What’s in a name? Programmer or Developer

I was part of a conversation the other day that really struck a nerve with me and has resonated in my mind since.  We were discussing Programmer versus Developer and what we were.  This lead to a more generalized conversation about programmers/developers.For now, I am going to use Programmer/Developer as interchangeable names/titles.  Both of these can be part of a large corporation, small company or self-employed.  Both of these titles are universally used and interchanged in job titles, want ads, resumes and regular day to day conversation.  Most probably don’t care what they are called or what their title is as long as they are getting paid what they want.

We can look at the dictionary definitions for these as well:

From Wikipedia:

A programmer writes computer software.  A developer may take part in design, computer programming…
Now, my opinion….
In the end, both Programmers and Developers write code and in that sense are very much the same.  The difference that I see and will argue about is everything else.  A Programmer is given the task of writing the code.  This might entail writing tests as well.  I picture the Programmer as a person in a large organization that is an assembly line worker ant.  They are given a task and expected to complete it.  The Programmer may never meet the client and may never see the final product.  The Programmer s one spoke in the wheel of the entire project.  The Programmer is never asked what they think or for suggestions, they just write code.  Good Programmers strive to learn more and to be Developers.  If I worked for a large company, I would just be a Programmer and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all.  I do not look down on or think that I am better than a Programmer.  Programmers are not Developers.
Developers on the other hand are also Programmers.  Large companies have Developers and they are responsible for the Programmers.  Small companies and self-employed, are mostly Developers.  A self-employed person cannot just program.  They interact with clients, they are part of the design process, they develope and they program.  The developer may be every spoke of the wheel or they may work closely with other developers.  Developers can take a clients idea and make it a reality.  Developers must be flexible and know when to offer the client advice and when not to.  Sometimes the client may not know what they really want and it is the Developers job to tell them. And in the end, the Developer sits down, puts on their Programmers hat and writes code.
There is a place and a need for both Programmers and Developers.  Right now I am still learning and I would say that I am a Programmer.
But before long I will become a Developer.  Rebel Outpost, LLC.

25 comments on “What’s in a name? Programmer or Developer

  1. […] What’s in a name? Programmer or Developer (bob-roberts.net) […]

  2. hm… seems you making me think on i am developer not programmer

  3. If you were a bit older, you’d remember seeing the title “Programmer/Analyst”. I always got a kick out of that one since one cannot really be a programmer without analyzing all kinds of things (ie, the code, the problem, the result, the tests, etc, etc.)

  4. wasn’t analyst essentially just a developer minus the programming? But in the case of “Programmer/Analyst” that’s a Developer…

  5. How about a “Software Engineer”?
    Is this a 3rd thing or is it the same as a software developer?

  6. Software Engineer, Programmer and Developer, they all are different persons along their job titles each of them has it’s own set of skills and responsibilities. I think that’s main reason behind software crisis and software failure that we combine their jobs together and we think it’s same.

    • I agree and disagree with that. The different terms and or job titles are in my opinion as well as yours, three different positions with three different responsibilities.

      The issue is that there is no standardization of the terminology so that the terms are used interchangeably.

      It is becoming even more diluted with the introduction of the term dev-ops.

      In the end we are all coders and as long as I get paid you can call me anything!

  7. […] reading some good books this weekend that have made me think about an earlier post of mine, “Whats in a name? Programmer or Developer” and my views on the […]

  8. […] What’s in a name? Programmer or Developer (bob-roberts.net) […]

  9. ok..its just too old fashioned to be programmer or hacker..
    reminds me of …who came first …Egg or Chicken

  10. I prefer ‘coder’.

  11. These are all just functional titles created by big corporations to classify the various functional roles in the big world of software development.

    I am into the IT realm but more on IT infrastructure domain. In this field of technology, we have network/systems/voice admins (some call them operators) responsible for the day to day running, then you have the network/systems/voice engineers/architects who are in charge of design changes. Even further, you have storage admins, OS specific engineers, etc…

    Are all these titles the same or interchangeable? Yes and No.

    Yes they are in a very small company of less than 1,000 employees where the technology environment is not that complex.

    No if you are in a company with thousands of employees and the environment is just too complex to be centrally managed by a single group of similar technical skills. You really need to break it down further into functional roles (which result to functional titles).

    That is the same in the software development domain.

  12. Well there are by far many different terms to describe the same thing and many different ways to define what it is that we do.

    I wrote this post right after I had just started to “code” for a living. Since then I have learned a lot about what the differences are. Lately the buzzword that I have heard and tend to like is Software Architect but I think that I will always refer to myself as a developer as I start with nothing and develop something out of that nothing.


  13. Think of a land developer versus a land planner; The developer seems to get more into the development aspects of conceptualizing the big picture, and may know little about civil engineering, architecture, and various professions that are the slaves to aid the banker hand maidens;

    Land developers are tapping a different teat all together; Conversely, many software developers have concepts that make less money then grunt programmers;

    NONE of this applies, I apologize, geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzz…

  14. He he .. so much confusing.. n now wht about technical analyst ?

  15. nice post

  16. Funny, my experience with companies is exactly the opposite. Devs are a recent development(groan) that sit in a dark room converting design to code. Programmers are people who are willing to do the dev job as long as we get the joy of doing the design. Or this is what companies seem to expect. Of course my perspective may be colored by starting with fortran and assembly in 1979 . . .
    Our idea of the meaning could have changed, corporates never does.

  17. Oops, I thought it didn’t post. (It took me to a login and came back to a blank message field) I wasn’t responding to you because I hadn’t seen yours yet.

    Sorry about that!

  18. Your blog entry made this old lady smile. I learned to write code (Fortran) in the 1970’s because some of the chemical engineering problems I needed to solve were too hairy to solve without a computer. That’s right, I actually used a computer to compute. To me, a programmer is someone who writes code for their own consumption, but never worries about any of the niceties that makes it usable by someone else. No error checking, no fancy report formating, no COMMENTS. A developer, on the other hand, is someone who writes code that is intended to be consumed by someone else. They are developing a product to sell.
    As such, I was a programmer, but not a developer.
    In 1982, I wrote my first program on a PC. I used Basic because there wasn’t a Fortran compiler for the PC. It did flare stack sizing for chemical plants. You input the composition and amount of the waste stream that needed to be burned. It told you the height and land circumference needed for the flare stack. I used it, a few of the other engineers in the office used it – it saved us a lot of time. I guess no one even thinks about these sorts of applications anymore. And so few people write code simply for their own use, it doesn’t need its own identifier.
    I guess its time for me to rethink my definitions.

  19. […] What’s in a name? Programmer or Developer (bob-roberts.net) […]

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