Career Insights

10 Different Types of Software Engineers: A comprehensive guide

'Software engineer' is catch all phrase for several career paths in tech that work with software. However, taking a closer look reveals that 'software engineer' doesn't begin to accurately describe the in and outs of the many software engineer roles available.

In this article, we cover 10 different types of software engineers, the skills and tools they need, and an average salary for the position. On top of that, we also discuss what makes a person a good fit for each career.

1. Backend Engineer

Description

Backend software engineers are a type of software engineers that focus on building the pieces that power a website or mobile app. Think of the backend as the website's backbone: it is where the data is stored and most of the business logic is executed. It's where everything comes together.

For example if you are using a task management app, the app itself (frontend) is responsible for displaying the data and providing functionality to edit the data – but what data you are allowed to edit, and how it gets stored, is handled by the backend and built by backend software engineers.

Is backend software engineering a good fit for you?

Considering becoming a backend software engineer? This position is a great fit for someone that's business logic oriented. Business logic is focused on executing the real-world business needs of the application. Backend engineers are less interested in visual creativity and user interaction, instead choosing to work behind the scenes on application structure.

Skills

  • Experience with coding languages such as PHP, Java, Python, or Ruby
  • Familiarity with server-side frameworks like Laravel, Express.js, or Django, Ruby On Rails, Spring, Flask, and ASP.NET
  • Good grasp of MySQL, MongoDB, or Cassandra
  • Ability to write efficient and scalable code
  • Familiarity with cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, or Heroku
  • Capacity to meet with clients and stakeholders to understand needs, vision, and goals

Tools

  • Text editors and IDEs such as Sublime Text, Atom, JetBrains, or VS Code
  • Version control tools such as Git or SVN - Database management tools such as phpMyAdmin or MongoDB Compass
  • Application programming interfaces (APIs)

Median Salary: $135,226

2. Frontend Engineer

Description

A frontend developers is a software developer that builds the visual interface you interact with. Anything you interact with in your browser is programmed by a frontend engineer. Frontend software development takes different components of a website, like text, design, photos, etc., and assemble them into one cohesive site that users can easily navigate.

Frontend is really short for "Frontend Web Developer", because developers who build mobile apps are typically called a Mobile Developers – even though in both cases they are both building an application that "sits in front" of a backend application.

Is frontend engineering a good fit for you?

Frontend software engineering requires creativity and a comfortability working with user interface and user experience design. If you enjoy building out a visually engaging and interactive frontend, this type of engineering may be a great fit for you.

Frontend software engineers are more user-focused than their backend counterparts, so instead of business logic, they need to be presentation logic oriented. Presentation logic is centered around how business objectives are shown (presented) to a user. It's how a user interacts with computer programs and applications. These includes things like pop-ups, drop downs, and screen flow.

As a frontend developer, you are responsible for everything that the user sees and interacts with on a website or mobile app.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Ability to code responsive designs that work across various devices and screen sizes
  • Familiarity with frontend frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue.js
  • CSS pre-processors such as Sass or Less
  • Good understanding of UX/UI design principles

Tools

  • Text editors and IDEs such as Sublime Text, Atom, WebStorm, or VS Code
  • Code debuggers such as Chrome Developer Tools or Firefox Developer Tools
  • Version control tools such as Git or SVN

Median Salary: $117,598

3. Full Stack Engineer

Description

Frontend + Backend = Full Stack. Full stack software engineers are engineers that work across the full "stack" (front and backend) of dev technology. Often considered web generalists, these software developers wear many hats and can quickly adapt to different demands of web development, whether that be user-facing code, database queries, or anything in between. Full stack developers may not always have as much in-depth knowledge as their one-sided counterparts, but their ability to work on both sides of the application allow them to complete entire application features in many cases completely on their own.

Is full stack software engineering a good fit for you?

Full stack software development is great career choice for those that are able to flow from backend to frontend without batting an eye. It requires adaptability and a thorough understanding of both business and presentation logic. Full stack developers are creative and user-oriented while also enjoying building data structures and designing the site's backend architecture. Versatility with different types of software is their biggest asset.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Familiarity with frontend frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue.js
  • CSS pre-processors such as Sass or Less
  • Strong knowledge of programming languages such as PHP, Java, Python, or Ruby
  • Familiarity with server-side frameworks such as Laravel, Express.js, or Django
  • Good understanding of MySQL, MongoDB, or Cassandra
  • Ability to write efficient and scalable code
  • Good understanding of UX/UI design principles

Tools

  • Text editors & IDEs such as Sublime Text, Atom, Rubymine, or VS Code
  • Version control tools such as Git or SVN
  • Database management tools such as phpMyAdmin or MongoDB Compass

Median Salary: $119,267

Interested in becoming a full stack software engineer? Check out Codewars Education Partners.

