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is a computer programmer the same thing as a software engineer?

etranman1etranman1 Registered User Posts: 165 Junior Member
edited July 2008 in Engineering Majors
I was looking into software engineering then i read this...

Half Sigma: Why a career in computer programming sucks
Post edited by etranman1 on

Replies to: is a computer programmer the same thing as a software engineer?

  • JoeJoe05JoeJoe05 Registered User Posts: 660 Member
    Well firstly that article is a load of bs. He says that the longer you work in the field the less you know. That is both true and very false. Yes you're going to have to learn new languages when they arrive. Do major concepts of programming get changed often? No. Probably the biggest change in programming recently (well not really recent I guess) was the introduction of object oriented programming. Part of being in the programming world is keeping up to date on technology. This is also true for other professions but not on the same scale as with programming.

    He claims working conditions of programmers suck. I don't know what companies he's worked for but I have yet to see an IT department that doesn't treat their programmers very well.

    Low prestige, I laughed at this. Apparently if you aren't a doctor or lawyer you have no prestige. What a joke.

    As for your original question, no programming is not the same as software engineering. Being in a software engineering program at an engineering school I can tell you this: if a programmer is a construction worker a software engineer is the architect. A programmer is the low end of the spectrum in my mind. Oftentimes people will call themselves software engineers when in reality they are programming such simplistic code that anyone who has read a book on Java could do it.

    Now I don't think you have to go to an engineering school to be a software engineer (though it certainly helps imo), you can't just get a coding job and claim to be a software engineer.
  • datadata Registered User Posts: 211 Junior Member
    I have some major issues with the information in that link.

    Firstly it is said that because of the constant development of new language, experience is not important and "what advantage does a 60-year-old .NET programmer have over a 27-year-old .NET programmer when they both have, at most, 5 years of experience doing .NET programming? Absolutely none." This completely wrong. Any good programmer who has used a single procedural and a single object oriented language (and understands the concepts--something taught usually in intro classes) is only a book and a week from picking up most any language. IE: If you know Java, you will be able to pick up another object oriented language quite easily because you understand the underlying principles; everything else will be small nuances and different syntax.

    As for prestige, his argument is incredibly flawed, saying that it is not as prestigious as law, finance and medicine. Well most everything isn't. And who in the real world cares that much about prestige? Certainly not the people who are happy with what they do.

    Then the age old "omg computer programming is being outsourced". It is probably the worst argument out there for not going into the computer (programming) field. There is no shortage of programming jobs and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Programming is a skilled job, and where there is skill required, there will be someone willing to pay you for your services. Plus, you may be able to outsource highly repetitive codemonkey jobs, but you cannot outsource innovation, and the computer world revolves around innovation.

    Can't comment on project management.

    Working conditions: The argument is that 1) they work in cubicles and 2) companies don't provide the right 'tools' (he says that he should have a bigger monitor). Well as for 1, a lot of people work in cubicles, that is not computer programming exclusive, and it also heavily depends on the company, you can't say that every programmer everywhere does. Many technical employees work remotely, for instance.
    For 2, if you require a big fancy high resolution monitor to do your job, there is something wrong, and you should not have a programming job. The graphics arts department has large monitors for a reason. Programming just simply does not require anything big or fancy.

    Also I'd like to comment on the fact that computer programming does have good things going for it. If you are really into it and like what you do and suddenly have some cool idea, computer programming is quite unique in the fact that you can essentially start your own business with just a computer and an internet connection. Obviously it's more complex than that, but it is a very nice thought, and it can be highly rewarding.


    As for computer programmer vs software engineer, they are just titles that mean nothing. You could have someone who took a single programming class call himself a software engineer or you could have a guy who graduated with a software engineering degree call himself a programmer. IMO it all depends on the situation.
  • bigboywasimbigboywasim Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
    Programming is not for everyone.

    It is true that the languages change but I will rather have a 60 year old doing programming his whole life than a 27 year old.

    The basics of programming stay the same. It is true you have to keep up with technology but lawyers have new law and doctors have to deal advances in medical science.

    The working conditions are good.

    The pay is also pretty good.

    Yes there is a difference between a coder and programmer.
  • jessiehljessiehl Registered User Posts: 3,328 Senior Member
    This topic has come up a lot lately. Something in the water? :)

    The article is kind of ridiculous. Data already went into why. And yeah, being a code monkey is not the same thing as being a software engineer (though both require you to program).

    I've heard this idea that software is low-prestige before, and I don't understand it. I've talked about my career with a lot of different people, ranging from my MIT geek friends to my stepdad's poor, non-college-educated, semi-rural Kentucky family, and *nobody* that I've talked to in real life thinks that it is low prestige.

    Oh, and I have good working conditions and benefits that most people would envy, and I work in a real office, not a cubicle.
This discussion has been closed.