What does a Software Engineer do?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: December 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Tech
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If you have a creative mind and you enjoy working with computers, becoming a software engineer might be right for you. Software engineers start with simple questions, such as” how will the end-user use the software?” Along the path to answering this question, they will figure out the functionality needed by the users.

As a software engineer, you’ll also need to figure out the performance needs and security of the software. Software engineers design programs and provide instructions to programmers to write the proper computer code.

Sometimes, the software won’t perform as expected, or it’s too difficult for users. When this happens, it goes back to the software engineers for further design and update. After a program is released, a software engineer will also work on the maintenance, updates, and upgrades.

Software Engineer Duties and Work

Depending on the position you take under the title of software engineer, you may perform any of the following duties:

These duties and many others are performed by a software engineer with the right training and qualifications.

Necessary Education and Training to Become a Software Engineer

If you’re trying to break into this career, you will need the right skills and training. Software engineers don’t have to earn a bachelor’s degree, but most top employers prefer it. The path for this career starts in high school.

Finish High School

While finishing high school is important, it’s also important to take the right courses. This will lay the foundation for your college studies. Courses in computer science, pre-calculus, trigonometry, and calculus can help on the path to becoming a software engineer.

It can also be helpful to attend coding summer camps. If you start to gain coding and programming knowledge early, it can help you advance through the education requirements to become a software engineer.

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

While it’s not technically required, most software engineers will earn a bachelor’s degree. Some colleges and universities offer programs in software engineering or software development. You can also get a degree in computer security, mathematics, computer programming, computer science, or software development to help land an entry-level job as a software engineer.

If you decide not to get a bachelor’s degree, you can use coding boot camps. This is a newer way to get the education you need to enter into this type of career. Usually, a coding boot camp will last eight to twelve weeks, and you will work hands-on in an immersive learning environment.

Without a bachelor’s degree, you will likely need to work your way up. It may take ten or more years of relevant job experience to become a software engineer.

Get a Master’s Degree

It’s not common for software engineers to need a master’s degree. However, some of the higher-level positions may require an advanced degree in computer science. With a master’s degree, you can expand your earning potential and employment opportunities.

Those considering working in research may need to complete a doctorate program.

Gain Programming Language Knowledge

Some of the college courses you will take can help you gain some knowledge of the programming language. However, you may need to take courses on your own outside of your degree program.

The most common programming languages needed for software engineering jobs include:

Learning many of these programming languages will likely be necessary to find success as a software engineer.

Common Certifications Earned by Software Engineers

Along with the education requirements, you will likely need to earn specific certifications. It’s not likely that you will need all of these certifications. However, some of these will help to open up more opportunities.

The most common certifications available for software engineers include:

These certifications may require you to attend specific courses and take specific exams. With the right certifications, you can further your career path as a software engineer.

Most Common Job Titles for Software Engineers

While you can become a software engineer, and that might be your job title, it’s not the only one found within this field. You can work in many areas of this field. Some of the most common job titles include:

Each of these positions is a bit different and will come with different duties and tasks.

Top Cities for Software Engineers

If you want to enter into this career, you will likely find most job opportunities in a few specific areas of the country. While software engineers can work in just about any city in the United States, there are some cities where job opportunities are more common.

The top cities for software engineering jobs include:

More job opportunities and higher salaries are found in these cities compared to others.

Frequently Asked Questions About Software Engineers

How long will it take to become a software engineer?

Since a bachelor’s degree is likely necessary to become a software engineer, it will take about four years. However, it can take longer or less time, depending on the type of software engineer position you desire. Entry-level positions may be available to those with just a bachelor’s degree, and you may need specific certifications.

What is the salary of a software engineer?

The average salary, according to Indeed.com, for a software engineer is nearly $108K per year. It’s also common for this type of position to earn a bonus of a few thousand dollars per year. As you gain more experience, you can earn even more.

Software engineers with 10 years or more experience earn an average salary of nearly $136K per year. Top companies may also pay more than $150K a year, on average.

What type of dress code is common for a software engineer?

Most companies know that finding and keeping good software engineers is difficult. While crazy clothing is likely not allowed, most software engineers can wear casual clothing that fits into a professional environment.

There will be some formal workplaces where a software engineer will need to wear more formal clothing. However, wearing a suit or even a tie for this job is rather uncommon.

What type of hours does a software engineer work?

While you might be required to attend specific meetings, it’s common for software engineers to have some flexibility in their work hours.

Typically, a 40-hour workweek is common. During crunch times, you may work additional hours.

Can I work from home as a software engineer?

Yes. Many companies allow software engineers to work from home. While it may not be the preferred option of some companies, it’s possible. Some employers prefer software engineers willing to work from home at least part of the time.

What are the most common skills needed to become a software engineer?

Most software engineers will gain skills in programming. They will likely learn multiple programming languages and become proficient with solving coding issues.

Along with programming, software engineers need to be able to adapt and work with a team. It’s also important to be very detail-oriented.

Which industries commonly hire software engineers?

The list of industries hiring software engineers is very long. They are commonly found in the automotive, medical, transit, logistics, and technology industries. However, this type of position can be found in many other industries, as well.

Just about every industry today needs software. As a software engineer, you can likely work in any industry you want. However, this position is most commonly found in IT firms, government agencies, and healthcare facilities.

Is a career as a software engineer in high demand?

Yes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job position is expected to grow by 21% by 2028. This is well above the average for other careers.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.