4. Web3 Engineer

Description

Web3 engineers differ from typical software engineers because they work with Web3 technologies. While Web3 developers incorporate web dev concepts, there's a foundational difference at play.

Web developers work with what's known as Web 2.0, and Web 2.0 sites operate with a centralized database. In contrast, Web3 software developers work with what's know as Web3, the newest iteration of the internet popularized for being self-governed and totally transparent. Web3 is decentralized, meaning that there is no central database controller by a single entity. Instead, it operates on a network of computer systems (nodes), and stores its data on a visible ledger called a blockchain. Web3 devs develop the blockchain, decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts that power Web3.

Is Web3 engineering a good fit for you?

Web3 software engineering is a good fit for developers that are passionate about exploring the future of tech. Web3 is considered by some to be the next frontier, so a Web3 developer should be the type of person passionate about staying on top of new trends -- wether that's web development, crypto, or anything in between. It's not mandatory for Web3 developers to be crypto-enthusiasts, but it is essential that a Web3 engineer fully understands DeFi ideology and works within it.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of coding languages such as Solidity, JavaScript, or TypeScript
  • Familiarity with blockchain platforms such as Ethereum, EOSIO, or Hyperledger
  • Good understanding of cryptography principles
  • Ability to write efficient and secure code
  • MetaMask and web3.js.
  • IPFS, Filecoin, Oracles

Tools

  • Text editors such as Sublime Text or Visual Studio Code
  • Blockchain testnets such as Rinkeby or Ropsten
  • Wallet providers such as MetaMask or Trust Wallet
  • Decentralized exchanges and protocols such as Uniswap or 0x

Median Salary: $100,000 - $150,000

5. Compiler Engineer

Description

A compiler engineer is a software engineer that specializes in compilers. Compilers are programs that translate high-level programming languages, for example, Java, into machine-readable code for computer architectures. Check out -dealloc's blog post for projects to help you learn how to become a compiler engineer.

Is compiler engineering a good fit for you?

If compiler engineering sounds interesting to you, be prepared to work in a niche position (compilers). To be a compiler engineer, you need to be extremely detail oriented because of the high standard of performance and correctness. In many ways, compilers are software engineers that work closely with hardware engineers, so a familiarity with hardware is beneficial.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of programming languages such as C, C++, or Java
  • Familiarity with compiler development tools such as LLVM or GCC
  • Good understanding of computer architecture and assembly language
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code
  • Familiarity with compiler theory concepts such as lexical analysis,

Tools

  • Text editors such as Sublime Text or Atom
  • Code debuggers such as GDB or Valgrind
  • Compiler development tools such as LLVM or GCC

Median Salary: $163,775

6. Embedded System Engineer

Description

You can think of an embedded system software engineer as a combination of a general software engineer and an electrical engineer. Embedded system engineers need to have an extensive knowledge of how hardware and software interact with each other.

To name a few, here are examples of devices that embedded system engineers work on:

  • Appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, and washing machines
  • Digital watches
  • Calculators
  • Cruise control
  • Sensors
  • Calculators
  • Smart TVs

Really, the list is only limited by your imagination.

Is embedded systems engineering a good fit for you?

Embedded systems engineering is a great match for software engineers that are analytically minded and enjoy working closely with hardware and hardware engineers. Different than its other software engineering counterparts, embedded systems engineers need the ability to be cognizant of safety implications for users, since they often work with systems for cars, airplanes, and other heavy machinery. Because of their close relationship with hardware engineering, some technical expertise is expected.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of programming languages such as C, C++, or Java
  • Familiarity with embedded development tools such as IAR Embedded Workbench or Keil MDK
  • Good understanding of computer architecture and assembly language
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code

Tools

  • Text editors such as Sublime Text or Atom
  • Code debuggers such as GDB or JTAG
  • Embedded development tools such as IAR Embedded Workbench or Keil MDK - Emulators and simulators such as QEMU or Simulink

Median Salary: $124,000

7. Operations System Engineer

Description

An operations system software engineer requires a broader scope of expertise and is often described as "transdisciplinary". Operations system engineers are responsible for managing a company or organization's software systems. Planning out system implementations, integrations, maintenance, trouble shooting offering software solutions, and retirement are key components to an operation systems engineer's duties. This is done through extensive research, discussing with other software engineers within the company, understanding company needs, and meeting with stakeholders.

