Become a Software Engineer

As technology evolves and becomes a bigger part of everyday life, so too does the need for technology professionals. Software engineers design and guide the development of programs that computers use to make life a little easier for the rest of us. Although self-taught programming skills can land you a job, formal education is the best way to achieve a job with more design responsibilities and higher pay.


Entering Software Engineering as Your First Career

  1. Earn a degree in software engineering or a related field. Most software engineer positions require a bachelor's degree.[1] Majoring in software engineering will provide the most useful background for designing and perfecting software in the corporate world. Computer science is another good choice, although its more theoretical approach is best suited for future graduate students and R&D work.[2][3]
    • It is possible to get hired with an associate's degree or even with nothing but self-taught experience. However, these opportunities are generally low-level programming jobs, even if the employer bills it as "software engineer."
  2. Begin programming immediately. Even if you're still in grade school, you can give yourself a huge head start by Learn-a-Programming-Language. Software engineering is not focused exclusively on coding, but you will need to know at least a couple languages, and a deeper understanding of how they function. There is no widespread agreement on which languages are most useful, but these are all popular choices:
    • C++
    • C#
    • Java
    • Java Script
    • Python
  3. Study math. Software engineers sometimes create the mathematical algorithms that allow software to function. Focus on developing and maintaining your math skills in order to do your best once you've obtained a position as a software engineer.[4]
    • Discrete mathematics is a particularly useful area of study, as is any math course that involves software.
  4. Build software. The best way to improve your skills is to use them. Whether professional projects or personal, designing and coding software will teach you a great deal. For many employers, hands-on achievements matter more than GPA or theoretical knowledge.[5]
  5. Seek an internship. Many software engineer students work as interns while they complete their studies.[6] This can be an excellent way to gain hands-on training and network with potential employers. Look for internship opportunities through job posting websites and networking.
  6. Find job opportunities. Software engineering is a rapidly growing field. You have a good chance of immediate employment, although you may start as a programmer and work your way up to software development.[6] Start searching before your degree is up:
    • Colleges often help their alumni obtain a position. Talk to your professors, department staff, and the career services office about finding job opportunities.
    • A large percentage of jobs happen through networking.[7] Use your personal contacts, and meet people in the field through career meetups and conferences.
    • Check job search websites regularly. Create a profile and post your resume to professional sites and use them for networking as well as job applications.
  7. Consider your career goals. The software industry is always changing. Keep up by improving your knowledge and practical skills, and you'll have many chances to shape the direction of your career. Here are a few ways to improve your job prospects:
    • Join a professional organization for networking opportunities.
    • Consider a Master's degree if you have long-term plans in the field. While not a requirement for most positions, a Master's greatly improves your chances to work for an industry leader, in a management position, or in embedded software.[8]
    • Certification can be useful in some sub-fields and regions, but may decrease your desirability in others.[9] Talk to other engineers in your area of expertise before you enroll in one of these programs.

Switching to a Software Engineer Career

  1. Know your job prospects. The software development field has excellent job growth. Software engineering is a particularly desirable focus compared to basic programming. Median software developer income is roughly $80,000 – $100,000 a year in the United States.[1][10]
  2. Learn programming immediately. Practical software design and coding should be your first priorities. There are a variety of ways to earn this experience:[11]
    • Teach yourself programming through online tutorials or friends willing to teach you.
    • Take a massive open online course (MOOC).
    • If you already have some experience, collaborate with other programmers on GitHub.
    • A coding bootcamp is one of the fastest ways to learn, if you're willing to invest money and free time.
  3. Draw on your experience. Software may be a specialized subject, but your previous career doesn't have to involve computers to give you an edge. Software engineering can rely heavily on analytic skills, problem solving, and teamwork. In addition, familiarity with an industry may help you design software for that industry.
    • Even hobbies and side interests can ope up networking opportunities, or at least add passion to your job. Game apps, digital music suites, or business software are all examples
  4. Enroll in a degree program (recommended). It's very possible to land a programming job after a year or two of side experience, or even a few months with enough dedication. However, a "proper" engineering job, where you're responsible for designing software rather than just coding it, typically requires a bachelor's degree. If you already have a bachelor's in any subject, along with some coding skills, consider going straight for a master's in software engineering.
  5. Network your way to a job. Almost every industry needs software developers, so your network from a previous career can be invaluable. Also consider joining a professional association, such as IAENG Society of Software Engineering, the IEEE Computer Society Technical Council on Software Engineering, or the Association for Computing Machinery.


  • Job titles in this industry are not standardized. "Software developer" is a broad umbrella term. While "software engineering" is supposed to involve more design and specialized knowledge, some companies use this title to spruce up a lower-level programming job.[12]
  • If you want to work for a specific company, check their website's career page directly.
  • Go old school! Practice writing codes on a paper before jumping into the computer!

Should I Become a Computer Software Engineer?

Computer software engineers, or software developers, design and develop software applications or computer systems. They may develop computer applications for clients as well as the major systems that make a computer run. Long work hours are typical, and travel to meet with other members of design teams might be required. Since much of a computer software engineer's work is done on the computer, telecommuting is an option for this job. Step 1: Learn About the Career

Computer software engineering includes a variety of tasks and job descriptions, so aspiring software engineers may need to research the field before pursuing education and training that will prepare them for a particular career path. The types of software that computer software engineers create, test and evaluate include business applications, network control systems, operating systems, databases, middleware and computer games. Software engineers may use a variety of different programming languages.

Those who work primarily with computer systems may design and implement data assurance and system security, as well as customize computer systems to meet the needs of clients. They may also set up intranets, which are networks that allow different computers within an organization to communicate. Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education requirement for computer software engineering jobs. Those who work with applications typically major in software engineering, computer science or mathematics. Courses in a computer science undergraduate program may include computer fundamentals, data structures, principles of programming languages, software engineering and computer architecture. Success Tip:

   Participate in an internship. Employers may prefer to hire those who have relevant experience in addition to a bachelor's degree. Students can participate in internships during their undergraduate education to enhance their employment prospects. Internships also enable students to gain hands-on experience and learn new skills from professionals in the industry. 

Step 3: Gain Related Experience and Skills

Since computer software engineers design new software programs, they should have a high degree of creativity. They should also have strong problem-solving, mathematical and analytical skills, as well as the ability to work with abstract concepts. Communication skills are also important since they must interact with hardware engineers, industrial designers, manufacturing operations personnel and end users to develop software products. An entry-level position, such as a computer support specialist or computer technician, can help prospective engineers develop these skills and obtain hands-on experience in the field. Success Tips:

   Gain professional certification. Obtaining certification can demonstrate a certain level of competence and make job applicants more competitive. Product vendors, software firms and professional computing societies, such as the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP), offer certification programs. Those who seek certification from a product vendor or software firm may be required to work with the company's products, while certification from a professional computing society typically requires a series of examinations, maintenance of membership and periodical recertification.
   Continue education and training. Since technology is constantly changing, the job tasks performed by computer software engineers change often as well. Employers, colleges and universities, private training institutions, software vendors and professional computing societies offer continuing education and professional development seminars to help computer software engineers learn the skills necessary to keep up with changing technology.
   Consider a master's degree. Some employers look for prospective software engineers who have a master's degree. Programs like the Master of Science in Computer Science are available on-campus and online.

Become a Computer Software Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a computer software engineer. Research the education and career requirements, training and certification information, and experience required for starting a career in computer software engineering.

  • The most important thing you need is to work hard to be a successful Software Engineer!

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