Full-Stack Developer VS Software Engineer: Which One to Choose?

Full-stack vs. software engineer—which is better? Even though it’s a simple question, you should know that the answer may vary. Like most companies, you might wonder which one you should hire. Depending on the project, you may need to hire both full-stack developers and software engineers.

This question may have crossed your mind if your business has ever faced a scaling challenge. But don’t worry — the right choice is within reach. This article will explore both paths, their work, and how they differ. We will also discuss which one is right for your company and project.

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Let’s dig in!

What is a full-stack developer?

A full-stack developer is a programmer who is proficient in both front-end and back-end technologies. Full-stack developers are versatile and can work on all stack layers, including front-end design, back-end programming, and server architecture. They also have experience with languages such as HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript, PHP, Python, or Ruby on Rails (RoR). It allows them to build applications in any language that they choose.

What does a full-stack developer do?

A full-stack developer works across all parts of the software development process—from planning the project to writing code to testing and releasing it. Full-stack developers are responsible for ensuring that their work meets users’ needs.

Here are some primary responsibilities:

Planning: Full-stack developers need to plan a project before they start working on it. They need to know what kind of software they need to build and how potential customers or stakeholders will use it, which includes determining specific features and how they will work together as part of an overall solution.

Building: Full-stack developers typically build entire applications from scratch, not just pieces of them. They may also write code for other application parts (such as database queries) or create new APIs for other developers working on different tasks within the application.

Testing: Full-stack developers test their code by running automated tests before release to fix bugs. It is done before deployment into the production environment to avoid severe problems down the road.

Full-stack developer skills

Here are some must-have skills for any full-stack developer working in the broader world of digital product development.

Front-end skills: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery are the building blocks of front-end development. You need to check if the developer has proficiency in these languages to build responsive interfaces that look good on any device. Next up are React, AngularJS, and VueJS. Angular is another client-side framework that allows you to write well-organized code that works with other frameworks such as jQuery or VueJS

Back-end skills: These include all the systems, architecture, APIs, and data that make a website or app run. These skills are used for application development, such as building e-commerce sites like Amazon or social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Full-stack developers must be familiar with databases like MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, etc., and back-end programming languages like Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, and others.

UX/UI: UX/UI skills are critical for a full-stack developer. They are essential for building a great product as well as being able to create a successful career in the full-stack domain. UI/UX skills create visually appealing user interfaces and components using elements such as color schemes, fonts, and images.

Source control

  • Commit to a repository.
  • Pull changes from the repository.
  • Push changes to the repository.

Merging conflicts can make or break your day, so you need to understand how they work and how you can work around them if needed.

What is a software engineer?

A software engineer is a professional who designs, develops, tests, and maintains computer software. At universities and companies, software engineers work in many fields, including information technology (IT), electrical engineering, and computer science (EECS). They use their knowledge of computers to solve problems that would be difficult or impossible for other types of engineers or programmers to tackle alone. The job description for most software engineers includes planning, developing new applications, and customizing existing ones.

What does a software engineer do?

The responsibilities of a software engineer vary from company to company, but the following is a list of five typical responsibilities throughout the industry.

  • Identifying requirements and creating documentation
  • Executing a system’s architecture and design
  • Designing and coding software
  • Performing quality assurance tests
  • Managing the development process.

Software engineer skills

The following skills are must-haves for a skilled software engineer.

  • Proficiency with programming languages such as HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and PHP, among others.
  • Expertise in object-oriented programming
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Experience with computer architecture and operating systems
  • Ability to write efficient, bug-free code and capable of scaling the application for large numbers of users
  • Cybersecurity

Full-stack developer vs software engineer: Differences

Full-stack developers and software engineers are two distinct professionals. They have completely different skills and backgrounds that can make them valuable assets for your company. However, understanding the key differences between them can help you figure out which one is a better fit for your project.

ParameterFull-stack developersSoftware engineers
SkillsFull-stack developers can work with multiple technologies to build an application from scratch, including front-end and back-end.Software engineers are skilled in specific programming languages.
VersatilityFull-stack developers are more versatile as they can work on multiple spectrums.Software engineers have a specific set of knowledge, so they can only work on one end of the spectrum.
ProficiencyFull-stack developers are known for their proficiency across different computer programming and software development layers. They are adept in various programming languages, frameworks, and tools.On the other hand, software engineers focus on writing code that solves particular problems or creates specific solutions to business problems by implementing algorithms based on business requirements.
SpecializationFull-stack developers can work with multiple technologies. That’s why they need to learn how different parts fit together. So they are rarely limited by any single specialization.Software engineers are more specialized as they work with specific technologies.
CollaborationFull-stack developers must be cross-functional as they work on the front-end and back-end of an application that requires more collaboration with other teams.Software engineers can work more independently in comparison to full-stack developers.

Full-stack developer vs. software engineer: Similarities

Full-stack developers and software engineers are two different kinds of professionals, but they’re both critical to the success of any business. Here’s what you need to know about the similarities between them.

  • Full-stack developers and software engineers must broadly grasp different tech stacks in all their variations.
  • Full-stack developers and software engineers are responsible for creating code that will run on the server and the client sides, meaning they need to know how to program in several different languages. (or platforms)
  • They provide the technical foundation of a product to make it more robust and scalable.
  • Both full-stack developers and software engineers can be found at startups or large companies; both jobs require creativity and flexibility!
  • Both full-stack developers and software engineers love solving problems using technology—they do it differently!

Full-stack developer vs. software engineer: Which one should you hire?

Choosing between a full-stack developer and a software engineer can be challenging. However, given that we have highlighted the differences and similarities, we hope we have eased your decision-making process. Remember that both are exceptionally skilled and can help scale your business. There’s a huge demand for both full-stack developers and software engineers.

You should evaluate your requirements to choose which one of the two will fit your project. Who suits your project more? A full-stack developer will build sturdy web apps end-to-end, whereas a software engineer will work on complex programs.

While a full-stack developer can build robust web apps from scratch, a software engineer can build complex programs. Choose according to your requirements and key objectives.


We can conclude that both roles have their advantages and limitations. Both developers need to stay updated with the latest trends and evolution in the software industry. But before you hire, you must assess your project requirements. If your project needs flexibility and variety, go with a full-stack developer; on the other hand, hire a software engineer if it requires expertise or focuses on a specific domain.

Author bio: Aditya is a content writer with 4+ years of experience writing for various industries, including Marketing, SaaS, B2B, IT, and Edtech. You can almost always find him watching anime or playing games when he’s not writing.

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