With computer programming having grown so quickly, many of the terms used to describe aspects of programming haven't had enough time to develop consistent meaning. Some of these terms end up getting used inaccurately or interchangeably, creating confusion in the process—particularly for those interested in starting a career in programming.
For example, consider web development vs. software development.
To the casual speaker, web development and software development can both mean the same thing. To them, both terms are basically just fancy ways of saying "coding" or "programmer," and even if one of the terms seems to refer specifically to the web, it's not really something to get worked up about. After all, software programs operate on the web, and many websites rely on web-based software. With this point of view, the differences aren't really that important.
However, for career-minded individuals, those differences are definitely worth noting.
Software development is focused on the programs (or software) used in computer systems. Software developers are responsible for conceptualizing, creating, programming, documenting, testing, improving and maintaining software, software components, and frameworks.
Software developers generally create programs and applications for stand-alone desktop and mobile platforms. The software they create allows average users to interact with computer tools for a range of activities and tasks.
To accomplish this, software developers work with many interrelated programming languages. Additionally, they need to have a clear understanding of not only development best practices, but also the theory behind the programming. As such, software development demands a broad range of learned skills. Software developers often work in an agile environment, also known as scrum. DevOps is also a culture, or practice, known to software developers. DevOps is a way to unify software development and software operation.
Just as software development is focused on creating computer programs using programming languages, web development also uses computer code to create user-facing software, in the form of websites. Web development vs mobile development have a lot of differences, mobile development also known as iOS development or Android development. Mobile development requires different coding languages than web developers.
Website developers are often more involved with the non-design aspects of web development, though this isn't always the case. Web developers use coding and writing markup to create interactive webpages. These pages can be as simple as online text files, or as complicated as ecommerce sites. No matter the end product, if users are accessing it in their web browser, then there's a good chance that it was built—at least partially—by a web developer.
Web development can be divided into two separate focuses, namely client side and server side. Client-side development is responsible for every element that users can directly access on the page, while server-side development supports the back-end systems that make up the digital infrastructure of the web page. The client-side systems allow the users to tell the webpage what they want it to do, and the server-side systems are responsible for fulfilling those requests. If you know back-end development and front-end development, you would be called a full-stack developer.
If you're interested in learning programming as a springboard to better job prospects, then you should recognize that even though software and web development both rely on code (making them two sides of similar, if not the same, coin) the processes of learning the skills associated with each can be quite different.
Understanding the difference between software engineer vs software developer can be confusing at first, but one differentiating factor between the two is that becoming a software developer generally requires somewhat extensive schooling. Most software developers need to complete at least a bachelor's degree, during which time they learn not only programming code, but also computer fundamentals, computer architecture, and data structure. If you want to be a software developer, you will likely need to do a software engineering externship or spend time volunteering development work to build experience before employers will be willing to consider hiring you on full time.
Compared to software development, the road to web development is much simpler. Yes, many web developers and software engineers decide to pursue a degree in computer science, but the reality is you can become a developer or software engineer without a degree to land a job. Alternative, less expensive and more time efficient routes to certification exist: coding bootcamp.
Web development coding bootcamps are immersive, intensive courses designed to give prospective programmers all the education they need to begin a career in web development. The average tuition for coding bootcamps is $11,400, and the courses can be completed in 14 weeks (on average). These courses are also designed to provide students with numerous coding projects for use in portfolios, and many bootcamps also offer job-placement services to ensure that every graduate makes the transition from learner to worker as easily as possible.
A recent study shows that 75% of employers see coding bootcamp graduates as just as capable and prepared to become high performers as those with college degrees. And given that the average base pay for web developers in the U.S. is $88,488 (as of the time of this writing), the potential return on investment in coding bootcamp is undeniable.
What's the difference between web development and software development? To most people, probably not much. But to those interested in how to get into software development or any kind of programming quickly, the differences are significant.
The world needs both software developers and web developers. So if you have the time and money to invest in becoming a software developer, then you can likely look forward to an exciting and rewarding career.
However, if you have the passion to learn and apply code, but you don't have the time or money to invest, then web development bootcamps may be right for you. Bootcamps can give you all of the skills and experience you need to start your website development career in web development in less time than it takes to complete a single college semester.