Everything you need to know to become a software engineer
A software engineer is an expert in computer code, computer infrastructure and using these two elements to create the programs, systems and websites that we all use every day. They may work for companies, be independent contractors, or work in research-based roles, developing new code, and teaching emerging software engineers.
What does a software engineer do?
A software engineer can have a large number of roles, due to the ever increasing number of places where computer programs are used. They can do one of the following jobs:
- Website design
- Development of e-commerce system
- Optimization of cloud computing infrastructure
- Game developer
- Infographic development
- Maintenance and improvement of computer code
- Business application design
- Cyber security defenses
- IOS / Android application development
The options are truly endless when it comes to software engineer jobs. They can work in highly technical teams dedicated to very specific code and programming, or they can work in multidisciplinary teams, using their software prowess to help solve problems and develop new products.
While most engineers will have a rudimentary working knowledge of code, software engineers are proficient in at least one programming language. They have the same technical and problem-solving skills as other engineers, but they use computer code as their primary tool.
Some software engineers work for big ecommerce brands, design their online storefronts, and strive to improve processes and speed for customers. They can program emerging technologies, like chatbots, to improve the customer experience. Or, they may specialize in debugging, maintaining, and fixing technical issues on the backend of a website.
Some software engineers specialize in video game development, while others are responsible for the design and maintenance of specialized software. For example, software engineers design:
- Simulation software for other types of engineers, such as mechanical engineers
- Project planning and collaboration software to enable remote working
- Messaging programs, networks and systems to fuel our communication
- Accounting software and online banking
- Artificial intelligence at the service of autonomous vehicles
How to become a software engineer?
There are many avenues for working in software engineering. The first, and most traditional, is to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer or software engineering. By participating in an ABET-accredited college engineering program, students can then apply for their professional engineer designation after graduating and completing the required years of experience in the field.
Software engineering, however, is a very dynamic, flexible and creative profession. Many professionals find their way into software engineering through coding boot camps, two-year certificate programs, on-the-job training, or even by studying other types of engineering and deciding later to specialize in software. Those who studied computer science in college often make the transition to software development or engineering work.
Of course, to be a licensed professional engineer, formal training is a requirement. But to work with software engineers and to solve problems, code and design software, many companies are open to different professional horizons. The best way to work in software engineering in a chosen organization is to check their hiring standards and research the required training.
What skills do you need to become a software engineer?
In addition to having coding and computer engineering skills, a software engineer should be an excellent communicator, both in their code and when working with others who are less proficient in programming. In their code files, software engineers should carefully leave comments to explain to others how the program works, making it easy to add or correct at a later date. Also, software engineers are very technical people and learning how to explain what they do to their less familiar with programming teammates is a huge plus.
What is the average salary of a software engineer?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, software developers (which include software engineers) earned a median salary of $ 110,104. In 2019, nearly 1.5 million people were employed in software development and engineering. This number is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade.
What is the typical career path of a software engineer?
Since software engineering is a growing and rapidly changing profession, the typical career path can be multifold. But if an engineer wants to get a license and get his professional engineer certification, he will need to acquire a few things:
- ABET accredited engineering diploma
- Four years of experience with a professional engineer
- Pass the Basic Engineering Principles exam
- Pass the professional engineer exam