Developer vs. Programmer (Differences and Similarities)

Updated January 21, 2023

If you want to become a professional in coding and you're unsure about starting your career as a developer or a programmer, it's essential to know the similarities and differences between both career options. These career options are two distinct professions, yet they share similar responsibilities and expertise. Understanding the concept and characteristics of both professions can help you choose the one that suits your interests and career goals. In this article, we discuss the definitions of programmer and developer and compare developer vs. programmer remuneration, work environment, and responsibilities.

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Developer vs. programmer differences and similarities

Here are the primary similarities and differences between a developer vs. programmer, including their basic definitions:

Definition and scope of work

A developer is a project specialist who creates, designs, implements, manages, and reviews software programs. Developers write and revise codes and manage project software. Typically, a developer has a broader scope of work than a programmer. They work with and can delegate tasks to other coding professionals. Apart from coding, developers also perform these tasks:

  • Software design

  • Software testing

  • Research

  • Software maintenance

  • Program analysis

A programmer is a technical professional who focuses on writing, testing, and debugging the codes. They identify and correct coding errors so that everything operates smoothly. They also create and install updates for programs. Programmers usually have more technical knowledge of coding language than developers and typically have one or two specialized languages.


The national average salary for a developer is $71,470 per year. In contrast, the national average salary for a programmer is $45,476 per year. Developers typically occupy more advanced, specialized positions than programmers, though salaries vary based on factors such as level of education, location, and experience.

Job responsibilities

Programmers have more job responsibilities relating to coding. Because they specialize in specific coding technology, they may spend more time than developers on the backend of a software program. They use frameworks and libraries to develop and build codes and repeatedly test them. While developers often maintain a wider range of job responsibilities, they are involved in every aspect of creating a software program.

The same way the two professions have distinct responsibilities, they also share similar responsibilities. Both professions create and review codes to ensure that software programs run effectively.


Both developers and programmers can choose a career path within their field. But the specializations are different for each profession. Some specialization options for each role include:


If you're a programmer and you want to specialize in a specific subset, here are specializations to consider:

  • Application programmers. An application programmer develops software to achieve specific tasks. For example, a professional specializing in application programming can focus on writing the code of programs that allow users to view media.

  • System programmers. A system programmer specializes in maintaining computer system software. This professional writes codes and programs for the software to perform the expected processes.

Read more: What Does a System Programmer Do? (Plus Skills and Steps)


If you want to specialize in a specific subset as a developer, here are a few specialized careers you may like:

  • Mobile developer. A mobile developer specializes in creating and implementing codes and applications that are compatible with and can work only on mobile devices.

  • DevOps engineers. A DevOps engineer combines software development and IT operations, enabling collaboration between software development teams and maintenance teams.

Read more: Top 15 Careers in Programming (With Salaries and Job Duties)


Both programmers and developers work with coding languages. They both know how to write, test, and debug codes in different programs. But a programmer requires a greater knowledge of the technical aspects of programming languages than developers. Programmers are critical thinkers, great communicators, and flexible professionals.

Usually, developers manage the overall process of software development. They possess skills to help them interact with other professionals when overseeing projects. Some of the skills they frequently use include problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, and time management.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Work environment

The work environments of programmers and developers are similar, though It's more likely for programmers to work remotely because all they need is the coding instructions for them to perform their assignment. Developers are required to collaborate and monitor every aspect of the process, so it's more common for developers to work on-site.

Many industries seek the services of developers and programmers, and some of these industries include:

  • Business institutions and the financial service industry

  • Educational sector

  • Government and social services

  • Healthcare

  • Information technology and artificial intelligence

  • Agricultural sector


When there's a project to execute, programmers, developers, and other professionals work as a team to execute the project. Sometimes, programmers can independently complete their coding assignments after discussing with the team to resolve coding issues. A developer acts as the project manager who supervises the different units' activities, working towards creating a software program or package and may collaborate with other departments like marketing or sales.

Knowledge of the industry

Developers usually have more knowledge of the industry than programmers. This is because programmers focus solely on their specialized coding technology. They only examine the coding instructions given to them and strictly perform their assigned task without considering the user's interaction and experience. Before they begin any task or project, developers usually do enough research regarding the industry they're working for.

Related: Understanding the Difference Between Coding vs. Programming

How to become a programmer

If you want to pursue a career as a programmer, here are a few steps you can follow:

1. Pursue a degree

Your first step is to pursue a degree in a course like computer science if you're considering being a programmer. This degree is usually the minimum requirement for experts in this field, since it's a highly technical profession.

2. Select your focus

There are plenty of focus points to choose from while pursuing your degree. You can choose which technology to specialize in, for example, or you can decide to become a system or application programmer.

3. Continue learning

The technology industry is constantly developing, so it's important for you to stay updated. To remain competitive in the industry, you can participate in training to increase your competency. You can get increased pay when you're highly competent in existing programming languages and knowledgeable about new ones.

Read more: How to Start a Computer Engineering Career in 5 Steps

How to become a developer

If you want to become a developer, here are a few steps you can follow:

1. Earn a degree

The first step to take if you desire to be a developer is to earn a qualification in computer science with a focus on software development. Completing such a degree can be important in demonstrating yourself as a viable candidate for a job as a developer, since it confirms your experience and education.

2. Secure an internship

While studying to complete your degree, you can secure placement in an internship program. This allows you to get guidance from senior developers. You can also get the right experience to help you perform efficiently.

3. Apply for jobs

Apply for job positions either as a freelancer if you have the means to start out as one, or as an employee if you desire more experience. Working as a developer can help you realize different sides of development. You get to learn the business side, and you can also learn new aspects of development on the job.

Jobs you can do as a programmer

Below are other careers you can pursue as a programmer:

1. Game designer

National average salary: $70,339 per year

Primary duties: A game designer writes and reviews codes for web, consoles, and other types of video games. This professional specializes in the gaming industry and develops codes that can help bring video games to life for users to play. They're typically in charge of managing project teams.

2. Machine learning engineers

National average salary: $100,602 per year

Primary duties: This professional writes codes for programs developed to improve the efficiency of tasks previously performed by humans. For example, machine learning engineers may help develop a conversational marketing bot that interacts with customers and clients. They also research, transform, and convert data science prototypes.

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Jobs you can do as a developer

Below are other specializations you can pursue as a developer:

1. Full-stack developer

National average salary: $84,043 per year

Primary duties: A full-stack developer is a professional who knows and understands how to create and manage the front end and back end of software development. This professional can help design and develop the software and test and debug the software so that it can run smoothly. They also manage databases and servers.

2. UI/UX designer

National average salary: $59,261 per year

Primary duties: User interface or user experience designers focus on how customers or users interact with the program. They ensure that users easily understand the layout of the software program and can interact with the design. They aim to deliver a unique user experience on various programs.

3. Website developer

National average salary: $51,840 per year

Primary duties: A website developer is a professional who builds websites that meet the customer's and end-user's needs. They create and design interactive and responsive websites for their clients. They also work with QA teams to test products and make the required adjustments.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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