What Job Roles Does a Software Engineer Perform?

A software engineer's role determines the type of work they focus on when building or supporting a product. Learn about different software engineering job roles in this introductory guide.

A software engineer’s role determines the type of work they focus on when building or supporting a product. A typical software engineer role will require applicants to have a firm grasp and knowledge of computing systems, technical architectures, and algorithm building. Specific software engineer job roles can also indicate a person’s skill strengths and programming language fluencies.

Learn more about how to become a software engineer here.

What Roles Does a Software Engineer Perform?

A software engineer’s role and title will define not only what part of the product that they primarily work on, but also what skills they’re strongest in. Front-end software engineers work more closely with designers to build interaction and experience into their programs, while back-end engineers will work with data scientists and product managers to implement algorithms and serviceability into the overall product.

Below are the various roles software engineers can specialize in.

Front-End Engineering

A software engineer's role can be strictly dedicated to the front-end of a site. Front-end engineers’ primary responsibility involves building a product’s user interface functionality. A user interface typically encompasses visual elements such as colors, aesthetics, and design, as well as responsive functionality such as animations or effects.

A product’s user interface needs to remain static across various devices or browsers, which means front-end engineers are also responsible for building compatibility wherever the product needs to exist. Front-end engineers need to be fluent in programmatic languages that can build on multiple operating systems and platforms.

Back-End Engineering

Like a software engineer can be dedicated to the front-end, others can be strictly working on the back-end. Back-end engineers build a product’s functionality and logic. (If you imagine software application as a car, then back-end engineers design and build the engine.) Back-end engineers design the logic that drives scalability within a product and work to make sure that a product’s user experience (UX) delivers its designed value. Back-end engineers work extensively with data systems needing integration and APIs (application programming interfaces), and will often integrate outside technologies to implement value.

Full-Stack Engineering

Full-stack engineers do the work of both front-end and back-end engineers. They are recognized as a powerful surplus resource and are sometimes assigned to help solve problems of tech debt. In software development, technical debt comes down to any implied costs of additional rework caused by initially choosing a simpler solution to save time, when a more in-depth, long-term solution would have led to the desired result.

QA Engineering (Software Engineer In Test)

QA engineers work tirelessly to ensure that a product is bug-free and delivers value as intended before launch. QA engineers build new tests and tools that stretch a product’s limitations and document the results. When a QA engineer discovers a potential bug or problem, they will document the defect and sometimes take lead on developing a fix. Once fixed (or patched), a QA engineer will then test the fix and make sure that they haven’t inadvertently created further bugs or problems.

QA engineers are typically proficient in a variety of different front-end and back-end languages as well as SQL and the toolsets needed to track bugs or defects. Two of the most popular tools are:

  • Selenium. This testing framework is used for web applications on platforms such as Linux, Mac, and Windows, as well as to test browser compatibility in a number of different languages.
  • Jenkins. This is a continuous integration tool that allows developers to test codebase changes in real-time.

DevOps Engineering

Software engineers who specialize in application infrastructures such as server setups, databases, and testing platforms are known as DevOps engineers. While programmatically skilled, DevOps engineers often won’t touch the product code itself. Rather, they are consistently integrating and supporting the various technologies and toolsets that the rest of the software engineering team relies on to build products. DevOps engineers possess an in-depth knowledge of the same automation, source code management, monitoring, and container tools that the entire software engineering team uses.

Security Engineering

True to their name, security engineers are tasked with architecting and testing the security of a product. Security engineers build the systems and methods for testing for security flaws; quality security engineers can actually exploit potential issues with products before they go to market. Security engineers have an in-depth knowledge of anti-viral solutions, risk assessment tools, cloud platforms, and a variety of languages needed to build proprietary testing methods and exploit security flaws.

What Is the Difference Between a Junior vs. a Senior Software Engineer?

A senior software engineer’s job responsibilities can be quite similar to standard software engineers.

  • Although engineers in more senior roles are still focused on researching, designing, implementing, and supporting software programs, a senior title designates further previous experience (4+ years) and increased managerial oversight.
  • It’s not uncommon for senior software engineers to be supervising projects and mentoring newer, more junior developers. Generally, a senior title indicates that an engineer is an expert in their chosen specialty and technology stack.
  • Sometimes, senior engineers are considered to act as project leads as well. This means that they are expected to make significant contributions to product infrastructure and architecture that goes beyond mastering lines of code.

Ready to switch careers to software engineering?

Springboard offers a comprehensive software engineering bootcamp. You’ll work with a one-on-one mentor to learn key aspects of front-end web development, back-end web development, databases, and data structures and algorithms. Modules include learning resources, practice exercises, projects, and career-related coursework. 

Check out Springboard's Software Engineering Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not quite ready to dive into a software engineering bootcamp?

Springboard also offers a Software Engineering Prep Course, where you can learn the foundational web development skills (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) needed to pass the technical skills survey for the Software Engineering Career Track.

Download our software engineering salary guide

This 21-page guide breaks down the software engineering career path and how to optimize salary figures.

Ready to learn more?

Browse our Career Tracks and find the perfect fit