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What is better, being a web developer or a software engineer?

I am a CS student. I am confused whether I should become a web developer or a software engineer. I’m passionate about web development. But my teachers and people around me belittle web development as if it’s nothing compared to software development. Also they think software development pays better than web development. I am confused. Should I continue with web development (front end + back end + cloud)? Are there good jobs for web developers?

90 Answers

Carlos Matias La Borde

Your professors are dicks to put you down for what you want to do. Salary wise, there’s buckets of money to be made on the web. Just look at this.

You can do a huge amount on the web. If you like web development, don’t just chuck it, keep learning it. Don’t let a couple profs who are probably biased by their own backgrounds hold you back.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, who says you need to choose? Why not do it all? Maybe you’ll specialize in the web, but there’s loads of cool stuff out there on mobile and desktop and command line. It’s fun because then you can do stuff almost anywhere. Just this year I’ve worked on a desktop app, a mobile app and a web app. All good stuff.

So basically keep going with the web, do everything you want to do with it, but bear in mind it’s nowhere near an either or situation and actually a lot of your web programming skills will transfer over, and desktop programming skills with help you with the web.

Patrick Minton

Um, the real answer is anyone who thinks “software engineer” and “web developer” are discreet and/or mutually exclusive things probably should not be teaching computer science classes.

Yes, there are some HTML monkeys who can’t write code to save their lives, but those people don’t get jobs in the new economy. Modern web development IS software engineering. The days when “web developers” were guys who just wrote some templates for WordPress are long, long gone.

I say this as a guy who started in C/C++, moved to Ruby, and now does jQuery. At my company, the interview questions we ask web developers are the same ones we ask Java backend devs.

You might be writing JS, but you still need to know things like Inheritance, polymorphism (and why the two are not the same thing), algorithm complexity, closures, garbage collection, etc etc etc.

Anyone who thinks that Web Development is just making pretty HTML mockups is out of the loop.

Victor Kane

I agree with Carlos Matias La Borde and have upvoted his answer. I just want to add two things:

1. When people start belittling any kind of work it only displays their own insecurities.
2. If you love Web Development and chase it as your dream, and want to do it well, you WILL learn software engineering. Today web development IS software engineering, whether back-end, front-end, middleware, DevOps, you will be working on a team hopefully using LEAN/Agile best practices, and by golly you WILL learn software engineering. Not the dusty academic BS kind of software engineering, but the real best practices oriented, tailored-to-your-project and team cross-collaboration kind.

So any professor or “friend” worth their salt would tell you: You want to do web development? Go for it! And I’ll teach you as much software engineering as possible so that you can do the best possible job at it!

Beware of false options created by losers!