Software Developer vs. Full Stack Developer

Software is a lucrative and in-demand field. So it presents exciting chances for career growth and creativity. Two popular career paths in this field are software dev and full stack dev.

This comparison provides the main differences between these two jobs. Thus, it allows individuals interested in software to make informed decisions.

Let’s scroll down until the end!

What is a Software Developer?

Software devs build software that can run on many operating systems. These platforms include:

  • Windows
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Mobile platform

They are responsible for building software apps that help firms run smoothly.

Also, they must have analytical skills and attention to detail. Moreover, they must keep up with the latest technology trends to adapt quickly to changing needs.

What is a Full Stack Developer?

Full-stack dev is skilled in all aspects of software, including UI, back-end, and database. Besides, they deeply understand all web layers, from the UI to the database management.

They usually work with multiple technologies, such as HTML and CSS. So they are flexible and capable of handling complex projects. Besides, they must have a deep understanding of software practices.

Key Differences

Although both jobs are similar in some ways, there are notable differences in their duties and career path. Specifically, learning curves, salary, job prospects, and work environment for them can also vary.

Software and Full Stack Devs

1. Learning Curves

The learning path of these two jobs can vary depending on the background and experience. But some general differences in skills and knowledge needed for each role can affect the learning process.

Software devs focus on a specific area of software development. Specifically, they build front-end or back-end. Besides, they may specialize in tools or coding languages.

Thus, their learning curve involves mastering the technologies and techniques relevant to their duties. Also, they need to be familiar with software debugging and testing methods.

In contrast, the latter has a broader knowledge and skill base. They work with both front-end and back-end. So they must understand how the different components interact with each other.

Besides, they must know many coding languages, databases, and web servers. Hence, their learning curve includes understanding:

  • Server
  • Database
  • UI
  • Back-end

In short, the learning path of full-stack devs can be steeper than that of software devs. They must have more knowledge and skills. But this broader knowledge base can make them more versatile and valuable in the job market.

2. Duties

The main tasks of a software dev are:

  • Design software
  • Build software
  • Maintain software
  • Write code
  • Fixes
  • Test
  • Documentation

They may be involved in architecture design and integration with other systems.

In contrast, the latter’s duties include all aspects of the software process, from front-end to back-end. So they must have a deep understanding of the entire process, including:

  • UI design
  • Server-side logic
  • Database
  • Server configuration
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

Besides, they must be familiar with methodologies, debugging techniques, and testing frameworks.

In general, the duties of a full-stack dev are broader and more varied than those of software dev.

3. Career Paths

Software devs can work in a particular area of software. Then, they can take on more complex projects or move into leadership roles.

They can be team leaders or project managers. Meanwhile, some may work in a particular field, such as finance or healthcare.

On the other hand, the latter’s career paths are more diverse. They may choose a particular area, such as UI or database management. They can continue working as full-stack devs, taking on more complex projects and leadership roles.

Meanwhile, some people may choose to become architects. These people are responsible for designing and overseeing the growth of the entire system.

Both jobs can also work as freelancers. They can also start their own software company. Besides, they can continue their education, earning an advanced degree in CS or related fields.

4. Salaries

According to our research, the average base salary for a software dev in the US is around $126,146. This range falls between $71,000 and $190,000. Besides, this income can grow based on experience, with seniors earning over $150,000.

Meanwhile, the average base salary for a full-stack dev is slightly lower, around $85,000. Again, this salary can add up based on experience, with seniors earning over $160,000.

But incomes can vary by industry. Software devs in the financial and healthcare fields earn higher salaries than those in the retail or nonprofit sectors.

Similarly, full-stack devs working in technology or finance tend to earn higher incomes than those working in educational or nonprofit firms.

5. Job Outlooks

Job outlook

According to BLS, the employment of software devs will grow by 25% from 2021 to 2031. Besides, this growth is driven by the demand for apps across healthcare, finance, and entertainment.

Likewise, the job outlook for the latter is also high. Many companies look for experts with broad knowledge of multiple technology platforms.

Meanwhile, the latter is in the top 10 most in-demand jobs, with a 23% growth in job demand by 2031.

As technology continues to play a role in the business world, these two jobs will continue to be in high demand.

Specifically, companies are looking for experts who can create complex software apps. They need people who work with diverse technology pools and solve complex problems.

6. Work Environments

Software devs can work in a variety of environments, including:

  • Software Companies
  • Technology Companies
  • Internal IT Departments

Besides, they can work in groups or independently, depending on the project. Alternatively, they may have the option to work remotely. This trait has become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to more skills, the latter can work in more fields and companies. Specifically, they can work for:

  • Software Companies
  • Start-up Companies
  • E-commerce Firms
  • Any company needs software or web services.

Also, like software devs, they can work remotely. Both software and full-time developers can also work in fast-paced environments with tight deadlines and changing project needs.

Comparison Table

A comparison table below summarizes the distinctions between the two roles. By reviewing this table, you can better understand each job, helping you make a more informed decision about which path to pursue.

Software DeveloperFull-stack Developer
Learning CurvesMore gradualSteeper
DutiesBroader and more variedLess varied
Career pathsFewer optionsMore diverse
Job outlooks23% growth rate25% growth rate
Work environmentsLess diverseMore diverse

Final Verdict

In short, pursuing a career as a software developer or full stack developer depends on your goals and strengths.

Both jobs offer exciting chances for career growth, innovation, and problem-solving. But they need different skill sets and have their own set of challenges.

Overall, the demand for their skills and knowledge will continue to grow in the coming years. Hopefully, you make the right choice!