Software engineers create programs that make the digital world possible. They design the “guts” behind social media programs and webpages, as well as the programs that make your computer and smartphone function.
Using engineering principles (a set of rules, ideas, and concepts that guide them during the creation process), software engineers approach projects in a systematic way—researching, analyzing, designing, testing, and repeating the process until coming up with a final product that meets predetermined objectives.
Interested in learning more about what’s involved in this challenging career? Here’s a closer look at what software engineers do and how to become one.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
Software engineers draw on their knowledge of engineering, computer science, and math to write, edit, test, and debug programs. Tasks vary depending on the nature of the role but may include:
- Modifying existing software applications
- Creating new software applications from scratch
- Analyzing and designing full software systems
- Using design documentation and flowcharts to illustrate what needs to happen
- Working with software developers, designers, programmers, coders, and others to bring things together
- Keeping factors such as safety, cost, and deadlines in mind throughout the design and development process
- Writing training manuals
Software Developer vs Software Engineer
Software developers write the code that operating systems and applications use to run. They identify what the software needs to do, then create the programming to make that happen. In many respects, this is exactly what a software engineer does. However, software engineers not only write the code, they also create everything using a “big picture” approach.
For example, a teacher may teach one classroom of students (or one subject). They focus solely on meeting the needs of one group. However, the principal is responsible for all the students in all the subjects in every part of the school. Principals must focus on everyone and every subject equally.
Software engineers must take this “big picture” approach when they oversee and design software. Instead of focusing on one part of the code or programming, software engineers need to consider the entire code and entire program during the design process.
Software engineers possess a bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, mathematics, software engineering, information technology, or a similar field. Since employers value practical experience in programming and coding, holding an internship or completing a capstone project can give students an edge upon graduation. Obtaining certification from the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) or through product vendors or software firms likewise may provide a competitive advantage.
Since technology changes rapidly, successful software engineers commit to lifelong learning. Professional development seminars and other continuing education opportunities keep one’s knowledge base sharp and current.
Software job descriptions tend to emphasize specific hard skills. For instance, an employer may call for mastery of a specific programming language, such as Java, Python, C++, or Scala. That said, it’s often useful for software engineers to possess a variety of hard skills, such as experience in multiple languages, as not all employers use the same programming.
Since code is very precise, software engineers benefit from being detail-oriented. Strong analytical skills, problem-solving prowess, and comfort with abstract concepts also are important. Creativity helps in designing new software programs, and time-management skills keep progression on track. Since teamwork proves essential to completing projects, employers value software engineers who are competent communicators and able to work well in groups.
Software Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not use the term “software engineer” in its breakdown of occupations, in 2018 it reported that the annual median wage for software developers was $103,620.
The job outlook for software engineers should be promising based on data for similar roles. Employment of application developers, for instance, is expected to grow a whopping 26 percent between 2018 and 2028. And as more computer systems are being built into cell phones and appliances, demand for systems developers should remain strong.
Common Industries and Work Settings
These days, one would be hard-pressed to find an industry that doesn’t benefit from a software engineer’s skill set. These professionals find work in areas including healthcare, manufacturing, military, government, publishing, education, communications, general computing, aerospace, business, and finance.
Many software engineer jobs are remote but, at times, software engineers may need to work in an office. And, because the internet never sleeps, there may be times when software engineers have to work odd hours or overtime.
Use FlexJobs to Find a Software Engineering Role Today
The FlexJobs database lists tons of flexible opportunities for software engineers. Full-time, part-time, flexible, and remote software engineer opportunities are available, from entry-level to experienced.
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!