Tech Sales vs Software Engineering

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by Christina Payne

Published May 10, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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Tech sales and software engineering represent important and growing roles in the tech industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer and information technology careers in the U.S. will experience 13% growth from 2020-2030 — a rate that is about twice as fast as the national average for all occupations.

While tech sales and software engineering workers share some overlapping skills, these are two different career paths. Professionals in both careers require technical knowledge of computer software and must interface with clients to understand their software needs. However, software engineers create and test computer programs, while tech sales professionals focus on selling programs to clients.

This guide will answer the following questions:

Readers can also learn more about the daily tasks and typical salaries for these jobs.

Tech Sales vs. Software Engineering

Software engineers and tech sales reps both require advanced knowledge of computer software and its capabilities. People in these careers may transition from one to the other, depending on their personal career goals.

In general, software engineers remain entrenched in the more technical side of building computer software, while tech sales reps focus on communication with current and potential clients.

The following sections of this article provide in-depth information about these careers and the day-to-day aspects of each job.

What Does a Tech Sales Representative Do?

A tech sales representative — also known as a sales engineer — sells scientific and technological products to customers. These professionals need a thorough understanding of the product they are selling and its capabilities in order to demonstrate to the client how the product will positively impact their business.

Tech sales representatives may work as part of a marketing team or as individuals. Day-to-day duties may include creating and delivering technical presentations to potential clients, securing new orders and arranging deliveries, and helping research and develop new products.

Professionals in this field need excellent communication and organization skills. They should be detail-oriented and highly-motivated individuals who can take the initiative when pursuing potential sales.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineers — also known as software developers — create computer applications and programs. These professionals may create programs to a client's specifications or design new products they believe will fill a need in the market. Software engineers also test and provide quality assurance for computer programs.

A software engineer may work within the tech industry or as a consultant for a non-tech business. They may write the code for the computer programs themselves or work alongside a computer programmer. Day-to-day duties may include recommending software upgrades to customers, analyzing user needs, and testing current software.

Professionals in this field need advanced technical skills, including knowledge of computer programming languages. Software engineers must understand how to work as part of a team and address a client's needs.

Differences Between Tech Sales and Software Engineering

While both of these careers require technical knowledge of computer software and its production, software engineers focus on creating the product while tech sales representatives focus on selling the product to current and new customers.

Both careers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. Individuals interested exclusively in software engineering should choose a degree program devoted to that topic. However, readers more interested in tech sales may wish to take some business classes in addition to a tech degree.

Tech Sales Salary

Tech sales representatives working in computer systems design and related services earned an average annual salary of $99,470 in May 2021, according to the BLS. However, a worker's pay can vary significantly depending on their experience, location, and employer.

This career does not require certification, but professionals may pursue specialized certification from a professional organization like the North American Association of Sales Engineers (NAASE). Certification from NAASE can help professionals earn a higher salary or pursue a promotion.

Software Engineer Salary

Software engineers earned a median annual salary of $110,140 in 2021 — about 2.4 times the median salary for all occupations in the U.S. The BLS projects that this profession will experience 22% growth from 2020-2030, a rate much faster than the national average.

Like tech sales representatives, software engineers do not need certification. However, these professionals may choose to pursue certification from professional organizations like the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals to help advance in their careers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tech Sales and Software Engineering

Is technical sales a good career?

Tech sales offers competitive pay within a growing field in the tech industry. Professionals typically need a bachelor's degree in software engineering or business. Tech sales representatives need strong communication and technical skills.

These professionals can work individually or as part of a team. They work closely with clients and should have an in-depth understanding of the products they're selling.

Do tech sales representatives make more money than software engineers?

Software engineers and tech sales representatives both earn salaries that are well above the national average. Although software engineers typically take home higher wages, salary levels differ depending on many factors, including the employee's level of education, experience, and location. Additionally, sales reps at some organizations may receive significant bonuses or commissions on top of their base salary.

Do tech sales representatives code?

In general, tech sales representatives do not code as part of their day-to-day work. However, these professionals may work closely with software developers who do code and will need a thorough understanding of how a product works to sell it to clients.

Tech sales representatives may also be responsible for researching ideas for new products or updates to existing products. This work may require a working knowledge of coding languages and software development.

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