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Different kinds of Software Developers Explained

The world of software development is constantly changing. Since the inception of modern computer programming, software development has grown considerably. The innovation of the industry is constant. New technologies, programming languages, and organizations emerge every few months.

With so much change, it can be a challenge to understand the terminology of the industry, especially when these terms are often used interchangeably - even if they shouldn’t be. In this article, we will go over the 3 most common types of web developers, and some of required skills and technologies. We will also go over the difference between a software developer and a software engineer.

What is a Web Developer

A web developer - simply put - is someone that takes a web design and turns it into a website. They are programmers that specialize in the development of websites and applications related to the internet. This requires an intricate knowledge of the various programming languages that translate what the developer wants into something that a computer can understand.

This is not to be confused with a web designer, who only deals in the appearance of a website or application, although many developers have design skills as well.

Web developer is a very general term. Making a fully functional, professional website is a complicated process, and there are different types of developers that tackle the various aspects of that process. The 3 main types of web developers are front-end, back-end, and full stack.

Front End Developer

Front-end development involves programming the visual aspect of a website or application, including the interface, layout, and aesthetics. It is the job of a front-end developer to bring the web design to life, and this includes the user interface and functionality. For this reason, it is important for a front-end developer to understand basic design, UI, and UX principles.

There are 3 languages that any decent front-end developer must be fluent in - HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The technical skills listed above are merely a starting point. Front-end developers should also be familiar with frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, AngularJS, which help speed up development. Libraries like jQuery help simplify JavaScript with more features for less writing. Ajax allows for JavaScript to dynamically load data without refreshing the entire web page. LESS and Sass both make CSS more maintainable.

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Back End Developer

On the other hand, anything to do with a websites server or database will involve back-end development. This is usually much more complex than front-end systems, and requires a greater degree of knowledge.

Any time you wish to log in or register to a website, that information must be passed to a server, and must be stored in a database. Any website with user information (such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) stores that data in some kind of database. The same is often true of websites with many articles or repeated content. All this is made possible by back-end developers.

In order for the application or website to communicate with the server, a back-end developer must use server-side programming languages such as PHP, Python, Java, C, C++, or Ruby. SQL is often used to manage and manipulate databases.

Simply knowing these programming languages is not enough however. Back-end developers often deal with sensitive information, (like passwords, emails, credit card numbers, etc.) so security is of great importance. And clean, optimized code is crucial for back-end development, as the web page will sometimes communicate back and forth with the server even after the page has loaded.

Full Stack Developer

While a front-end developer is responsible for the client side, and a back-end developer must deal with the server-side programming, a full stack developer understands both processes. This means that a full stack developer has the ability to build an entire, fully functional website or application.

Smaller websites have a limited budget, and it will often fall to a single developer to build out the site. Larger companies that employ many developers will need someone who understands the full process to oversee each project. And it helps to understand how the front and back end interact with each other. A front-end developer that understands how servers operate will write better front-end code, and vice-versa.

For these reasons, a full stack developer is much more employable than a developer that specializes in only one aspect of web development.

Software Developer vs Web Developer

Web development is often grouped into software development, but it isn’t necessarily the same thing. A web developer works specifically on websites and web applications. Software developers cover a wide range of roles and skills, including applications that would run on your computer, sometimes separate from the internet.

Software developers may use a wider range of programming languages, including Python, C, C++, Ruby, and Java.

3 Software Developer Levels

There are three different levels of software developers: Junior Software Developer, Intermediate Software Developer, as well as a Senior Software Developer. The main two differences between each software developer roles are wage difference and the levels of responsibility.

Junior Software Developer Job Description

The entry level that most software developers start at is the Junior Software Developer. In this case, the majority of your time you will be spent picking up smaller tasks. You report directly to your senior software developer.

Juniors are normally not in control of their work as they’re usually told what is required, what algorithm to use and how the data structures should be set out.

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Junior Software Developer Salary

With every software developer the salary will vary. It really depends on where your located, your experience and what company you’re working for.

For instance, the average Junior Software Developer salary in Toronto, Canada can range roughly from $45 000 to $55 000, while the average Junior Software Developer salary in Vancouver, Canada ranges from $50 000 to $60 000.

Intermediate Software Developer Job Description

Unlike a Junior Software Developer, Intermediate Software Developers are expected to have more knowledge in programming, and as such are expected to work independently with minimal supervision. It mostly comes down to a matter of experience.

In most cases in this role you are able to run small projects on your own. This involves you being able to design documentation and lead to final delivery of this project.

A more experienced Intermediate Software Developer can lead a more significant project on their own. A project of this level that requires a great deal of product complexity to resolve.

Intermediate Software Developer Job Salary

The Intermediate Software Developer salary varies based on location and experience. In a bigger city you’re looking at making much more than in a less populated city. Also the salary will greatly depend on the experience you bring to the table.

The average Intermediate Software Developer salary in Toronto, Canada can range roughly from $67 500 to $79 500.

The average Intermediate Software Developer salary in Vancouver, Canada can range roughly from $67 250 to $81 500.

What is a Senior Software Developer Job Description

Senior Software Developers have a great amount of work on their plate. They not only have to help and guide Junior and Intermediate Software Developers, they also have to develop software solutions.

These software solutions are designed based on user needs, system flow, and data usage. These solutions are all created using the software development lifecycle. Starting by determining the feasibility of the project. Designing and developing documentation follows the feasibility decision. Prepare team by installing solutions for the project based on system specifications, and programming standards.

Senior Software Developer Job Salary

Senior Software Developer salaries range based on location, experience, company and the size of the team. The larger the team, the greater the salary will be as you have more developers to oversee.

For instance, the average Senior Software Developer salary in Toronto, Canada can range roughly from $105 500 to $126 430.

This varies by location because the average Senior Software Developer salary in Vancouver, Canada ranges from $88 392 to $97 668.

How long does it take to become a Senior Software Developer?

We all want the higher wage, but how long does it really take for a Junior or an Intermediate Software Developer to become a Senior Software Developer?

A Junior needs 1-2 years to become an Intermediate Software Developer and 5 years to become a Senior Software Developer. However, this is more of a guideline than set in stone.

The reason for this is that most Software Developers take on side-projects on top of their 9-5 jobs that greatly improve their skills. So if you’re one to pick up side-projects then chances are you can become a senior leveled developer in less than 5 years.

It’s not necessarily about the time as much as it is the experience.

Software Engineer

The term software developer and software engineer are often used interchangeably, however, there is a distinct difference in responsibilities and qualifications for each role. Software engineering involves incorporating engineering principles to software development.

Software engineers are even more advanced than software developers. They require a higher degree of education, with an full understanding of computer science in addition to programming. They go beyond simple coding to make the overall product more efficient and counter any issues that may arise during the development process.

A software engineer needs to understand more than just programming or coding. They need to consider the architecture of the system, they need to test and provide support, deal with optimization for all operating systems. They are sometimes involved with the business side of building applications.


In summary, a web developer is someone that builds websites. A front-end developer focuses on the client side, while back-end developers program the server side. Full stack developers are well versed in all aspects of web development.

Software engineering and software development are similar, but software engineering is more advanced, They incorporate principles and methodologies into the software development process.

If you would like to become a web developer, you should first choose a specialization and learn the relevant languages. There are a wide variety of resources online, although a college/university degree is always helpful.