How To Become a Software Engineer

If you like working with computers, pay attention to detail and enjoy the challenge of solving problems, you might be wondering how to become a software engineer. Software engineers conceptualize and create computer software programs. Typically, software engineers focus on one of two types of software: applications or systems. Software developers commonly find employment in industries such as computer systems design, manufacturing, finance and software publishing. While some software engineers work as part of in-house teams within companies, others assist businesses on a contract basis.

Though software engineers spend much of their workdays sitting behind a computer, software engineering requires more than technical skills. Software engineers must be able to analyze the intended function of a piece of software. Based on clients’ needs, software engineers must imagine effective ways to meet goals, which sometimes requires creativity and critical thinking. Once they have devised the idea for how the software will work, software engineers must create the software using programming languages and algorithms. While computer programming may be a part of a software engineer’s job duties, it is not their primary responsibility. Instead, software engineers focus on big-picture concerns, such as how to design software that will fill a certain need or how to fix a problem. Applications software engineers create the applications, or apps, that allow computers to be used to play games, create documents, or perform other useful or recreational tasks. Systems software engineers design the software that allows computer systems to run those applications.

To begin preparing for a career as a software engineer, candidates should attend a college or university. Programs of study such as computer science or software engineering are popular among aspiring software engineers. Coursework in computer programming and mathematics are also important for aspiring software engineers to develop a solid background. To improve their job prospects, students should take advantage of internship opportunities and laboratory projects during their academic careers. Technology and computer languages are constantly evolving, so aspiring software engineers should be prepared to continue learning throughout the course of their professional careers.

Applications software engineers earn a mean annual salary of $87,900, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Systems software engineers earn an average salary of $96,620 per year, the BLS reported. Because the use of computer applications and systems software has increased in both personal use and business use, computer technology is a popular field with a positive job outlook. Software engineers have varied opportunities for employment, from in-house positions with established companies or exciting new startups to contract and consultant work. With experience and an advanced education, software engineers can move into high-level and management positions, such as senior software engineer roles. Business magazine Forbes even ranked software engineer as the “number one best job for 2012.” If you excel at science and mathematics and know or want to learn computer programming, knowing how to become a software engineer could be your first step toward a profitable new career.

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