Computer Programming vs Software Engineering: Career ROI

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Updated: February 14, 2024, Reading time: 4 minutes

Computer Programming vs Software Engineering - featured image

Computer programming and Software Engineering are related fields. They share the primary objective of making products that help solve problems or fill a need in the market. Both professionals deal with software issues or update areas that need improvement. 

Computer Programming vs Software Engineering - fact

In a software development team, computer programmers and software engineers are indispensable. They are expected to have expert knowledge of the principles of Computer Science and possess advanced technical skills, including coding and high-level mathematical formulas.

If you’re unsure which field best matches your skills or interests, this article is for you!  

How Computer Programming and Software Engineering Differ

While computer programmers and software engineers have similar responsibilities and working environments, their roles are aimed at different purposes. The differences between computer programmers and software engineers include:

Computer ProgrammingSoftware Engineering
Average Salary$97,800 per year$127,260 per year

Job Responsibilities 
● Mainly coding.
● Assist software engineers in completing coding tasks.  
More involved on the high levels in the development process—from the development of a software down to its launch or release. 

Educational Background
● Computer programmers usually hold an Associate Degree or Certificate
● A Bachelor’s Degree is preferred by big employers for top positions. 
Software developers need a master’s degree to qualify for high-paying positions in the field. 

What Is A Computer Programmer?

What Is A Computer Programmer - Image

A computer programmer creates applications using coding languages. The main job is to develop languages for different operating systems and devices. They also update and build software programs, test and debug codes, and deal with software issues, and coordinate with the software development team.

Computer programmers are expected to possess these skills: 

Graduate-level Computer Programming programs focus on developing a student’s practical skills. The master’s and Ph.D. programs feature customization options, allowing students to specialize in Program Design, Cybersecurity, and AI.

Computer Programming is for you if:

Computer Programming is not a great fit if:

What Is A Software Engineer?

What Is A Software Engineer - Image

A software engineer utilizes scientific concepts in Software Development and Engineering to design, troubleshoot, and improve software applications. While it typically entails the management of coding projects, there is so much more to Software Engineering than just making codes for the software!

In fact, Software Engineering consists of all the phases of SDLC (software development lifecycle), from budget planning to analysis, project design, development, integration, software testing, quality, and retirement.

The essential tech skills in Software Engineering are:

While your Software Engineering undergraduate program gets your foot in the door, a Master’s in Software Engineering equips you with high-level software development and technical skills. A graduate program also develops project management and leadership skills in you!

Even better, earning a Ph.D. in the field qualifies you for senior-level and better-paying opportunities, such as researcher, data scientist, cybersecurity expert, and AI specialist. With a Ph.D., you can qualify for academic positions at higher education institutions.

Software Engineering is for you if:

Software Engineering is not a great fit if:

To keep your technical skills up-to-date, stay current on the recent trends and developments in Computer Programming and Software Engineering! Taking lifelong courses in graduate school or as a professional is a must in both career pathways.

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