How to Become a Software Engineer

A software engineer basically focuses on creating software products for private or commercial use. The discipline encompasses not only code writing and computer programming, but also the early design process and the maintenance of the final output. The software is normally created with either a target audience or a certain client’s requests in mind.

More About Software Engineering

Engineering has taken on many new scientific disciplines, with the latest being software development. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), this field involves the application of engineering principles to software development, but differs from other engineering branches in the sense that they build intangible – and not tangible – products. The software is embedded in the machines being used in different industries. However, a malfunctioning software can have serious tangible effects. A faulty software in a medical equipment, for example, can result in the loss of life.

The non-embedded software can still significantly impact the many aspects of life. People tend to trust software with their confidential information. It is used to run businesses and office functions. However, errors may still occur as it is still far from being foolproof. Data can be illegally taken out by hackers, or the system may encounter an overload. Even though there is a routine software designed to fix the problems, software engineers are still needed as they have a thorough grasp of the program’s structure.

Types of Software Developers

It is important to be aware about the two types of software developers: systems engineers and applications engineers. Software engineers often develop products for business applications, computer games, operating systems, and Internet security. Applications engineers focus on the users’ needs and develop a program to meet them. Systems engineers, on the other hand, maintain and improve an existing program. While they receive the same type of training, applications engineers normally generate more income than the other.

Software Engineering: The Process

Software projects need the help of engineers. The process normally starts long before the software is designed, and continues after it is launched. Engineers must thoroughly study the software requirements. Some of them play a significant role in carrying out the program. For example, a certain project must be able to verify a user’s access authority. Other requirements may involve constraints.

The next phase is software design, which involves the creation or algorithms or computer instructions. The coding process may be done by software engineers as they have received comprehensive training to perform such task. Programmers with specialty in coding may also perform this part. The stages of software development does not necessarily have to proceed in a linear setting. They may be arranged in various ways, such as spiraling.

Software Engineering Education

Software engineering has two main branches: systems software engineering and applications software engineering. Systems software engineers conduct a thorough study of the technical needs per department, and design or maintain the appropriate systems. They are also tasked to set up and maintain the intranet systems. Applications software engineers, on the other hand, design and maintain computer applications.

Software engineers generally have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some positions, however, may require the completion of a master’s degree. Their main focus is to acquire a core knowledge on software development that they can apply for many years, even when new languages have been developed and others have gone obsolete.

If you are considering to pursue a career in software engineering, it is crucial for you to understand the education and training that you need to take. There have been stories of computer geniuses who succeeded in the field without receiving any formal training and college education. While it is true that having exceptional computer skills can help you break into the field without any formal education, most successful software developers have extensive trainings and work experience under their belts.

A four-year college degree can help you get more employment opportunities, as well as a higher salary. However, it is still possible to enter this field with an associate degree. This is because some related degrees are being offered at both levels. The best path toward a successful career in software development is to obtain a major in software engineering or computer science. Courses like applied physics, mechanical engineering, math, and other related disciplines can also lead you into having a career in this field.

The educational path that you will choose must include a lot of computer science and math courses. Computer science will cover software design, algorithm analysis, software operating environment, hardware computing environments, computer architecture, compilers, databases, and operating systems. It may sound like a complicated coursework, but your love for computers can help you get through any computer science program at the bachelor’s or associate’s level. Your dedication will give you a good foundation required in order to succeed in this profession.

Once you have completed the basic courses, you will need to start focusing on honing your specialized and advanced skills. This will help you choose which areas you would like to pursue.

When choosing a major, make sure to familiarize yourself with the many options that your target university or college offers. A major in software engineering means you will study basic computer science courses, and will eventually focus more on software development during the latter years. You will learn how to create software, and solve computing problems. Meanwhile, a major in computer science will cover the core topics, but you will have an option among the more advanced courses, like software development.


Not all companies require potential employees to have an internship experience. However, internships provide great opportunities for you to gain ample experience and have a good break into your chosen field. Many large companies are willing to train fresh graduates with little to no experience. They might require a degree and/or enough experience, as well as knowledge on the many different computer systems.

If you seriously want a career in software development, then you may opt to obtain a voluntary certification as a Project Management Professional. Passing this internationally-recognized test will give you an edge as this will show your potential employers that you are determined to succeed in this field.

Employment and Salary

Software engineering has become increasingly popular, even during the difficult economic times. While companies may choose to outsource some job positions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that this is less likely to happen in highly-specialized software and computer engineering positions. Exciting career opportunities await people with educational background in computer science, software engineering, software development, and other related disciplines.

Internet security is a perfect example of a growing field. The U.S. BLS salary data showed that software developers receive a favorable salary for their skills, with the 2010 figures averaging $87,790 for applications software engineer and $94,180 for systems software engineer.

Computers play a significant role in the society’s infrastructure, affecting our work, business, social relationships, healthcare, study, and home management. Due to the constantly changing technological needs of people around the world, you can be sure that the demand for software engineers will continue to rise. If you are somebody who loves computers and complex problems, then you should consider software engineering and take on courses that most interest you.

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