Editorial Note: We earn a commission on partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.
Are you looking for a challenging career that allows you to work with computers and make an impact in today’s society? Consider becoming a software engineer. To work in this high-tech career, you need to know how to program a computer, make decisions, and plan projects.
This article covers how to become a software engineer, including how to get started, gain potential, and how to progress in the role.
Software Engineer Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers are expected to see job growth of 22% from 2020 to 2030. This rate is much faster than the projection of national average growth for all occupations (8%).
Software engineers typically also enjoy above-average salaries, along with other benefits such as annual bonuses, 401Ks, and challenging projects.
What is a Software Engineer?
The BLS defines a software engineer as someone who “designs computer applications or programs.” Software engineers can work in just about any industry, even outside of technology.
All types of organizations, from Disney to community colleges, hire software engineers to manage software development projects and initiatives. However, big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and LinkedIn tend to hire the most software engineers.
software engineer salary
BLS lists the median annual salary for software engineers at $110,140, but salaries for these professionals vary based on factors such as location. Below is a list of the highest paying US metro areas for software developers.
Steps to Become a Software Engineer
Job prospects are strong for software engineers, and there are several ways to break into this field. We’ll look at a few different paths below.
earn a degree
The traditional way to become a software engineer is to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or a similar discipline. A master’s degree isn’t necessary to work as a software engineer, but it can be useful for people changing careers and those who want to learn more about the field.
A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years, combining general education courses with courses in your field of study. Computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity are all popular majors for students wishing to become software engineers. Computer science and engineering degrees often have more extensive math requirements than majors like computer science and cybersecurity.
A degree remains the most widely accepted way to break into the software engineering field.
Consider getting a certificate
There are hundreds of different certificates you can earn as a software engineer. Earning a certificate usually involves studying a particular subject in a classroom setting or in a self-paced setting. You would then take an exam that you must pass to become certified.
Becoming certified in a particular field or discipline can help you deepen your knowledge, gain credibility, and enhance your resume. Below, we’ve listed some of the more popular licenses you can sit down for.
- AWS Certified Developeroffered by Amazon Web Services
- Certified Software Engineeroffered by the Institute for Certification of IT Professionals
- Certified Software Development Professionaloffered by IEEE Computer Society
Whether you’re looking to change careers or have just graduated, one of the best ways to find a job as a software engineer is to gain real-world work experience. Finding an internship is a great way to get started in a high-tech field.
You may also find a position in a related field, such as a test engineer or technical support specialist. These roles can help you gain the experience you need to get a head start in the software engineering job market.
A coding camp can also help you gain experience. These e-learning providers offer courses and career paths that teach students different programming languages and data analysis skills. Discover our features on Codecademy and freeCodeCamp.
Software engineer training
Another great way to learn software engineering skills is to attend a bootcamp. In terms of price, program length, and subject matter, software engineering bootcamps fall somewhere between a degree program and a regular coding camp. Coding bootcamps aren’t as comprehensive or long as degree programs, and they’re more intensive than coding camps.
According to a report by RTI International, the median price for a coding bootcamp is $11,900. The duration of the Bootcamp program varies from 12 weeks to 12 months.
Most bootcamps have high placement rates, according to RTI International’s report. Additionally, many tech companies endorse and recruit from coding bootcamps. If you graduated from a software engineering bootcamp, you might qualify for jobs as a software engineer, web developer, video game developer, or web designer.
Compare student loan rates in minutes
Compare rates from participating lenders via Credible.com
Software Engineering Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a software engineer?
Depending on the path you take, it can take anywhere from several months to several years to become a software engineer. A software engineering bootcamp can take months, while a bachelor’s degree can take four years.
What qualifications do you need to be a software engineer?
Some employers are stricter than others when it comes to software engineering qualifications. Many companies require applicants to hold degrees, while others support and even recruit employees from software engineering bootcamps.
What does a software engineer do?
Software engineers write, plan and implement code. They often work in teams and can work for small or large companies in just about any industry.