How to Become a Software Engineer
Software is vital to our daily lives. For us, software is the difference between entering ones and zeros into our computers and phones and playing Minecraft, browsing Facebook, or doing important work. Software engineers play an important role in developing the software that we use everyday, along with the complex software used by businesses and data scientists. Without software engineers, everything would work less smoothly, and many of the useful services we take for granted wouldn’t exist without them.
So what are some of the upsides of a career in software engineering? Check out these statistics:
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What Is Software Engineering?
Software engineers develop programs for computers using code and other tools. These professionals also apply engineering principles to program development, creating software for computers across a wide range of industries. Computers themselves are practically useless without the work of a software engineer—and while software engineers do not design computers themselves, they do create the systems that make them useful. Software engineers design, build, maintain, update, and repair software programs. Additionally, software engineers build applications and work with networks and systems. The need for software engineers spans across virtually all modern industries. Computers are ubiquitous in the 21st century, and the need for qualified engineers to work with them often outstrips the supply of trained candidates. Software engineering is in high demand today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software engineer employment is expected to grow to an astounding 24% by 2026. This figure isn’t just above average—its far higher than the vast majority of other career paths. Salaries are also high, with many engineers making six-figure salaries depending on their location.
What do Software Engineers Do?
Software engineers are often confused for other job titles, and often their responsibilities overlap with other adjacent positions in the field of software development. Software engineers are defined by their application of engineering principles to the software world. Software–in the end–functions like a machine with many moving parts, and that software has to run on a physical machine: the computer, which also has many moving parts. A software engineer needs to understand the interactions of all these moving parts to design an entire system that functions efficiently.
Software Engineering Job Description
Software engineers spend a lot of time coding. Coding is the use of a specialized computer language to write instructions and direct the machine to do something. Coding is necessary for everything with computers, so many software engineers spend a great deal of time doing it. And they don’t just build programs. Debugging, or fixing errors in a section of code, is a huge part of many software engineering jobs. Additionally, software engineers work with networks and systems. Software engineers use their coding skills to build software programs and applications. These programs range from video games to automobile ignition control software. Due to the wide range of industries software engineers work in, people have nearly limitless differences in their day-to-day work routine. However, most software engineers work full-time in offices, though remote positions are available. On the ground, these tech professionals have a number of responsibilities. Here are some that are common to most software engineers:
It’s notable that software engineers need an extensive understanding of programming languages and their structure, however they don’t always program themselves. Software engineers sometimes have to wear more than one hat, and they will almost always need to dig into the code to solve a problem or to understand the implementation of their system.
What Are the Required Skills for Software Engineering Careers?
A software engineer needs more than just programming knowledge to perform their jobs. They often fill more than one need, and every software engineer needs at least some basis in the following skills:
How Much Do Software Engineers Make?
Software engineers enjoy relatively high salaries in some areas, and exceptionally high salaries in others. These engineers often bring in more than $100,000 per year, especially if they work in a high-tech sector or in a major metropolitan area. In the United States, software engineers make an average annual salary of $107,287. However, factors such as location and experience play a very large part in determining salary. In the chart below, we’ll show the average low, average, and high software engineering salaries in 15 major metropolitan areas using data from Glassdoor.
|San Francisco, CA||$134,025|
|Los Angeles, CA||$106,616|
|New York, NY||$113,245|
But your salary as a software engineer will also depend greatly on the particular field you’re working in, as well as your experience level.
- Mean Annual Salary: $105,590
- Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 24%
- Number of People Employed: 1,256,200
Software developers develop the computer programs that allow people to use computers and other devices as effective tools. They also develop the underlying systems that control networks.
- Mean Annual Salary: $89,430
- Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 15%
- Number of People Employed: 162,900
Web developers design and create websites, work with the site’s look and its technical aspects, and are responsible for web analytics.
- Mean Annual Salary: $88,280
- Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): -7%
- Number of People Employed: 273,600
Programmers write and test code to ensure that computer applications and software programs function as they should. They work with plans formulated by software developers and engineers and turn them into instructions for computers.
- Mean Annual Salary: $98,350
- Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 28%
- Number of People Employed: 100,000
Information security analysts create plans to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. They are the first line of defense against cyberattacks.
