IT vs. Software Engineering: Differences

IT vs Software Engineering

With the current generation’s emphasis on information, digitalization, and automation, it is no surprise that Information technology (IT) and software engineering have become two of the most in-demand fields. But do these two sectors operate the same way? If not, then how do IT and Software engineering differ?

IT handles the practical installation, maintenance, and development of computers and other information-based technologies, while software engineering is the design and management of software. IT deals more with physical hardware and machines whereas software engineers deal with the system.

In this article, we are going to go a little deeper into the world of software engineering and IT. We will explore their scope, specific duties, potential, and how people can pursue a career in either field.

Are IT and Software Engineering the Same?

Both IT and software engineering frequently work with various computers. And perhaps this is where most of the confusion and association between the two fields come from. But despite these similarities, IT experts and software engineers approach their tasks in different ways.

Moreover, you have to acquire different sets of qualifications and certificates to work in either sector. The problems you will encounter and work to find solutions for will also be dissimilar. Yes, IT experts and software engineers may have some overlapping skills. But their specialty and expertise are not identical.

What Is the Difference Between IT and Software Engineering?

Now that you know IT and software engineering are not the same, let’s discuss the key areas in which they distinguish themselves.

Core Concept

You can get a pretty good idea about these two fields simply from their names. Software engineering deals with software in all its aspects. From its design to initial trials and future management, a software engineer is involved in every step of the development of that software.

And although the term software is associated mostly with computers, software engineering develops software for all types of machines. Satellites, mobile phones, smart TVs, robots, artificial intelligence – basically anything that works with a digital system employs some sort of software. And that is where software engineering comes into play.

IT, on the other hand, is more concerned with the overall status of the technology. It is concerned with both hardware and software. For this reason, an IT expert has to know a lot more detail about a specific technology than just the software that runs it. So, they may not be as proficient in designing software but they know more about the entire setup.

Practical Application

Now, let’s look at how each field applies its knowledge in real-world applications. Software engineers are often hired by a company to develop specific software for them. This involves the steps of designing the software, running initial trials (software testing), fixing bugs and shortcomings, and eventually releasing the software for general use.

Beyond the development of software, software engineering also covers future management and problem-solving. In fact, a company may hire a software engineer with the sole purpose of fixing a problem or bug in their software. Alternatively, a software engineer may only be required to test a given software and conclude its viability.

In contrast, an IT expert or IT support provider focuses on technologies that are specifically used for the purpose of storing, processing, transferring, or retrieving all types of data. The most common technology in this field is the computer. 

Whereas a software engineer has great knowledge of computer software, an IT expert has to have a good understanding of the hardware, software, and other peripheral machines implemented in an IT system. So, IT is less specialized and covers a wider range of subjects.

Software engineers are adept at installing and managing a particular software in a given system. An IT expert, on the other hand, is skilled at implementing a computer system and other data collection systems.

A software engineer will test the performance of the software in a given system, most often a computer. An IT expert will test the viability of a computer and other parts of an information and communication system. 

IT deals a lot more with hardware than software engineering. Software engineering is more concerned with the theoretical potential of a computer system.

Educational Requirements

Software Engineering

The most common educational background for software engineers is actually computer science. This is because computer science covers all aspects of a computer including software programming. Many also have degrees in information systems or information technology. 

Software engineering has become such a prevalent field in today’s digital age that it itself has become a separate degree. Hundreds of universities around the world have their own software engineering program. Alternatively, one can earn a certificate in this field by completing an online course. 

Software engineering is not limited to just undergraduate-level education. You have the scope of pursuing master’s level and doctorate-level education in this field. A less formal method of entering this sector is through learning software engineering via a vocational training program. 

Information Technology

Similar to software engineering, IT also has its own degree courses in universities as well as a background in computer science. According to the Association of Computer Machinery, an IT course is “any undergraduate program that prepares students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, healthcare, schools, and other kinds of organizations.”

So, by this standard, it is easy to see why many IT experts have an educational background in computer science. In fact, in countries such as India, the curriculum for computer science and engineering degrees in Information Technology are strikingly similar. 


We are living in the great era of information and computers. As such, both software engineering and IT have assumed great importance. And though they share many distinctions, they are both highly alluring sectors for the current generation.