How to Become a Software Engineer
Software Engineer Careers & Degrees

A software engineer designs, creates, and tests computer software for a wide range of applications.

If you’re looking for a career path in the computer and technology industry, this is a great field to be in.

Software can become obsolete quickly, and companies are always looking for ways to improve the systems they have.

With the ever increasing rise of technology devices, the demand for applications and similar software is also set to increase.

To become a software engineer, you will most likely be passionate about software and computers.

Many people look for a career in this industry because it is something they are interested in.

You’ll also need to be good with math, computer programming, and will need to be very detail oriented.

Education Requirements to Become a Software Engineer

Most people in this industry have at least a four year bachelor degree in computer science, or a related discipline.

Many have a master’s qualification.

This is a very competitive industry, and you may find it difficult to get a start without a college degree.

While you’re at college, it’s a good idea to take internships within the area of software engineering that you are interested in.

There are many specialty areas you might branch into after graduation, for instance video games, web software, or business software just to name a few.

Having a part-time job that relates back to software is a good idea.

For example, you might work in a computing or electronics store.

At this stage you should be working on your own side projects.

You might be developing new software, applications, or even games.

This is good experience, as well as something to put on your resume.

Who knows? Something you create might take off!

Software Engineer Job Description

When you become a software engineer, your main tasks are to design and test new software.

This is done through a range of methods involving mathematical applications and computer programming and code.

Your work will constantly be evolving, as new developments arise.

If you want a job that will be constantly challenging you, then working in the computer industry is a good start.

There are many different kinds of software that is designed.

Some is for gaming, others for customer relationships, while some software is specific to industries like health care.

Some software engineers will create a program to be sold to a general audience, while others will be approached by clients to design a system specifically to suit their needs.

Here are some of the tasks you may need to complete when you become a software engineer:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss technical specs
  • Market research into software
  • Software design
  • Software programming
  • Software testing
  • Launching of new products
  • Finding bugs and troubleshooting
  • Preparing and releasing updates for software
  • Communicating with colleagues and clients

Software Engineer Salary and Career Path

It’s likely that when you become a software engineer that you will start off working as an intern.

If you want to design video games, this is almost a given.

Of course, after a little while you will be able to find a position where you are paid for your work.

Many software engineers go on to become project managers, chief information officers, or independent consultants.

Here are some examples of similar roles you may move on to later in your career:

  • Chief Information Officer
  • Project Manager
  • Software Design Consultant
  • Computer Scientist
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Engineer
  • Operation Research Analyst
  • Statistician

This industry is set to grow faster than almost any other sector, meaning for those with qualifications and experience, employment prospects are good.

The median salary of a computer software engineer is around $80,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners made over $100,000 a year.

Those in programming focused roles tend to earn less than those involved with design and project management.

If you have a real passion for computers, are creative, and are good at math, then you might like to become a software engineer.

Though entry level jobs are competitive, opportunity for those with a few years experience is excellent, and this trend looks set to continue.

There is a good salary available, as well as secure employment.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$111,620
$64K
$82K
$111K
$136K
$164K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$100,840
Alaska$103,270
Arizona$100,730
Arkansas$86,100
California$134,370
Colorado$111,540
Connecticut$107,540
Delaware$111,400
District of Columbia$118,580
Florida$99,840
Georgia$102,680
Hawaii$99,570
Idaho$95,140
Illinois$103,760
Indiana$91,880
Iowa$95,370
Kansas$91,990
Kentucky$87,650
Louisiana$84,100
Maine$95,410
Maryland$116,080
Massachusetts$115,270
Michigan$92,070
Minnesota$104,770
Mississippi$87,030
Missouri$92,510
Montana$88,190
Nebraska$90,820
Nevada$98,120
New Hampshire$109,900
New Jersey$113,510
New Mexico$88,980
New York$119,570
North Carolina$105,060
North Dakota$82,930
Ohio$95,920
Oklahoma$87,740
Oregon$104,260
Pennsylvania$99,280
Rhode Island$108,020
South Carolina$92,440
South Dakota$79,030
Tennessee$90,670
Texas$107,940
Utah$101,380
Vermont$99,730
Virginia$114,440
Washington$131,870
West Virginia$89,550
Wisconsin$92,560
Wyoming$87,510
Puerto Rico$52,680

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $134,370.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $134,370
Washington - $131,870
New York - $119,570
District of Columbia - $118,580
Maryland - $116,080
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers, OCC Code 15-1256, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a software engineer?

Software engineers are professionals who have both software and engineering expertise and apply engineering principles and programming knowledge to develop new software products or computer games or to run network systems.

Some software engineers specialize in creating new software and applications while others maintain network security.

Software engineers may create utility programs, operation systems or user-focused programs, such as web browsers or database programs.

They need extensive knowledge of programming languages, operating systems, and software development.

Software engineers try to connect the client’s needs and preferences with technological solutions by applying engineering methods.

As a software engineer, you will typically create diagrams, flowcharts, and algorithms that are later translated into a computer language by a programmer.

You will be involved in the entire software development process, from the planning stages to the support stages.

QuestionHow much does a software engineer make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t record specific data about software engineers but their salaries are close to those of software developers.

The median annual wage for software developers was $103,620 in May 2018.

Salaries may vary based on experience, expertise, employer, and region and as a software engineer, you can make anywhere between less than $70,000 and more than $160,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a software engineer?

Software engineers typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, information systems, computer science or a related field.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

A bachelor’s degree program in computer engineering costs around $43,000-$44,000 on average.

A master’s degree in computer science or a related field can improve your employment prospects.

A graduate degree program in computer engineering costs out-of-state students around $37,000 a year, on average.

QuestionWhat is the demand for software engineers?

As the demand for computer software increases, more software engineers will be needed to take part in the development process.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for software developers who create applications is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028 while the demand for system developers is projected to grow 10 percent.

The demand for software engineers should mimic approximately the same behavior, as both professions are involved in the software development process.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a software engineer?

Software engineers typically need around 4-6 years of training beyond high school and they may also need a few years of work experience in the IT field.

If you want to become a software engineer, you can start by taking computer programming classes in high school.

Then you should continue your training by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related field- this will require 4 years of post-secondary training.

Additionally, in order to improve your job prospects, you should also complete a graduate program in the field; this will mean another 2 years of schooling.

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