Network Engineer vs. Software Engineer: Which Is For You?

It’s arduous to determine a suitable profession for you between these two.

That’s why debates about them on sites like StackExchange, Reddit, or Quora, usually draw a lot of attention and interactions.

Joining discussions can be interesting, yet when evaluating each discipline to make the best decision for yourself, even reading much can make it bewildering.

Our guide will dig deep into the primary differences between the two career options and help you thoroughly weigh up each before deciding.


Software engineer (SE) is a domain applying engineering approaches and principles to software design and development. Some people use the titles software developer and engineer interchangeably.

Generally, SE specialists manage, develop, and maintain systems and applications during the software lifecycle and supervise the processes included.

Network engineer (NE) focuses on networking infrastructure and designing, deploying, maintaining, configuring, and monitoring computer networks.

Workers in this domain handle tasks that involve elements of programming, automation, cybersecurity, operations, and IT, such as:

  • Planning infrastructure budgets and strategy
  • Building computer-based networks that satisfy user requirements
  • Incorporating new technologies into current networks
  • Replacing or updating out-of-trend networks
  • Improving network security layers
  • Testing, enhancing, and monitoring network performance
  • Supervising capacity scaling and planing when networks grow
  • Fixing network outages and issues

Key Differences

Network EngineerSoftware Engineer
EducationA university degree or professional certificationsCandidate’s industry certifications or a bachelor’s degree
SkillsMonitoring unified communications, implementing automation, problem-solving, teamwork, etc.Coding, testing, programming, machine learning, data science, creative thinking, etc.
DutiesDeploying, planning, and designing network infrastructureDeveloping, testing, designing, maintaining, and deploying software systems.
Work EnvironmentIn-officeEither remotely or in-office


Most network engineers start their careers with a university degree that will implement their background education and help them impress recruiters.

They often specialize in computer engineering, computer science, or information systems. Some also acquire professional certifications relevant to monitoring networks.

At the same time, software engineers generally have to earn a bachelor’s degree in relevant topics. However, many companies focus on candidates’ industry experience, skills, and certifications in this field.

That means you can start your career as a software engineer without obtaining a bachelor’s or university degree.

Still, it’s advisable to acquire professional certifications, for example the Certified Internet Web Professional (CIW), will help you strengthen your skills before chasing an employment opportunity.

Are you willing to spend four years on a university degree?


Most employers expect their network engineer workers to show off professional skills, like monitoring unified communications, implementing automation, performing network maintenance, and maintaining cybersecurity.

These specialists also need excellent teamwork and problem-solving skills, which will help them tackle their duties more efficiently.

Meanwhile, software engineer workers use innovative thinking to design and build complex computer architecture. They use their experience and knowledge of machine learning and data science for most everyday tasks.

Sometimes, they need to apply their skills to coding, testing, and programming processes, which help tackle their duties effectively.


The two positions tackle different responsibilities.

A typical NW engineer is responsible for:

  • Building and designing network solutions
  • Improving and maintaining the sufficiency of networks
  • Configuring and installing equipment, like WAN or DNS accelerators, routers, or servers
  • Ensuring the efficiency and security of networks
  • Investigating and fixing issues
  • Configuring routers and firewalls
  • Updating the organization’s networks and equipment, like VoIP, LANs, or WLANs
  • Supporting end-users or on-site developers remotely
  • Working with service desk workers and project managers

On the other hand, a software engineer often handles the following jobs:

  • Researching and satisfying user and consumer requests
  • Testing and writing code using multiple coding languages, like C++, Java, or Python
  • Designing technical specs for applications
  • Incorporating SW platforms and systems
  • Maintaining and monitoring systems
  • Correcting SW defects
  • Working with SW developers, UX designers, marketing specialists, and project managers
  • Modifying existing applications based on client requirements


Like any other job, the salaries of these two positions vary depending heavily on the company’s location and worker’s expertise level.

According to our latest report, network engineer professionals’ salaries were between $62,702 and $162,790, averaging about $108,215.

A typical American software engineer specialist could earn $78,889-$208,605, averaging about $133,722.

Work Environment

Do you prefer on-site working or distance working?

Another considerable difference between the two professions is the work environment. Because network engineers have to build wireless and wired networks, they usually work in-office or on-site.

They may sometimes partner with other IT experts or work on large-scale projects with teams of engineers. In contrast, software engineer employees concentrate on designing systems and building applications.

Because they spend most of the day sitting in front of a computer, their duties can occur remotely or in-office. They can set their schedules if the employer allows them to work via online platforms.

Work Schedule

Engineers in these two fields have different work schedules, which is a famous fact you should know.

While SE specialists may be permitted to set their schedules, they usually work 40 hours per week full-time.

In contrast, NE experts typically have flexible work schedules, sometimes working extra hours besides regular shifts in-office.

Understandably, they’re usually the first contacts that clients look for when needing NW urgent maintenance.

Which Is For You?

Since it’s a subjective question, there’s no correct answer. Indeed, selecting the desired career path is a matter of determining what you enjoy working on and the education you can accomplish.

SE is an unpredictable domain where developers and engineers may tackle different projects and jobs requiring a broad range of skills.

Networking experts may utilize the same knowledge and technical skills for everyday work. But that doesn’t necessarily mean NE is not an emerging field.

Machine learning, cloud computing, and visualization constantly change networking, meaning there’s a lot to learn.

Remember that the bar will keep climbing higher in the two career pathways, and both professions play critical roles in their own fields.


As software muscles its way into every corner of IT, the lines between various IT professions seem to be gradually blurred. That makes the journey to figuring out, ‘network engineer or software engineer?’ even dimmer.

We believe our valuable information can help you have a clearer vision of what you will choose as your initial career. Good luck!