Consultant Vs. Developer: What Are The Differences?

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 3 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software development consultants and software developers are both professionals who can assist companies with their software operations. Despite the apparent similarity of these roles, there are many key differences between them. Understanding how these roles differ can help you decide which career path is best for you. In this article, we examine consultant vs developer, describe both roles and offer guidance on how to choose the role that is right for you.

Consultant Vs. Developer

If you are interested in learning more about the differences between consultant vs. developer, outlined below are some of the key differences:


A consultant in the software development industry is a professional who works externally for companies and assists them with their software development processes. These individuals can assist in software planning, design and construction stages. Sometimes these consultants work alone on projects and sometimes they collaborate with internal software developers. Typically, consultants have extensive experience in the software development industry and may have previously held senior developer positions.

A software developer is an individual in charge of developing programs that run on computers. These programs can vary and they can include functional options like word-processing and spreadsheet programs and also provide games and other forms of entertainment. These professionals can work on a wide range of software, depending on their interests and skill sets. They are usually responsible for performing a specific task or focusing on a single area of a project. Many developers opt to specialise in a particular development framework due to this reason.

Related: What Is Software Development? A Complete Guide


A software consultant's primary responsibility is to analyse a company's software needs and develop technology that can help a company perform its operations successfully. These professionals meet with clients to discuss a company's software usage and advise the company's technology department on software projects, or they may make crucial decisions regarding software investments and sales. Companies hire software consultants to safeguard their investments and promote sales since software-based decisions often have an influence on productivity and profits.

A software developer develops software or applications that enable users to perform particular activities on computers and mobile devices, including creating spreadsheets, watching movies or playing games. While some software engineers focus on developing particular software or apps, others specialise in developing extensive networks or systems that govern networks or manage devices. They usually work internally to help companies plan, design and build software systems. To ensure that the software they develop meets its intended goals, they often work with other internal company teams throughout these processes. They could collaborate specifically with internal engineers and designers.

Related: What Does A Software Engineer Do? (Duties And Career Advice)


Typically, software consultants require at least three to five years of experience in a computer science and consulting setting. A bachelor's degree in computer science is a prerequisite along with proficiency in a wide range of computer languages and scripts. A bachelor's degree in information technology, software development, applied computing, computer science or information security are other viable academic options in this domain. It is vital for these professionals to work independently, multitask and have business intelligence.

Software developers typically require a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science or information technology. It is vital for these professionals to possess relevant job experience. Their role requires them to be knowledgeable in a variety of programming languages. Since they may work directly with customers and suppliers in the technology industry, being effective communicators, both verbally and in writing can be beneficial.

Related: Guide: How To Become A Freelance Software Developer

Nature of employment

Their nature of employment is one of the major distinctions between software development consultants and software developers. For example, consultants often perform external or independent work as contractors for certain companies. Depending on the individual projects they choose to work on for clients, consultants may also operate as software development freelancers. Developers typically work internally for certain companies with a focus on achieving both short- and long-term objectives.

Related: What Is The Gig Economy? Definition And Career Advice

Direct communications

The individuals who software development consultants and software developers directly communicate with can differ. For instance, consultants may communicate directly with project managers who are in charge and developers may communicate directly with all internal teams involved in the project. Besides project managers, consultants may work alongside internal software developers also. This, however, relies on whether the company has software developers also engaged in the same project.

Work compensation

Software development consultants receive different compensation for their work than software developers do for their services. For example, companies typically pay consultants a single rate for the duration of a project or an hourly rate that increases depending on how many hours they put in. Developers might work at an hourly or salary-based rate for the tasks they finish and are usually on a company's payroll. This can also affect the type of employment form you use when filing your taxes.

Timeline flexibility

Another distinction between working as a software development consultant and a software developer is the flexibility to adjust project timelines. Consultants often operate as independent contractors, therefore their project schedules may be less flexible than those of internal developers. This may be the case because companies might not take other projects consultants are working on into consideration as they may for their internal software developers. To complete each assigned project on time, a software development consultant may require exceptional time management skills.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition And Examples

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Consultant Vs. Developer

You can carefully consider a variety of factors to help decide between a career as a software development consultant or software engineer, such as:

Prior experience

To assess if you can market yourself to companies as a consultant, you may examine how much prior experience you have in software development. There is no standard requirement for how much experience you require before you become eligible to work as a consultant. It is more crucial to demonstrate measurable results to potential employers from your previous projects, as a consultant.

You can decide to work as a developer if you are just starting out in the software development field to gain more experience. If you enjoy working as a software developer, then you may decide to stay in an internal role. If you decide you want to work as a consultant, you can transition out of your developer position and begin working independently as a contractor.

Related: What Is Relevant Experience? (With Examples And Tips)

Work environment

When deciding between being a software development consultant or a software developer, you can consider the type of work environment in which you wish to work in. For example, consider whether you see yourself working for an individual company and focusing on its goals or whether you see yourself working on multiple projects for different companies. Working as a contractor offers more flexibility than working as a developer.

You can also consider whether you prefer working individually or in teams. This is because consultants usually work more independently while developers may work collaboratively. This can help you determine if working as a consultant or developer is right for you as it can help you identify which environment can offer more opportunities for you to thrive and best suit your work style.

Communication preferences

While determining which role is the appropriate choice for you, you can also take your communication preferences into account. For instance, consulting work can be a better fit for your communication style if you prefer speaking directly with individual clients. If you like communicating with team members who are engaged in the same project, a career as a developer may suit your communication preferences better.

Nature of employment

If your employment status matters to you, you can consider the different options you have when working as a software development consultant and software developer. Consultants may work as contractors, which means they are self-employed and manage their own brand. This differs from developers, as they usually work as part or full-time employees for companies. This difference in status can also influence the way an employer pays you for your work and the benefits you may enjoy while working for an employer.

Explore more articles