Project Manager vs. Developer: Which Is Better?

Computer science and information technology provide many different career choices for prospective students to consider. If you enjoy working alone or in a team in creative endeavors, a software developer is an ideal choice, and if you are better equipped at managing how a project unfolds in either development or business-oriented logistics, project management is a good choice. Both positions offer incentives to bring a project to life, but which is better?


A project manager offers more avenues to work in a leadership role to ensure programs offer the best outcomes from beginning to end. Software development offers better incentives to create programs in the developer’s preferred vision. The better option depends on technological skills and goals.  


Throughout this article, you will learn about the job duties of both project managers and software developers. A detailed list of each position’s pros and cons and the salary projections for each position will also be provided to better guide possible career choices.

Project Manager Pros and Cons

Project management in information technology requires a keen insight into how the inner workings of software programs perform to, in turn, provide expert guidance to developers to implement the needs of a company or organization. Project management can also branch out to planning and coordinating the duties of a team of developers as well as overseeing the functionality of an organization’s networks and servers. 


In short, a project manager needs to have a firm knowledge of what is expected in the development process in addition to leadership training and keen insights into coordination. Most software developers who work for an organization need additional guidance in bringing their visions to production, and a project manager is there to ensure a smooth flow of every facet of the development process. 


Not to add confusion–but it should also be understood that a project manager can branch out to several different sectors within project development. Some managers could be tasked with overseeing development or working in tandem with analysts and even vendors to ensure budget goals and training materials are fine-tuned to company policies and expectations. 


Take a look at this brief video to get an idea of what a day in the life of an IT project manager entails:

Let’s take an in-depth look at the advantages and disadvantages of a project manager.

Project Manager Pros

  • IT Project managers are the chief planners and primary directors of project tasks. What the position lacks in direct creativity, it makes up for this in planning and directing the required tasks to the right team members. Project managers are the leaders of various projects in different fields, and you will have the final say in all task directives. 
  • Project management can take managers to many different IT fields over their careers. As a project manager, you will be expected to be able to oversee a wide range of projects in diverse fields such as engineering, development, and even training. A career in IT project management will make you a jack-of-all-trades and no field will be an obstacle you cannot overcome. 
  • Project management can take you far in a company or organization. Being a manager of so many different fields in IT builds your skillset better than any other IT position and most project managers are not surprised when they find themselves leading a company one day.  

Project Manager Cons

  • Project managers must learn to deal with an incredible amount of stress. The amount of responsibility that falls on a project manager can be overwhelming and never-ending; you have to learn to take one task and issue at a time instead of falling prey to micromanagement that becomes much too difficult in an IT team.
  • Project management requires intuition and flexible accommodation to new trends. The IT industry is continuously evolving; project managers need to be able to predict possible future scenarios related to a task and find a way to creatively work potential possibilities into development and engineering tasks. 
  • You need to be versatile to ensure job longevity. Just like a software developer, project managers need to be able to possess a range of skill sets to branch into multiple fields and domains. A project will always come to an end; make sure you are versatile in your skillset to jump immediately to another. 

Developer Pros and Cons

Project management can be a creative position–but nowhere near as creative as the IT technicians who create programs and systems from nothing: the software developer. Developers create applications and programs to better serve the industry-specific models and goals of a particular organization. A developer is responsible for writing code and mapping out every detail of a program for consumer or industry goals. 


Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages that come with choosing a career in software development.

Developer Pros

  • As a software developer, you are the key to a company’s success. Project managers oversee the company or organization project-specific goals, but a developer is an engine that powers the success of a project’s final outcome. 
  • A developer provides the blueprint for what their design will explore. In addition to writing the code of what your application or program provides a user, software developers are also tasked with designing diagrams and models to instruct programmers how the user interface will function. 

Developer Cons

  • Developers frequently fall victim to an inadequate work/life balance. You will frequently have deadlines you will need to meet, which can often find you working 60 hours a week just to develop an application to match the company’s specifications. 
  • Software developers need to accept and appreciate managerial criticism and suggestions. It is difficult for creators to accept criticism and constructive feedback; a developer’s vision is always the main focal point of their work. You will have to learn to expect and appreciate the work that a manager is putting into your project to satisfy industry standards and company policies. 

Which One Is Better in Terms of Salary?

Software development and project management are two of the most competitive and continuously evolving positions in the world of information technology. In turn, these positions both offer attractive salaries due to the large number of skills required for the positions. According to Glassdoor, the starting salaries for both positions are:


  • Project manager: $88,397 per year
  • Software Developer: $76,526 per year 


You can expect to earn more by being a project manager due to the large workload and multiple tasks that come with this position. Both positions require creativity and the need for patience and continued learning, yet choosing to become a project manager offers a bit more compensation for your efforts.


There is no question that both positions are popular and in-demand; the bottom line comes down to if you perform better at creating or managing a team across a diverse set of tasks and expectations. 

Final Thoughts

So now that you have a better understanding of the responsibilities of these two jobs and the pros and cons of each, you should be better equipped with the knowledge to decide which position is better suited to your technological skills. Project management allows you to combine the best attributes of design requirements with the ability to work in multiple departments of a company or organization.


Software Development allows you to let your brain run wild while meeting the needs of a company. The better choice is based upon which description suits your skillset.  


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