Career Development

Software Engineer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Software engineers are the masterminds behind the computer applications that millions of people use every day. They are responsible for everything from website design to robotics, from mobile apps to video games, from administrative software to security systems. Whatever their specialty may be, software engineers are the people who design, create, and maintain these applications in their final form.

Software engineers are the masterminds behind the computer applications that millions of people use every day. They are responsible for everything from website design to robotics, from mobile apps to video games, from administrative software to security systems. Whatever their specialty may be, software engineers are the people who design, create, and maintain these applications in their final form.

Software engineers spend much of their time writing computer code. This involves sitting in front of a computer screen all day long with the goal of creating new software functionality or fixing existing bugs. Software engineers also commonly work with people from other teams inside of their company to get feedback on their work or get help when needed.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a software engineer and what it takes to become one yourself.

Software Engineer Job Duties

Software engineers are responsible for the following duties:

  • Creating and managing software design specifications and documentation such as flowcharts, pseudocode, and screen layouts
  • Developing programs by writing computer code or translating high level programming language into code that can be read by a computer
  • Testing the feasibility of applications to ensure that they function properly and efficiently in their intended environment
  • Reviewing and modifying existing software to fix errors and improve efficiency
  • Analyzing customer requirements and developing new solutions or modifying existing software as needed to meet those requirements
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships with customers and other stakeholders to ensure that all software meets their needs
  • Creating technical documentation such as user guides and system manuals as well as working directly with users and clients during the implementation phase of projects

Software Engineer Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for software engineers is $115,250. The top earners of the profession are bringing home more than $190,000 per year.

The number of jobs for software engineers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing use of information technology in organizations as well as an increased emphasis on productivity and efficiency.

Software Engineer Job Requirements

Securing a position as a software engineer may involve certain requirements depending on the level of jobs for which you’re applying, including:

Education: To become a software engineer, candidates must complete a bachelor’s program in computer science. Computer science majors study topics like web development, database management and software design. Many companies also prefer candidates who have earned an MS or PhD in computer science. These advanced degrees allow candidates to learn more about the field and earn higher salaries.

Training: Entry-level engineers may participate in on the job training while learning from senior engineers who serve as their mentors during this time. They will gain valuable experience completing small projects that teach them how to use specific applications and programs used by the company. Software engineers may also train themselves by taking courses online or through bootcamps offered by certification companies like Microsoft or Cisco.

Certifications & Licenses: A certification is not required, but companies prefer candidates who have these designations as they indicate familiarity with the latest technology and processes in the industry. Popular certifications include Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), AWS Certified Solutions Architect,  and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Software Engineer Skills

The following skills are required for this job:

Computer programming skills: Software engineers must be able to write computer programs using a variety of languages, including C++, Java, and Python.

Ability to work independently: The software engineer’s primary duty is to design and create new applications, so it is essential that he or she be able to work independently.

Analytical thinking skills: You must be able to analyze complex problems and find creative solutions.

Strong oral and written communication skills: These skills are necessary for communicating with coworkers, customers, and other individuals in order to discuss ideas and projects. 

Computer networking skills: An understanding of computer networking concepts and standards is useful for communicating between various computer systems and devices connected to a network. Software engineers may also use network monitoring and diagnostic tools. 

Database design skills: Software engineers may work with relational databases such as MySQL or Oracle. Some software engineers may specialize in database design and implementation. 

Software Engineer Work Environment

Software engineers work in an office with many other people. They usually spend most of their time at a computer writing and testing code. Their job may also involve meeting with clients to understand their needs and goals for a new software program.

Software engineers spend long hours in front of a computer and must be able to sit for long periods. Some software development jobs require engineers to spend time outside the office, meeting with clients and testing programs on computers in labs. Software engineers typically work regular business hours, but they may have to put in extra hours when deadlines are tight or unexpected problems occur with programs.

Software Engineer Career Path

Entry-level software engineers must learn the basics of computer programming and have a good grounding in mathematics. In addition, they must learn the specific programming languages that their employers use. They are responsible for both writing and debugging programs. They work long hours to start with, but their salaries increase quickly.

