Coding vs. Programming: What’s the Difference?

Coding vs. Programming: What’s the Difference? was originally published on Forage.

The primary difference between coding vs. programming is the level of responsibility. Both require strong programming skills. But while coding is simply the act of writing code, programming means applying code to practical situations, like software or mobile application development.

What Is Coding?

Coding is the process of writing, testing, and troubleshooting computer code — code is how we can talk to computers and make them do specific things. You may have heard coding and computer programming used interchangeably, and ultimately, they’re very closely related since you need to write code to program a computer. However, coding on its own is much more straightforward.

“It’s like learning to write in different languages, ” says Brian Mclintic, founder of RealGoodSoftware.

Some common languages coders learn to write in include JavaScript, Python, and C++. Using these different languages, a coder can create websites, mobile applications, and consumer products like music streaming platforms. (See what working at Spotify is really like!)

Coding “requires less upfront planning,” says Mclintic of the differences between coding vs. programming. So, coding is “ideal for smaller projects or specific aspects of a larger project.”

Coding Careers

Coders work in virtually every industry because almost every type of technology in the digital age requires a foundation of code. Some job titles that typically involve a lot of coding include:

  • Web developer
  • Data engineer
  • Software developer
  • Data scientist
  • Back-end developer
  • Full-stack engineer
  • Security engineer

Common Coding Job Responsibilities

Most coders spend their days “focusing on writing and testing code,” says Mclintic. But, depending on their job title, a coder may also:

  • Update existing software or programs to meet new requirements
  • Test and improve the security of digital systems
  • Inspect colleague’s code for errors
  • Troubleshoot and solve problems within written code

What Is Programming?

Coding forms the foundation for computer programs, and programming uses code to solve specific problems. If coding is like writing in a different language, programming is having a greater mastery of that language and understanding how to use it to communicate effectively.

Programming “involves not only writing code but also planning, designing, testing, and maintaining complex software systems,” says Mclintic.

But not all programmers are coders. In fact, some programmers’ skills lie in being able to plan and manage large-scale technical projects rather than writing detailed code to build a program. Programming as a skill, career, and industry goes beyond simple code.

“Programming offers a comprehensive view,” says Mclintic. So, it’s ideal for “managing larger, complex software projects from start to finish.”

Programming Careers

There’s considerable overlap between programming and coding careers because the technical skills required for both are similar. Some common job titles in programming are:

  • Software engineer
  • Web developer
  • Database administrator
  • Front-end engineer
  • Full-stack developer
  • Front-end developer
  • Programmer

Common Programming Job Responsibilities

Despite the overlap in job titles and roles, jobs that focus on programming typically have more responsibilities than coding careers.

Mclintic notes that one of the key differences between programming vs. coding careers is that programming is a job “involving end-to-end software development responsibilities” rather than just writing, reviewing, or testing code.

A programmer’s responsibilities may include:

  • Aligning software development to meet business needs
  • Working with management teams to ensure the project doesn’t exceed scope or budget
  • Collaborating with other teams in the organization
  • Keeping stakeholders informed of the project’s progress

Programming vs. Coding Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer programmers make an average of $102,790 per year. However, computer programmer is a broad title that encompasses professionals who focus on coding and programming.

Since programming careers typically come with more responsibility, they also often have higher salaries. For instance, software developers have annual salaries averaging $132,930, according to BLS data.

Jobs that deal primarily with coding are also commonly entry-level roles, and as a coder gains more experience, they take on more significant projects and grow into programming positions. Entry-level coding careers still typically pay well, though. For example, web developers who create and maintain websites have an average annual salary of $87,580.

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How to Get Into Coding vs. Programming

The primary way to get into coding or programming is by learning to code. Some choose to learn programming skills through college, studying computer science or information technology (IT).

However, others learn to code using online courses or coding bootcamps. While some coding bootcamps are led by teachers and industry professionals, others are entirely self-paced and allow you to learn to code independently.

Education and Background

For coding careers, being able to code may be enough to land an entry-level role. However, if you want to become a programmer, you’ll need a broader foundation in computer science. Taking courses in algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data science can help you understand what areas of programming you enjoy most and give you marketable skills and experience.

Whether you learn through college or on your own, remember to keep an online portfolio of your projects to show potential employers. GitHub and related platforms are an easy place to store your work and share it with others.

An internship in some sort of technical role is also useful. Internships can give you hands-on experience in writing code collaboratively and help you understand how programmers develop software to meet business needs.


Coders and programmers need a mix of hard and soft skills to work effectively in business spaces.

Mclintic recommends coders “focus on learning multiple programming languages and understanding their practical applications.” Knowing what situations JavaScript is best for instead of Python is crucial.

Other skills coders need include:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Work ethic

Programmers, on the other hand, should “develop strong problem-solving skills, learn software development life cycles, and embrace project management and teamwork,” says Mclintic.

Additionally, programmers need skills in:

  • Leadership
  • Business acumen
  • Agile methodologies
  • Analytical thinking

Bottom Line: What’s the Difference?

Coding provides the foundation for practically every piece of software or technology we interact with every day. Without coders, there would be no computers — coders are able to talk to computers and get them to complete tasks ranging from simple mathematical calculations to powering search engines. (Learn what it’s like to work at Google!)

Programming is applying code to practical applications. Programmers take the code and match it to business needs, overseeing both large- and small-scale projects from start to finish.

“Essentially, all coders are programmers to some extent, but not all programmers are coders,” says Mclintic.

Curious about computer science or coding careers? Learn the skills you need to get hired with Forage’s Software Engineering Career Path.

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The post Coding vs. Programming: What’s the Difference? appeared first on Forage.