The information technology (IT) sector is teeming with a diverse range of career positions. Many of these jobs have responsibilities that tend to overlap because they involve many of the same or similar mechanics. Two such careers are software engineers and IT support engineers. They both work with computers to varying degrees and even share the same field of study and academic qualifications.
How and where they differ though is largely based on which stage of the digital sphere they occupy. In relation to this, some companies could require IT employees to be dynamic enough to be suited for both roles in some ways.
As such, if you’re a prospective student trying to find which career field is best suited for you, or a business owner in need of an IT service, there are a few differences you should be aware of. This awareness can help clear up any confusion so you understand which service you’ll need to keep your company operational, or to be sure that you’re pursuing the correct discipline.
Here are eight key differences between software engineers and IT support engineers:
IT Support Engineers
The primary function and role of IT support engineers is to work with tangible hardware of technological devices. These can be physical components of a computer such as the central processing unit and graphics card. They are also responsible for laying out the groundwork needed for computer systems to work within a location or environment. This can be setting up high speed internet cables and wireless services, as well as configuring security and data servers.
In many cases, IT support engineers can also work with software programs just like software engineers do. This is particularly in instances where they’re fixing issues that require understanding of the subtleties of both software and hardware, and how they relate to each other. Here are the other main components to better understand this role:
1. Education And Career
To work as an IT support engineer, individuals most often study a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. This can also include electrical engineering and electronics engineering that help students learn more about the more technical aspects of configuring digital devices.
Additionally, these related degrees provide students with the knowledge to use equipment such as network analyzers, database servers, security software, and desktop kits. In terms of career, IT support engineers can expect to work for an IT company or at a tech-specific call center.
Otherwise, they’ll be employed in other companies within other sectors that need an in-house IT specialist team to run their daily operations. The difference in terms of companies is that IT support businesses don’t create and develop software like a software company does. Their main focus is operational rather than developmental.
2. Tech Support
This is one of the main differentiators between software engineers and IT support engineers. They most often work in supportive roles to fix IT-related problems. Then there’s troubleshooting–a logical and step-by-step search that a support engineer performs to locate the source of a mechanical or operational failure. They can do this manually in a step-by-step approach or run a program that’s designed to do the same thing.
In both cases, it encompasses directly working with a company's employees and consumers to solve technical issues they have using a device or software. In other words, they play a role in customer service through contact via telephone or in person. Software engineers, on the other hand, don’t have a direct line to the consumers who use the products they’ve created.
3. IT Maintenance
When IT support engineers aren’t providing hands-on support for users of digital tools and devices, they run the internal and external systems and online networks for a company. This means closely monitoring and maintaining, installing, and configuring computer data and security systems, and providing diagnostic solutions to technical problems and the overall online functioning of a business.
When businesses prefer to outsource, IT companies such as Spectrumwise can provide data security and manage network systems remotely. Some IT support engineers, with the suitable skills and capabilities, can double as repair technicians. This role is in conjunction with identifying the cause of defective technology and installing or setting up the necessary replacements.
4. IT Infrastructure
As mentioned above, IT support engineers, when in a specialist role, can be involved in setting up IT infrastructure. These are all the various components that need to be built or put in place in order for information technology and communications services to function.
It’s comprised of installing routers, positioning server cabinets in a room, laying down internet wires, and setting up desktop computers by connecting them to peripherals. Once the hardware is up and running, they can then move onto setting up networks such as internet connectivity, data systems, security firewalls, software applications, and cloud solutions.
Software engineering is a multifaceted job whose roles depend on the company they work for as well as the tasks assigned to them. Due to this, they’re also known as software developers, systems analysts, coders and computer scientists. Regardless of the official titles they all have one thing in common that defines the vocation–software.
They build, design, manage, and develop computer operating programs and user applications on a broad scale. Moreover, here’s what you need to know about what software engineers are involved with in greater detail:
5. Education And Career
To get into a career in software engineering, individuals study software engineering itself, or a related IT field such as computer science. This university degree equips learners with theoretical and practical knowledge needed for the various types of software development. Creative-oriented graduates most often pursue careers in game development while logic-focused individuals prefer working in business network systems.
6. Software Design
7. Software Analysis
Computer engineers are required to keep up to date with the latest trends and new inventions happening in the sector. This is because technology is constantly evolving and advancing, and this in turn impacts whether the software they’ve created has become totally obsolete or should be slightly updated.
Thus, software analysis includes monitoring, management, optimization, specifications, correcting, testing, evolution, and implementation of code. These tasks ensure that engineers develop the best software programs that are easy to navigate and use for everyday people. There are various models used to analyze software and this is also determined by the methodology that software companies prefer.
8. Product Development
These engineers collaborate with other computer software specialists such as UX (user experience) designers and product developers among many others. They work together to build the software products that are to be sold as a subscription by their company to other businesses, organizations, and consumers for their work needs. The software is then simplified into functions that regular people can use or be trained to use during workplace onboarding.
These products are known as Software as a Service or SaaS. It includes licensed internet content such as content management systems (CMS), applications, document readers, company intranet and user access controls for companies, for instance.
Summary Of Major Differences
The key aspects of what makes software engineering and IT support engineering different lie in their unique roles and specialties. Software engineers only work behind the scenes to build and create software programs. IT support works with these software programs to run and manage all the information and network systems of a business or organization on a day-to-day basis.
IT support has a technical component in fixing any faults that arise from both hardware and software while software engineers mostly work with software only. What’s more, they don’t provide support services to customers having problems with digital products. They are only concerned with improving the software at the most intricate levels, and writing code and applications.
Both of these career fields are certainly related and have some similarities in certain circumstances. They both work with software whether during its complex creation stages or its deployed phase. Additionally, each type of engineer will need to work within a team and coordinate with other departments to result in the intended product or solution.
However, the customer service and hardware technicalities of the IT support engineers set it apart from the software engineering role. This consumer-focused and often client-facing role requires IT support to have an extra set of aptitudes that branch into people skills such as communication, and managing customer expectations and satisfaction. All these differences are identifiable through their nuance and familiarity with how the IT engineering and STEM sectors work.