Software and software system

A student asks: “What is the difference between software and a software system? What can I do with a software engineering degree?

Answer: Many people only think “Software” as “Code” or “Program” but actually “Software” is more than that, it also includes all associated documentation and configuration data that make the program runs correctly. A software system consists of hardware and software which has several separate programs, configuration files, system documentation, and user documentation. For example, your personal computer is a software system which has hardware with many components such as monitor, disk drive, key board, mouse etc. described in the system documentation; a software product which contain several programs such as operating system software, interfaces control software, and other software applications such as word processing, drawing packages, and software tools etc.

Most software engineering graduates typically work as software developers who build software products. However some may work as software tester who conducts tests to make sure the software product does not have defects and meets the requirements. After few years of experience, some software developers move up to software designer who design the architect and the structure of a software system with its functions and quality attributes. Some may move to requirements engineer position or requirements analyst position where they work with customers and users to determine their needs and document them into a software requirements. The career of a software engineer often varies depend on the company and your specializations as technology continues to change and there are more specialties within software engineering field.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University