- Mean Annual Salary: $90,070
- Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 11%
- Number of People Employed: 119,500
DBAs work with special software to store and organize a company’s important data. They ensure the data is organized, accessible by authorized individuals, and safe from unauthorized access.
|Entry-Level (0-5 Years)||$75,000|
|Mid-Career (5-10 Years)||$125,000|
|Experienced (10-20 Years)||$150,000|
|Late-Career (20+ Years)||$200,000|
The Types of Software Engineers
There are a broad range of applications in use today, from backend to front end, from youtube to NASA. The same way, there are a broad range of software engineers that can specialize in their field of software development. Usually, this broad range can be boiled down to two categories, application development and systems development.
How Can You Become a Software Engineer?
If you think that the exciting career above is for you, designing systems from an engineers perspective, then the first step to becoming a software engineer is learning. Understanding the structure of the programs, systems, and languages you will use is essential, as well as learning how to apply those concepts in the real world. There are two main ways to start learning and get into this career path:
Education Pathways for Software Engineers
Software engineers come from many educational backgrounds. Many engineers begin with a degree in computer science and learn coding elsewhere after graduation. Other engineers are self-taught and learned coding with books and the internet. Coding bootcamp is another popular education option for software engineers.
Traditional Colleges and Universities
Many software engineering careers start at the doorstep of a university or college. A degree in computer science is often considered a requirement for software engineers, however traditional education isn’t always the best route. Degrees take a lot of time and money. It’s a minimum investment of two to four years, at close to $10,000 per year. While these courses will give you a comprehensive understanding of engineering, coding, and systems, they won’t give you practical experience. A practical understanding of how to implement the concepts in software development and engineering is half of the job, and almost as many jobs that require a degree also require experience. Getting a degree doesn’t promise you a position at a company either. Not everyone is able to spend that long, or give that much money just to start a career with no promise of an actual job at the other end. College used to be the default way to enter the industry. Typically, engineers would obtain a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar field, then proceed to an internship or a full-time position at a tech company. Today, coding bootcamp is gaining traction as a new and proven way to land a tech job, without the time and expense associated with college degrees.
Bootcamps strike a balance. While they will not provide the same comprehensive education that a four year degree will, they will provide you with on the ground, practical training to get you into software engineering as quickly as possible. Coding bootcamps cost an average of $13,600 for a full-time education. These programs run between 3 months and 1 year, but schedules vary widely. Full-time programs are available, as are part-time and online programs in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, students can attend bootcamps for other tech careers including web development, data science, cybersecurity, and more. Software engineering is an amazing career. Getting to design entire complex systems that function in unison with other systems like cogs in a giant machine is deeply appealing to many. If it’s appealing to you then don’t wait. Start learning now, and enter a field where cutting edge is the norm.
- Duration: 1 to 5 years
- Cost: $0 (or minimal)
- Average Base Salary: Unknown
- Duration: 3 to 12 months
- Cost: Avg. $13,600
- Average Base Salary: $70,700
- Duration: 4 to 6 years
- Cost: Avg. $34,740 (4 years)
- Average Base Salary: $65,900
- Duration: 1.5 to 2 years (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
- Cost: Avg. $30,000 to $100,000 (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
- Average Base Salary: $114,000
- Duration: 4 to 8 years (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
- Cost: Avg. $50,000+ (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
- Average Base Salary: $124,000
What Companies Are Hiring Software Engineers?
Software engineering is a popular career choice for people who want to work in the tech industry. Major tech companies employ thousands of engineers for a variety of projects. In this table, you can see the ubiquity of engineering careers in four of the industry’s top companies. Also, the table displays the average salaries for software engineers at each company in 2020, according to Glassdoor.
Software Engineering Positions: 4,500 Average Salary: $136,000
Software Engineering Positions: 12,000 Average Salary: $131,000
Software Engineering Positions: 17,000 Average Salary: $125,000
Software Engineering Positions: 18,000 Average Salary: $134,000
2020 Best Software Engineering Bootcamps
What does a software engineer do?
A software engineer develops computer software through coding and various other tools. A software engineer may oversee the development of a product, design it, or determine whether it is a good idea.
Is software engineering a good career?
Yes, software engineering is a lucrative career that is in high demand. The career comes with a high salary, bonuses, and long-term prospects.
What skills are needed to become a software engineer?
Software engineers need coding skills, analytical skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to work with a team on large projects.
How long does it take to become a software engineer?
On average, software engineering programs at coding bootcamps take around 6 months. By comparison, software engineering degree programs can take 3 to 4 years to complete.