What is the Difference Between Developer and Architect – NCube’s Opinion


Published: 10 Nov 2019


What is the Difference Between Developer and Architect

Most people think a programmer (software developer) is the same as a software engineer or a software architect. Even though the differences are significant in big companies, most people think that it’s all semantics, and they are right when it comes to smaller companies.

There is also a question on what the differences are between senior vs principal or staff software engineer vs principal software engineer.

The main distinction is that principal engineers are somewhat higher-level than senior engineers, and senior principal engineers have the ability to work on cutting-edge engineering developments and are seen as leaders in their field.

One of the distinctions is that principal engineers report to senior management, while senior engineers report to the leadership of their division. Principal engineers are experts, and their success has a direct bearing on the image of their lab, so they can impact their company’s profile and reputation. While senior engineers are known for their technical expertise and the application of engineering theories, principal engineers are associated with pioneering development within their field and may prove theories or develop new theories.


Big Company

Large companies and a formal approach to these roles

A software architect is a software development expert who makes high-level design choices and dictates technical standards, including software coding standards, tools, and platforms.


They have all the experience from lower positions and a clear insight into what is the best way to do something.

Usually, software architects, for example, Go developers are seasoned people and understand how good software is built. He is given the software requirements, and he produces diagrams and charts on how to get to the final solution. Maybe they will even write some code as a foundation that will be used by software engineers and developers.

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Software architects are sometimes even engaged in the design of the architecture of the hardware environment. But, mostly, they are just focused on the methodology of the code.

Imagine building a house: in simple terms, a software architect would be the person who selected the shape and the materials of the house and drew a blueprint of it.

Some of the responsibilities of a Software Architect are:

  • Reporting to stakeholders about software requirements

  • Designing documents and high-level product specifications

  • Providing the software engineers and software developers with architectural blueprints, they should follow

  • Adhering to schedules and deadlines

  • Testing the final product to ensure it meets requirements and that it’s completely functional.

Education and Experience needed to become a Software Architect:

  • Master’s Degree in Computer Science

  • Extensive experience in software development and project management

  • Leadership and organizational abilities

  • Having an analytical mindset that can see both the details and the big picture at all times

  • Strong communication and presentation skills

  • 5-8 years of professional experience as a Software Engineer.


A software engineer is a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software. 


The software engineer solves a real-world problem using algorithmic principles and coordinating with those above him.

A software engineer will have expertise in developing software efficiently and effectively. They know what the formal approach to every problem is, and they follow it step by step. That way, they keep tabs on reusability, maintainability, and correctness.

When faced with a problem, a software engineer won’t just “make it work,” instead, he will look for best practices that will make the solution efficient and maintainable to scale.

The average salary for a software engineer is $106,044 per year in the United States.

In simple terms, the person who reads the blueprint of the house but decides on the best practices to build it.

Some of the responsibilities of a Software Engineer are:

  • Determination of operational feasibility by evaluating analysis, problem definition, requirements, solution development, and proposed solutions.

  • Investigating problem areas

  • Following the software development lifecycle

  • Keeping the information confidential

  • Developing information systems by designing, developing, and installing software solutions.

Education and Experience needed to become a Software Engineer:

  • BA or M.Sc. in Computer Science

  • Five years of professional software development experience

  • Application architecture and design patterns

  • Experience being a technical lead throughout a full software development lifecycle

  • Experience in the development of distributed/scalable systems and high-volume transaction applications.

What is a Principal Software Engineer?

A Principle Software Engineer is generally a very senior individual contributor. They may exercise technical leadership through their experience and seniority. Their projects are usually too big for one 10-person team. Their goals are more general like „improve cash flow “ or „scale 100-1000 times“. Usually progressing beyond senior engineer, you spend less time writing code and more doing different things like improving processes, architectural oversight, mentoring newer engineers, and interfacing with other business units.

You may be asking; What is a principal software engineer’s salary, in the United States? It averages $152,929 per year.

