Developers and Programmers - What's the difference?
If you’re hiring technical staff for your company, you may be asking, what is the difference between a developer, a programmer in an engineer?

Does it matter which term you use in your job posting?

Working in IT staffing, we get asked this question a lot.

Developers have a larger scope of responsibility

In a nutshell, the basic difference between a developer and a programmer is the scope of their work.

Developers are more involved with and have a greater understanding of the full project scope.

Programmers  are involved in a specific part of the project — coding.

Programmers are also known as engineers and coders

A programmer’s job includes writing code, testing, and fixing bugs.

A programmer converts a design into instructions that a computer can follow. These instructions are coded using one of many programming languages. They usually know several of these languages including Java, C#, PHP, Oracle, SQL Server, JavaScript, etc.

Specialized programmers focus on one type of programming. General programmers write code for many types of software.

Typically, programmers work in groups or teams under a senior programmer (team leader) that supervises their work.

Types of computer programmers

  • Application programmers: write programs for specific tasks eg. programs to track inventory at a factory
  • System programmers: write programs to maintain computer systems software eg. operating systems, database management systems
  • AI/Machine Learning Engineers
  • Game programmers
  • Mobile developers 

Developers (also referred to as software engineers)

Developers and Software Engineers are also programmers.

Their job responsibilities include writing code, but they also contribute to many other aspects of the project/software development process. Along with coding, a developers tasks often include:

  • software design
  • development
  • research
  • writing documentation and specs
  • maintenance
  • testing software
  • core implementation
  • analysis

Basically, a developer is a programmer first and foremost but with larger scope of responsibility for other aspects of the project.

Mobile developers are highly in demand to write applications for mobile phones, tablets and other devices. Mobile developers tend to specialize in Android (Java, Kotlin) or iOS platform (Objective-C, Swift). Programmers often transition into mobile app development because these roles demand a higher salary.

DevOps engineers are senior developers  or systems analysts who have skills in business, organization, configuration, automation, operations, and leadership.

Do I need to hire a Developer or a Programmer?

A programmer and a developer are both involved with coding, but their jobs are very different.

An amazing programmer doesn’t necessarily make an amazing developer because a developer has to juggle more parts of the project. Many developers start out as programmers and work their way into developer positions if they are interested in taking on greater responsibility.

The best developers are difficult to find and retain because they are in highly in demand.

Many Developer and Programmer job titles are interchangeable

Generally, when coming up with a  job title, terminology is not that important.

Software developer, software engineer, computer programmer and application developer can all refer to the same job.

Web developer, J2EE programmer, Java developer are fairly interchangeable job titles.

However, those in the industry can be particular about their personal job titles.

It’s best to refer to a potential new hire with the same job role that they use to refer to themselves on their resume or Linkedin profile.

Recruiting Tip

If you’re doing an online search for a developer or a programmer, you might find the tilde command we wrote about in a previous blog post quite useful for finding programmers and developers with similar job titles.

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