Five Years Out

Five-year veterans have gained respect in the industry and have established reputations. They can choose to remain with current employers, but most choose to change jobs because of salary increases or opportunities for advancement. Those who remain with current employers are often considered for management positions or promotions to head up new projects.

Ten Years Out

Ten-year veterans enjoy the fruits of their hard work! They may be working on several projects at once, supervising a staff of programmers, and making important decisions about software development. Their salaries increase significantly during this time and they may even have equity in the company. Most software engineers feel fulfilled by this point; only about 10 percent feel they have not yet reached their potential professionally and leave. The majority of those who remain are satisfied with their work; they enjoy the challenges involved in writing great code and/or building top-notch applications that people use every day at work or at home.

Software Engineer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how software engineers work. Software engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Focus on Mobile Apps

As the importance of mobile apps continues to grow, software engineers will have to develop expertise in programming for mobile devices in order to stay relevant.

Today, over half of all adults in the United States own a smartphone, and by 2018 this number is expected to reach nearly 75%. This trend has led to an increased focus on app development among software engineers, with 63% reporting that they are focused on creating apps that are customized for mobile devices.

Increased Need for Social Media Skills

Social media is an increasingly important part of marketing for businesses in today’s economy, which means that software engineers will need to develop social media skills.

As software engineers are tasked with building social media products and features, they will need to learn how to develop apps that resonate with users and meet their needs. This requires a deep understanding of what makes social media so popular in the first place—which includes both visual design and personality. 

Greater Importance of Collaboration

Collaborative software development is becoming increasingly popular as businesses move away from siloed work environments and towards collaborative, open source-style teams.

While the idea of an open source approach to software development may seem like a trend, it has actually been around for decades—many open source platforms are used by large companies today including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is used by organizations like HP and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

How to Become a Software Engineer

1. Planning Your Career

If you’re interested in a career as a software engineer, it’s important to have the right mindset for this role. Software engineers are often tasked with developing products that can affect millions of people around the world, so it’s essential to approach each project with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

In addition to being intellectually curious, engineers should have a solid understanding of problem-solving techniques and a willingness to work hard. The best candidates are those who can handle both the technical aspects of programming as well as the interpersonal skills needed to communicate with other members of their team.

A lot of work goes into creating high-quality software, so if you are not an extremely detail-oriented person, this may not be the right fit for you.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for software engineers highlight their ability to work as part of a team, communicate clearly, and develop innovative solutions. In your work history section, it is important to list the type of projects you worked on along with specific examples of how you contributed to these projects. If you’ve created any code libraries or modules, be sure to include these as well. It’s also important to describe how and what tools and techniques you used in order to create your solutions including both technical and non-technical details.

In addition to listing your technical skills, be sure to include how you work with other people on the team. Include details of your contributions, how you solve problems, and how you approach your role in a positive manner. 

3. Applying for Jobs

Finding a job as a software engineer is all about networking. Participate in coding communities, attend events related to your career, and talk to friends who are working in the field. Join the community at sites like Stack Overflow, LinkedIn, or GitHub to network with people in your field. Keep an eye out for startup incubators in your area, as these often have openings for people who are looking to get their foot in the door.

When it comes to networking, you should join a local chapter of your software development organization of choice. Most larger cities have local chapters, and there are even international organizations that will help you meet professionals from all over the world. It’s a great way to get to know people and build a strong network that can help you with career opportunities. If you aren’t able to find a local chapter, attend industry conferences and visit your favorite social media sites where software engineers tend to congregate.

4. Ace the Interview

When interviewing for a software engineering position, be prepared to discuss the specifics of the job. Your interviewer may ask you about your programming skills or what type of experience you have with various platforms or specific programs.

If your profession is not strictly coding, it is best to be honest with the recruiter. You are more likely to get hired if you are honest about your skills. Be sure to cover the basics of what you do know and emphasize any particular areas of expertise. You can also mention if you are working toward furthering your knowledge of certain technology tools.

The interview process will also focus on more general skills that are important in this field, including problem-solving abilities, ability to work in a team setting, maturity level, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once.

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