Software engineering is among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations — and it’ll help if you’re tech-savvy and creative. Here’s what you’ll need to know to analyze your skills and determine whether a software engineering fits you.
- Overview: What Does a Software Engineer Do?
- Do I Need a Degree to Work in this Field?
- Types of Software Engineer Jobs and Titles
- Projected Growth Rate of the Software Engineer Field
- How to Get a Software Engineer Job
- Top 8 Skills to Be Successful at a Software Engineer Job
- Does Software Engineering Fit You?
Overview: What Does a Software Engineer Do?
Do you rely on a smartphone app to help you navigate or ever been glued to a computer game? All of these programs are created by software engineers. Software engineers design computer programs and systems that include apps and games.
Software engineers generally have flexible schedules and can work remotely or in an office. They develop individual applications or entire systems for military, health care, aerospace and scientific organizations. Here’s a sneak peek of what a typical day looks like for a software engineer:
- Meet with colleagues and clients to discuss proposed software programs
- Determine user needs and software requirements
- Review software application design specifications
- Code and test software
- Identify bugs and troubleshoot issues
- Maintain operating systems, mobile and web applications, networking systems, business applications and connected hardware devices
Before the mid-70s, software engineers were called computer scientists or computer programmers. Their job descriptions change as the technical landscape does.
Do I Need a Degree to Work in this Field?
Most computer science jobs require a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science or a related field — some may require a master’s degree. Obtaining any of the following certifications is a plus:
- Cisco network (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE)
- Project management
- Amazon web services
Employers may in some rare instances hire a software engineer that has little or no college background. These self-taught individuals would need to have a large portfolio of sample work and many years of experience.
Types of Software Engineer Jobs and Titles
IT jobs encompass a broad category of software engineer jobs and titles. Here are some examples of related jobs and descriptions.
Entry-Level Software Engineer Jobs
Entry-level or junior software engineers work with senior engineers to develop, maintain and test software applications and programs. They’re assigned tasks such as coding, debugging and code documentation. Junior software engineers hone their skills at this stage and if you perform well, you can move to the next level. Interns might be classified as entry-level software engineers.
Sample job titles: Entry-level software engineer, junior software engineer, junior engineer
Systems Developer Jobs
A systems developer is a type of software developer. They focus on developing complex applications and programs to support back-end processes and systems used in organizations. Systems developers also write operating manuals and documentation, provide user training and support, discuss client requirements and collaborate with senior developers.
Sample job titles: Systems developer, systems engineer, software systems developer
Web Developer Jobs
Sample job titles: Web developer, website developer, web designer
Senior Software Engineer Jobs
Senior software engineers perform more complex work. They oversee junior engineers and partner with systems developers to develop solutions. They serve in a more client-facing role. Junior engineers are usually behind the scenes. Senior engineers analyze software systems and programs and recommend upgrades.
Sample job titles: Senior software engineer, senior engineer, senior computer programmer
Applications Developer Jobs
Applications developers design and test software applications for businesses. They deploy and implement software upgrades and releases. These developers typically work with software engineers, systems analysts, web designers, project managers, data scientists and analysts, graphic designers and web designers. They also code, design, troubleshoot, do user training, debug and monitor security.
Sample job titles: Applications developer, software applications developer, senior applications developer
Salary Ranges and Expectations for Software Engineer Jobs
Most computer science jobs offer excellent pay. The median annual pay for a software engineer is $105,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for related fields include:
- Computer programmer – $84,000
- Computer systems analyst – $88,000
- Database administrator – $90,000
- Information security analyst – $98,000
- Computer network architect – $109,000
The more specialized you are in this field, the more you’ll earn.
Projected Growth Rate of the Software Engineer Field
Skilled software engineers see a job growth rate of 17%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 1.4 million software engineer jobs were available in 2018, so it’s a job seeker’s market.
How to Get a Software Engineer Job
Once you’ve got your bachelor’s, what’s the best way to find a software engineering job? Here are some tips and strategies to get your job search started:
- Land an internship. Interning is a great way to learn on the job and gain experience. Once your internship is finished (you can do this during school), there’s a good chance you could get hired full time.
- Create a GitHub profile. GitHub is a hosting service for software developers. It’s a place where you can show off your best projects and it costs $25 per month.
- Work your way up. Hone your skills and learn on the job by taking an entry-level role such as a computer support technician or computer specialist. You can target a more senior position once you’ve g projected growth rate of 21%, much higher than other occupations.
- Acquire professional certifications. Many product vendors, software companies and organizations such as the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals offer certification programs. The more certifications you can add to your resume, the more marketable you are to employers.
- Continue your education. Consider an additional major to enhance your skill set or get a master’s degree if you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
- Network. Search LinkedIn and Facebook for software engineer groups, find meetups and seminars and join professional organizations to connect with peers and find resources for training and job postings.
- Specialize. You’ll be more competitive if you specialize in a particular field or area of expertise such as cybersecurity.
- Register with an employment agency. Agencies can help you find contract and full-time positions with major companies who don’t have the time or resources to recruit candidates themselves.
- Develop your resume. Have your resume written by a professional — a professional will know the keywords employers look for and how best to showcase your talents.
- Offer consulting services. You can work as an IT consultant for individual clients or businesses to build credibility and experience while you look for a traditional job.
Top 8 Skills to Be Successful at a Software Engineer Job
What skills are needed to be successful as a software engineer? Here are the top 8 we recommend.
1. Time Management Skills
Whether you work as a freelancer or in an office, you’ll need to juggle multiple projects at once, all with their own deadlines. A successful software engineer needs to prioritize and manage project milestones and deliverables for numerous projects at any given time.
2. Coding Skills
3. Project Management Skills
The majority of your work as a software engineer will be project-based. You should be skilled at creating and managing project plans. Be prepared to show off your project management skills to meet project goals and timelines.
4. Communication Skills
Software engineers need to communicate effectively with colleagues, business stakeholders and decision-makers. You may be required to deliver presentations and reports detailing complex information that you’ll need to break down into layman’s terms.
5. Analytical Skills
A big part of your job as a software engineer is to analyze an organization’s computer systems and applications and develop ways to enhance them. Assess user requirements and client needs to review specifications and troubleshooting. Strong analytical skills are required.
6. Problem-Solving Skills
You’ll encounter problems and issues every day as a software engineer, which you’ll need to methodically address and resolve. You might need to develop multiple solutions to any given problem, so be prepared to show off your problem-solving skills.
7. Research Skills
One of your first tasks at any new job will be to thoroughly research a client’s software application needs and requirements, so strong research skills are critical. The results of your research are the groundwork for the applications you develop, test and implement.
8. Programming Skills
You’ll be expected to effectively code and program software systems and applications, so your programming skills need to be on point. Be an expert coder, programmer and debugger if software engineering is your chosen field.
Does Software Engineering Fit You?
Every industry needs software engineers, so job security is not an issue. Demand is high now for software engineers, so you’ll be able to choose any sector you like. You can work remotely in many cases, so flexibility is another attractive aspect of the job. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Delta Air Lines, Salesforce and HubSpot are all looking for software engineers. You can choose a job that meets your needs and an added benefit — you can plan for retirement.