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How to Become a Software Engineer

If you are well-versed in multiple programming languages, have solid communication and interpersonal skills, and have a knack for solving hard problems, you might want to consider a career as a software engineer.

Software engineers are responsible for the design, development, installation, patching, and updating of software solutions. They apply engineering, math, and computer science techniques to create documentation, flowcharts, layouts, diagrams, and charts for the creation and testing of software. They need to be extremely familiar with each step of the software development lifecycle and must be critical thinkers. 

Verbal and written communication skills and interpersonal skills are required as software developers interact with a variety of internal and external stakeholders in the design, installation, and upgrading of software. The ability to present ideas to non-technical stakeholders is vital.

Sample job description

Are you a highly analytical person who’s great with computers? Do you enjoy designing and testing your own projects and improving the way things work? Software engineers use their technical expertise in combination with programming languages to write, enhance, test, and release programs and applications to users. Software engineers use a variety of tools and languages to create programs and ensure their continued integrity and periodically update functionality. These engineers can work across a variety of industries, and will often work closely with managers, clients, and other developers and engineers to create lasting solutions. This position generally favors those with strong technical skills, attention to detail, and soft skills in combination with an analytical mindset to be the most successful. If you fit this description, please apply.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Analyze, design, and develop tests for software projects
  • Test software development methodology
  • Lead ongoing maintenance, support, and enhancements in existing systems and platforms
  • Collaborate cross-functionally with data scientists, business users, project managers, and other engineers to achieve software solutions
  • Recommend software and process improvements where necessary
  • Work alongside other engineers on the team to elevate technology and follow best practices

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related discipline.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent problem-solving and analytical abilities
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Ability to lead a development team
  • Several years of hands-on software development experience
  • Experience with modern programming languages including Python and Java
  • Expertise in written and verbal communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in software engineering or a related field
  • 5+ years designing software
  • Familiarity with Java, HTML, and other programming languages
  • Ability to work long hours
  • Self-driven and not in need of strong management

Typical work environment

Software engineers work in an office as part of a team. This position is entirely based on software programming and review, so long hours seated at a computer should be expected.

Routinely communicating with others, be it face-to-face or remotely, is vital to this position, so time spent participating in meetings and information exchanges is very common.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a software engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Additional work hours can be necessary when approaching project deadlines.

Available certifications

As software engineers work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional. The Cybersecurity Organization offers the CSSLP to test your ability with software security best practices. After obtaining the certification, you’ll demonstrate the ability to identify vulnerabilities, secure client data, and protect against future breaches.
  • Certified Software Development Professional. The IEEE Computer Society offers the CSDP for advanced users to upgrade their resumes. If you’ve got at least 2 years of experience in the field, and are looking for a solid investment to bolster your software design, constructing, and testing methods, this is an excellent certification to obtain.
  • CIW Web Development Professional. This widely recognized certification offers multiple paths of mastery. You can become a specialist in JavaScript, database design, or Perl. These will teach you proper syntax and categorization, website implementation, debugging, and more.

Career path

The path to becoming a software engineer starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related discipline. Students should pursue internships while they are in college to gain real-world experience in the field. Some companies prefer applicants for more senior software engineer positions to have a master’s degree. While software engineers don’t always write code, having a strong background in computer programming often makes a job candidate more attractive to employers. Software engineers can move up into senior engineer roles, overseeing multiple development projects at once.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1256

2020 Employment1,847,900
Projected Employment in 20301,888,553
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 22% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift409,500 increase

The need for software engineers in the coming years should increase. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs in the IT field. Software engineers should look at solutions involving artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. More and more companies and industries are looking to AI software to make better use of the data they collect.

Increased demand for the Internet of Things (IoT) is another trend for software engineers to watch in the coming years. Devices that can be connected to the internet, from smart appliances to wearable technology, are becoming increasingly popular. Many software companies are expected to begin specializing in programming for the IoT sector, so applicants who are knowledgeable about smart technology software will be more in demand.

Another trend in the software engineering field in the coming years is the increased use of progressive web apps (PWAs). They’re a kind of website that functions like a mobile app but runs in a web browser. Companies are using them to save money because they eliminate the need for a mobile app or a mobile version of their websites. Instead, PWAs give companies the same benefits as a mobile app and offer faster load times and better functionality for customers.