary will tip the balance if you consider whether to be a programmer or a developer. The average annual salary of a programmer in the United States is $74,000, according to Glassdoor, while that of a developer is $87,500. The developer’s salary is higher and makes sense, as the position requires more years of experience and a more comprehensive range of skills and knowledge.


In this analysis of the differences between programmer and developer, it is clear that the scope or range of functions is very different. The developer position seems more challenging, plus they have a higher average salary. But remember that you will need more experience and training to get there.

Many start as a programmer and, throughout their career, develop the hard and soft skills necessary to become a developer and thus transform into team leaders. But many people prefer to avoid the overload of responsibilities and want to dedicate themselves only to what they like and what makes them feel secure. None of the options is the right one. It all depends on your goals and what you think gives you the most job and personal satisfaction.

Whether you choose one profession or the other, you may want to work from anywhere in the world. We hope this article was engaging and valuable for you.

More on this topic:

How to Improve Your Technical Skills As A Software Developer

How to Improve Your Technical Skills As A Software Developer

Previous ArticleNext Article