How to Become a Software Engineer: A Complete Guide

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Software engineers create and test software programs. The dynamic and engaging career path offers six-figure salaries and high employability.

The field of technology is evolving, offering new opportunities for software engineers. Today’s software engineers specialize in cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing platforms, virtual reality, and games. Companies in various industries look to software engineers to solve problems and improve operations.

Becoming a software engineer requires strong technical skills. Many software engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering. These professionals are valued for their skills and education: the median salary for software engineers exceeded $ 110,000 in 2020.

This guide shows the path to software engineering, from educational options to getting a job.

What do software engineers do?

Software engineers develop, design and test software applications. They apply engineering principles to the software creation process.

Using programming languages ​​such as C ++, Java, and Python, they design software for computer applications, mobile applications, cloud platforms, and web applications. They work closely with other tech professionals – especially software developers, programmers, and QA specialists – to make sure programs are running properly.

The responsibilities of a software engineer often include:

  • Planning the process and approach to software creation

  • Design models that show the different parts of the programs

  • Test the software to identify and correct errors

  • Work with a team of software developers and testers

Software engineers generally work full time. The largest employers of engineers and software developers are computer systems design firms, software vendors, and manufacturing organizations.

What is the difference between software engineers and web developers?

Software engineers and web developers both use programming languages, but the positions require different skills and strengths.

Web developers focus on building and maintaining websites. They typically use languages ​​like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Software engineers focus on quality assurance, testing, and software architecture. Compared to web developers, software engineers often earn higher salaries.

Considerations Before Starting A Career In Software Engineering

Before you apply for any software engineering programs or bootcamps, you should understand the field and the job market. Here are some key considerations for future software engineers.

  • The US workforce includes approximately 1.8 million software engineers, software developers, and quality assurance analysts. Between 2020 and 30, that number is expected to increase by 409,500 positions, much faster than most jobs.

  • Software engineers can work remotely. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many tech employers have switched to remote operations, a trend that is likely to continue.

  • The median salary for software engineers was over $ 110,000 per year in 2020, above the average for IT professionals.

  • Technology continues to evolve. Software engineers need to expand their skills to stay competitive.

  • Collaboration is an important part of software engineering. Software engineers work closely with teams, which requires strong communication skills.

  • Software engineers can progress to roles such as a software developer or an experienced supervisor.

  • Most software engineers have a bachelor’s degree.

How to become a software engineer?

Software engineers invest years in developing the technical skills and knowledge necessary for their careers. Software engineers also need to gain work experience, build a portfolio, and write a resume. This section provides a step-by-step guide to becoming a software engineer.

Gain skills through diplomas, coding bootcamps or certificates

Software engineers enter the workforce through several routes. Most employers expect software engineers to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a closely related field. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years. ABET accredits software engineering programs.

Another route is a coding bootcamp. These accelerated programs train learners in key programming languages ​​and platforms. A coding bootcamp typically takes 12-24 weeks.

In addition to bachelor’s degrees and coding bootcamps, software engineers can take one-year undergraduate certificate programs.

Software engineering programs teach these major programming languages:

  • Java

  • Python

  • C / C ++

  • Javascript

Software engineers can also learn Ruby, PERL, SQL, or other languages ​​depending on their specialization.

Take charge of projects, exercise your skills and build your portfolio

Projects help software engineers build their skills and showcase their achievements. By developing basic software engineering skills and creating a portfolio, learners prepare for the job market.

During a software engineering program, students begin to create a portfolio. The portfolio can include class assignments, internship projects, and freelance projects.

As software engineers expand their skills, they can gradually update the portfolio to demonstrate more advanced expertise. Software engineers often post their portfolios on GitHub or on a professional website.

Continue internships

An internship provides valuable experience and helps software engineering students build a professional network. Internships also help future software engineers to specialize in their field.

Internships make candidates more competitive in the job market. On average, job applicants who complete an internship receive 16% more job offers than those who do not.

Many computer science and software engineering programs provide internship opportunities for students. The programs connect learners with technology companies that hire interns. Many companies also post internship offers on their websites or job boards.

Determine your software engineering career path

Many different industries and work environments employ software engineers. Software engineers also specialize in areas such as modeling and simulation, games and testing.

Before entering the workforce, software engineers should consider their interests and strengths. For example, software engineers interested in web applications might consider pursuing web development. Strong problem-solving skills help professionals who specialize in software quality assurance.

Choosing a focus area early helps software engineers find the right solution and advance their technology careers.

Obtain one or more certifications in software engineering

Professional certification helps candidates stand out in the job market and demonstrate specialized skills. Many technology companies offer certification for their products. For example, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce all grant professional certifications.

Applicants generally need a mix of education and experience to earn their degrees. Most organizations also require a test.

Some common software engineering certifications include:

Credentials generally remain valid for several years before they need to be renewed.

Create your CV and apply for job offers

Software engineers need a solid resume to stand out in a booming field.

A software engineer resume should emphasize technical skills and previous experience. Most resumes include a skills section listing programming languages, software skills, and platforms. Applicants for the job must also present their education and work experience.

In addition to a resume, some employers may request a portfolio of past work. Employers often assess candidates’ problem-solving skills and technical knowledge.

Software engineers can also perform independent functions. Companies advertise freelance and contract positions on their websites or job boards.

What is the starting salary for a software engineer?

In 2020, the median salary for software engineers exceeded $ 110,000. Starting salaries vary based on experience, job title and location.

How long does it take to become a software engineer?

Careers in software engineering typically require a four-year bachelor’s degree. Some positions require a master’s degree.

Is it difficult to be a software engineer?

Successful software engineers bring strong analytical and problem-solving skills to their roles. The position requires technical skills and the ability to work collaboratively.


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