Is operations systems engineering a good fit for you?

Operations systems software developers need to be troubleshooters an analytic minds. Operations systems engineers are natural researchers and need to deeply understand what different systems and softwares will meet their company's needs. Another must-have trait of an operations system engineer is supportiveness. Different employees from a wide range of departments will need to work with the software you handpicked. This means you need to be able to teach others how to use softwares and be available to answer questions and solve problems.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of languages like C or Assembly
  • Familiarity with Linux or Unix Internals
  • Good understanding of computer architecture
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code

Tools

  • Text editors such as Vim or Emacs
  • Code debuggers such as GDB or strace
  • Operating systems development tools such as Linux Kernel Debugger (LKD) or FreeBSD Ports Collection

Median Salary: $121,966

8. Data Scientist

Description

Data scientists are sense makers. They use analytics and skepticism to work with large amounts of structured and unstructured data, determining patterns and casting forecasts. Data Scientists also developer software programs to help analyze information. Once a data scientist identifies trends in the data set, they then need to communicate the trends into actionable solutions for their team or company.

Is data science engineering a good fit for you?

Data scientists are highly analytical and like to work with data and data systems. When pursuing a career in data science, you're required to have a deep understanding of math and interpreting messy data. Math combined with analytics are at the heart of what data scientists do on a daily basis.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of statistical analysis and machine learning
  • Familiarity with data science tools such as R or Python
  • Good understanding of database systems such as MySQL, MongoDB, or Cassandra
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code

Tools

  • Data science tools such as R or Python
  • Database management tools such as phpMyAdmin or MongoDB Compass - Statistical analysis tools such as SPSS or SAS

Median Salary: $120,256

9. Artificial Intelligence Engineer

While still a fairly new, artificial intelligence engineering is taking the software engineer field by storm as demand for AI increases. Artificial intelligence engineers work with machine learning tools to build models that fuel AI-based applications. This involves finding data from differing sources and using this data to create and test machine learning models, then convert these models into an API, so they're able to carry out AI applications. Overall, their work increases efficiency, productivity, and cuts costs of organizations by recreating the processes of a human brain.

Is artificial intelligence engineering a good fit for you?

Similarly to data scientists, to be an AI software engineer, you need a highly analytical mind and a proficiency in math. AI engineers are growing in demand because of how cost-oriented the position is. Companies utilize AI to reduce cost, so to be a successful artificial intelligence engineer, understanding and business needs is a must. Lastly, lowering cost essentially means increasing efficiency. AI engineers need to be efficient to be effective.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of artificial intelligence algorithms and techniques
  • Familiarity with artificial intelligence development tools such as TensorFlow or PyTorch
  • Good understanding of computer architecture and assembly language
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code

Tools

  • Artificial intelligence development tools such as TensorFlow or PyTorch
  • Neural network simulators such as Nengo or Spaun

Salary: $135,000

10. Mobile Applications Developers

Look at your cell phone and smart devices. Their software was designed, developed, and implemented by a mobile developer! Mobile developers often specialize in particular operating systems -- Android or iOS are two household examples. Mobile developers work hard to keep up with and anticipate user needs and publish updates. They're involved in activities like code evaluation, troubleshooting, and solution finding.

Is mobile engineering a good fit for you?

Mobile developers should be highly interested in streamlined, simple user interface experiences. Part of this software development role is the ability to understand what users and clients need from a mobile application, and turning this feedback into reality. This is another career that requires high levels of creativity.

Skills

  • Strong knowledge of languages like as Objective-C or Swift
  • Familiarity with mobile development tools such as Xcode or Android Studio
  • Good understanding of mobile devices and operating systems
  • Ability to write efficient and optimized code

Tools

  • Mobile development tools such as Xcode or Android Studio
  • Emulators and simulators such as iOS Simulator or Genymotion
  • Debugging tools such as Charles Proxy or Fiddler"s Web Debugger"

Median Salary: $110,870

Conclusion

The term 'software engineer' provides a general idea of what type of software engineering job a person has, but when it comes down to truly understanding a specific position, there's much more than meets the eye. All types of software engineering jobs require a different set of skills and strengths, along with unique interests that aid in a natural predilection for career paths. When choosing between software engineer roles, consider your person skills and interests first.

Don't forget! One of the first steps of beginning a new career in software engineering is to put together a killer portfolio.

Related Kata

Feeling inspired to start coding? Check out some kata that have been hand selected based on this article.

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