How Do the Jobs of a DevOps Engineer vs. Software Engineer Differ?

Technology has evolved over the last half century, and computers are much more available to the public. Computer and software development started as a linear process but has become circular, as the invention and subsequent spread of the internet have led to a revolution in the way computer science professionals develop and distribute technology. Software engineering, development, and implementation are constantly evolving, and greater access to technology is expediting innovation. Furthermore, open source coding modules expand the possibilities by allowing anyone with coding and programming skills to add to a program, enhancing its integrity and resilience.

As the software development process changes, companies and other organizations that create their own software rely more heavily on computer science professionals who understand different aspects of software development, testing, and management. DevOps engineers and software engineers are two such professionals who are in high demand, as their skills are applicable to many different industries. Continue reading to learn more about these two career paths, what sets them apart, and how to get started.

DevOps Engineer Overview

Development and operations (DevOps) engineers are a new part of the computer science field –– so new, there isn’t really one definition of the job or its responsibilities. The need for DevOps engineers arose as software development continued to become more complex. The endless cycle of development, testing, and production created a need for tech-savvy professionals who could oversee the entire process. DevOps engineers have a multifaceted background that typically begins with software development or software engineering. They also tend to hone their business skills to manage teams, test user interfaces, and oversee aspects of design and distribution. DevOps engineers must have strong interpersonal communication and collaborative abilities in addition to superior coding skills.

A devops engineer and a software engineer work on a project

DevOps Engineer Salaries and Job Outlook

According to September 2019 PayScale data, the median annual salary for DevOps engineers is around $93,000, while the top 10% earn approximately $135,000 per year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not keep specific job data for DevOps engineers. However, the job market for software developers of all kinds is promising. The BLS expects the employment of software developers to grow 21% between 2018 and 2028, adding 284,100 jobs domestically during that time.

Software Engineer Overview

Software engineers are software development professionals who apply engineering principles to the development process. They are big-picture software developers who often work in teams, collaborating with fellow developers and other computer science professionals to solve problems and create frameworks for new software.

Software Engineer Salaries and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for software engineers is $84,336, according to September 2019 PayScale data, while the top 10% earn as much as $125,000. The BLS does not differentiate between software developers and  software engineers, so the job market growth may be around the same as for software developers: 21% between 2018 and 2028.

Similarities Between DevOps Engineers and Software Engineers

The biggest similarity between DevOps engineers and software engineers is academic background. Though there’s no set educational path to these careers, both types of professionals can benefit from an advanced degree in computer science, such as Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Software Development. Courses on data structures, advanced topics in software development, and applied DevOps prepare students for either profession.

Differences Between DevOps Engineers and Software Engineers

Though DevOps engineers and software engineers are both computer science professionals involved in software development, there are several key differences that set them apart, including focus and the education and experience necessary to step into each role.

Operations Focus

Software engineers focus on specific aspects of the software development cycle. In a large software development company, they might work on product concept and development, writing complex algorithms and original coding with other engineers or developers. They might work in design and implementation, bringing together different parts of software code to make the final product function.

DevOps professionals help oversee the entire software development cycle, including implementation and maintenance. They understand the business side of software design and distribution, including user experience and user interface design, which anticipates how the product will be used and maximizes its appeal. They help keep quality software on the market for users and maximize software engineers’ ability to create and update software in a short period of time by fostering efficiency at every stage.

Necessary Work Experience

DevOps engineers need to have knowledge of the entire software development cycle, as well as an understanding of business, leadership, and other organizational skills. This is a role that higher education helps prepare future professionals for, but they also need to spend several years working in the field to gain the business and leadership experience necessary to take on a DevOps role.

Software engineers, on the other hand, don’t need any prior work experience and can step into such a role after completing a relevant degree program, especially if they have a master’s degree. Though they might require some on-the-job training and perhaps an industry certification, there are still many entry-level jobs available to graduates hoping to enter the field immediately.

DevOps Engineer vs. Software Engineer: Which Is Right for You?

Pursuing a computer science career as a DevOps engineer or software engineer means starting an in-demand job with good salary and professional growth potential. If you’re interested in developing business skills alongside your computer savvy, DevOps may prove to be an ideal course for you. Alternatively, if you’d like to step right into a software development role focused on programming, software engineering may be the right fit. Discover how Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Software Development can equip you with the skills to succeed in either career.

Recommended Readings
AI and the Evolution of Software Development
The Future of Programming and the Top Languages Programmers Should Know
Top Benefits of Being a Software Development Degree Holder

Business Insider, “Mobile Data Will Skyrocket 700% by 2021”
Career Explorer, “What Does a Software Engineer Do?”
Information Age, “Demand for DevOps Skills Soars as Organisations’ Spending on Digital Transformation Projects Increase, Says Akamai”
PayScale, Average Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer Salary
PayScale, Average Software Engineer Salary
TechRepublic, “10 Critical Skills That Every DevOps Engineer Needs for Success”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers

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