I applied at a job with a resume that had my job title as Software Engineer as I was instructed to change it to match industry standards while my real job title is Programmer. Will that look bad if they go to verify my job history? I have already received an offer from the company.

Edit: I am in the US with a 4 year degree in Computer Science

  • 5
    who told you to change it? Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:42
  • 2
    I see this as somewhat synonymous (at least from my US-based perspective). If you have a college degree in the relevant field, it would help. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:59
  • 1
    Which country are you in ? Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:19
  • @mhoran_psprep I was advised by an advisor who looked over my resume. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:39
  • 4
    From a USA perspective, Software Engineer and Programmer mean and are the same thing to me.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:50

6 Answers 6


The answer may depend on the country you are in.

In the US, the term programmers and software engineers are considered the same.

However, it appears that in some other countries, these 2 terms may represent 2 different levels of skillsets, experiences, or responsibilities.

  • I am located within the US. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:40
  • @Deep-Schedule8123 then you're fine if it was us (Microsoft), background check wise (which we do) the two are interchangeable and when they call your old job and ask "was Deep-Schedule a software engineer at company X from dates A to B?" and they respond with "They worked here from dates A to B and their title was programmer" you should be fine. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:14

Everyone is trying to reverse-engineer the automatic resume scoring/filtering systems. I am honestly not convinced that any of those folks understand such systems well enough that this is more than superstition.

Which term is better, if any, depends on exactly what the machine has been told to look for. Software engineer and programmer are essentially synonymous in my experience.

Computer Scientist is frequently treated as synonymous (eg in the names of most universities' degrees), but to me denotes research rather than development.

(For a while, my title was Scientist. They made me give that up when I moved back to product dev.)


Programmer is the older term so can be looked at as 'standard'. Software Engineer means the same thing, as does Developer. And all of them are often subdivided further into web developer, front end etc,.

I don't think the change from Software Engineer to Programmer matters, but if you're in doubt you should just go with your job title so there's no chance of confusion.


Who instructed you to do this? Were you involved in the process of bringing requirements to life? That is requirements to design and testing procedures.

If you were involved in implementation and testing only then you did a programmer job. If you were involved in other aspects of the development process then you were in a software engineer role. There is a big difference between the two.

A Software Engineer is a more prestigious role than programmer. While you should not misrepresent what you did, changing from software engineer to programmer would be considered a downgrade.

Don't worry about job history. Your skills will be tested during the interview process.

  • 1
    I think you meant "upgrade" instead of "downgrade"
    – kirbby
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 11:43
  • @kirbby corrected...thanks
    – Pete B.
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 11:48

I am not sure which way you are proposing to go.

I have been programming since 1977. We were programmers then. Unfortunately data entry operators started calling themselves programmers and actually think they are one too.

Nowadays it is better to use Developer or Software Engineer. If you are changing it to programmer, then don't.

Finally, even if your title while at this company has to be programmer, there is no issue putting Developer in your resume, when you leave.


In the United States you need to make sure that if you are using the titles as part of the background check, that they will match the titles that your former employer used.

In my experience the title is used to place you in a wage category, and doesn't necessarily reflect the job you did for that project. The first company I worked for changed my title between the programmer track and the engineer track multiple times because programmers were paid at level 1,3,5 and engineers were paid at level 2,4,6; Therefore they could give half promotions twice as often.

Make sure the paragraphs on your resume reflects what you did, because the title doesn't explain what you did. For one company my title was "member of the technical staff".

I have written code as a programmer, engineer, developer, mathematician, member of the technical staff, chief scientist, software engineer, and system engineer.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .