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What are the key differences between software engineers and programmers?

I am a software company owner for 8 years now. After years of operation I figured out that all the while what I was doing was a software engineer's job. There are several questions in my mind that I want to ask from you guys. I know that answers will be subjective.

As a software engineer, do you really need to be a seasoned programmer? Is it true that software engineers don't code but just make diagrams, functional specs. and othe related documents? I also noticed that there are no SE standards or board exams to pass and its really a dynamic and situational job.

So basically I can just proclaim myself as a software engineer based on experience and product?

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marked as duplicate by Yannis Rizos Nov 6 '12 at 16:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
This is probably going to be closed as it's not really a constructive question nor do you have a question (see the FAQ). Two thoughts though, first, I don't want people writing diagrams or specs who don't have a good understanding of how coding works. This is a disaster waiting and likely currently happening. Second, this seems applicable - kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer –  enderland Nov 6 '12 at 15:26
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Please don't post exactly the same question on multiple sites. –  Yannis Rizos Nov 6 '12 at 15:32
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I also dont agree that this is a duplicate. I think the OP is asking if he can claim the title of Software Engineer on a resume even tho his company never actually gave him that title. This is an issue because if the company he's interviewing with does a follow up with his old employer, there may be a discrepancy as to what his/her title was. –  David Peterman Nov 6 '12 at 15:37
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Boxing coaches were boxers in their youth an can indeed box. You can't coach a boxer if you are not a veteran boxer yourself. Only a seasoned programmer can know the programming craft enough to design, architecture, estimate, etc. –  user61852 Nov 6 '12 at 15:38
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@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Its edited but not shown in the revision history because the edit occurred right before migration. The original version of the question can be viewed here if you have 10k rep: Does what I'm doing make me a software engineer?. I originally edited this question for the Workplace, so was trying to focus on if you could claim a job title that reflected your responsibilities, but wasn't your actual title. –  Rachel Nov 6 '12 at 15:45

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As a software engineer, do you really need to be a seasoned programmer?

The title Software Engineer is used in many places to mean "programmer." There's more to software engineering than just programming: software engineering is about the process of creating software, and that includes programming but isn't limited to just programming. Software engineering considers the processes you create to develop requirements, detect and eliminate defects, produce updates, etc.

Is it true that software engineers don't code but just make diagrams, functional specs. and othe related documents?

No. At least, I've never met a software engineer who didn't write code. What you're describing sounds more like the role of a business analyst, whose job it is to look at a problem from a business perspective and figure out how to build a system that (both hardware and software) that addresses the businesses needs.

I also noticed that there are no SE standards or board exams to pass and its really a dynamic and situational job.

That's true in many places, but it may be changing. See: NCEES introduces PE exam for software engineering. According to Wikipedia, if you want to call yourself a software engineer in some places you need a license or certification.

So basically I can just proclaim myself as a software engineer based on experience and product?

Yes, but you can also proclaim yourself King of the World if you want. At some point, you have to back it up or people will eventually get the idea that you don't know what you're talking about.

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In some places (Canada, for example), the title "engineer" is reserved for people who have completed a certified engineering course, so in those places, if you call yourself a "software engineer", you had better have the qualifications to back that up. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 6 '12 at 15:32
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Right -- I've just elaborated on that above. –  Caleb Nov 6 '12 at 15:40
    
But business analysts dont know any technical aspect about coding styles etc. on what to use on different kind of apps to build. So if thats the case we might call it "semi" S.E. =) –  Floyd Que Nov 6 '12 at 15:51
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@user1803460 Negative. Many BA's know some technical details and often try to instruct the implementations to follow those technical details which drives SE's nuts. Though the title "Software Engineer" is a controversial one, the majority of people believe a Software Engineer is a very well versed and experienced writer of code, one experienced enough with the practice of creating software that their knowledge goes beyond just writing code, but the experience writing code is the basis for all other aspects of their skillset. –  Jimmy Hoffa Nov 6 '12 at 16:07
    
@user1803460: I know more than a few BA's who started off as developers. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 6 '12 at 16:39

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