Software Architect vs Software Engineer?


Software architectcreates a plan that has provisions for different business and technical requirements. A software engineer reads the plan or the design created by software architect and starts implementing in the language of choice most suitable to the plan.


A software developer sometimes called more recently a coder (especially in more informal contexts), is a person who creates computer software. The term computer programmer can refer to a specialist in one area of computers, or to a generalist who writes code for many kinds of software.



What do software developers do?

A software developer or programmer like a Ukrainian developer is someone who simply writes code. They understand the concepts of logic, loops, functions, and other basic things. They assist in the development, implementation, and management of technology-based business solutions. Finally, they code, test, and implement configurational changes to meet functional and technical requirements.

In simple terms, they hammer in the nails when it’s time to frame a house and tear down the walls when it’s time to renovate.

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Some of the responsibilities of a Software Developer are:

  • Researching, designing, implementing, and managing software programs

  • Testing and evaluating new programs

  • Identifying areas for modification in existing programs and subsequently developing these modifications

  • Writing and implementing efficient code

  • Determining operational practicality

  • Developing quality assurance procedures

  • Deploying software tools, processes, and metrics

  • Maintaining and upgrading existing systems

  • Training users

  • Working closely with other developers, UX designers, and business and systems analysts.

Education and Experience needed to become a Software Developer:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (a degree isn’t always required)

  • Programming experience from degree studies

  • An analytical mind

  • Commercial and business awareness

  • Business process analysis
  • Written and verbal communication skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Ability to quickly learn new technologies.

What is a Principal Software Developer?

A principal developer is a sort of specialist, an artisan rather than a journeyman. And ultimately I think the role is about how you write code, the tools you use, and the working practices you employ to write the software. Keeping up to date with the industry and looking at the big players for inspiration: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Github, and open-source projects. Using and updating to the cutting edge technologies as early as possible and not being afraid to trial the bleeding edge ones too.

The average salary for a Principal Software Developer is $127,761 per year in the United States. You might want to consider offshoring advantages and disadvantages at this point. 

Small Company

Small companies and the adaptability of their employees

In smaller companies, because of the tight budget options, employees are often required to wear many hats, and sometimes one person holds all three of those titles.

If you’re a business owner, maybe you’re the one who is doing that, or perhaps you should do that. There is little difference in what you are doing but a lot of difference in how you are perceived.

On the first contact with suppliers on customers, you, as a business owner, can introduce yourself as a Software Architect. They will feel valued that a person of such a high “rank” is talking to them and that anything that is decided there can’t get denied by someone more senior up the ladder. All the work gets done quicker, or sometimes an agreed cancelation of work is done faster. They’ll know that you are the boss and the decisions made there are final.

With your fellow team members, you can introduce yourself as the guy who is responsible for all the stupid mistakes the team makes (Software Engineer). You will take the pressure off of them and suggest that others make the right decisions. There is a sense of humor that is needed to be present in offices to have a relaxed body and mind. By working with you, they will realize what your actual skills are.

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If somebody called you a coder, would you be offended? I surely hope you wouldn’t. That means they think you know how to code and will see you as a friend, an ally, and not an alien who is at the top of the company ladder and is out of touch with the “real world” that programmers have to deal with.

A single person can be doing all of these modes of operation at a single given time. Depending on the importance of the task and the proficiency of the person to do that task, they might prefer a title.

Also, there are no limits that a single senior person cannot perform all three of these roles. Once the architecture work is done, a Software Architect may get involved in work as a Software Engineer. And why not? It’s an advantage! He knows what is expected from those below him, and he does everything to deliver that.

The most significant difference we can tell between these three roles is the impact of decisions.

In order of importance, the decisions made at the architectural level are critical and are often very hard and costly to change if a mistake is made. An architecture error can cost years in complex systems. A design error can cost a few sprints. A programming error can be fixed as soon as identified.

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