How to Become a

Software Engineer

The complete career guide to be a Software Engineer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $84,360
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Software engineers are responsible for designing and developing computer software.  They create, test, evaluate and  maintain software applications and systems to make computer functions.

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What is a Software Engineer?

The following responsibilities are common for Software Engineers:

  • Designs, develops and tests computer software and its applications and systems
  • Develops software for diverse types of software including video games, business applications, operating systems, network control systems and middleware
  • Creates manuals and detailed flow charts and instructions including algorithms that give computer instruction
  • Constructs, develops and maintains general computer applications including software or specialized utility programs
  • Uses programming languages like Java, C++ or Python

A Day In The Life

Software engineers write, debug, maintain and test software that instructs the computer to accomplish certain tasks, such as, saving information, performing calculations or protecting data and information.  They convert the computer instructions into a type of  programming language, the most common three types are Java, Python and C++.

These individuals are involved in all aspects throughout an entire computer projects life cycle.  They should be capable of being responsible for working on anything from web applications and content management to databases and operating systems.  At the beginning of a project, they must first determine the scope and objectives of the software solution.  Next, they need to identify what needs to be designed ad developed and the time frame the project can be completed by.  They choose the appropriate coding and language to use for the project and then determine and develop a framework that can be exploited to speed up the process.  They should also be aware of how this software can be use across various different platforms as well.

Once the development process is completed, then these individuals must conduct automated unit testing.  This involves programming and testing simultaneously and ensuring everything works and integrates properly and they also ensure the software fulfills the necessary requirements for the client/user.

Typical Work Schedule

Most software engineers work full-time following the regular working schedule of 40 hours per week. However, software engineers work in teams to integrate parts of a software into an integrated system. Accordingly, you need to coordinate your schedule with other members of the team including regular meetings. Software engineers usually follow strict deadlines and you will commonly need to continue for extra working hours which extends the schedule to more than 50 hours per week. Additionally, continuous learning and training is an essential part of the working schedule of successful software engineers to stay updated in this rapidly changing field including the knowledge of available resources that can save much time and effort. This may include attending meetings, training workshops and conferences.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US bureau of labor statistics (US) the employment of software engineers is expected to increase by about 22% from 2009 to 2019. This growth rate is much higher than the average for all other jobs. Many fields will need software engineers including for example working on new applications for smart phones and tablets as well as the applications built on newer models of home appliances. Another field is health and medical insurance and reinsurance carriers which requires software to manage enrollment and other related issues. Also, computer security for companies and individuals will increase the demand for software engineers that develop new applications to help protect computers and electronic infrastructure. This indicates that graduates of software engineering should not face much difficulty finding their matching job as long as they have up-to-date knowledge and experience in the field.

Typical Employers

Software engineers have a wider range of employment options. Employers may include corporations working in computer systems design and development, as well as other related fields that ranges from the huge corporations like Google, Facebook, etc. to smaller companies and other software publishers. Recently, software engineers are needed in various fields including manufacturing, insurance, teaching or health. Many companies have even started employing them as part of the management team to cope with the significant effect of the ever-changing technologies.

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How To Become a Software Engineer

Software engineering is a constant and ever-changing profession. It adapts to the always changing and adapting technologies.  Because of its shifting nature, there is not a single path and many entry-points to becoming a software engineer.  But completing some sort of formal education would be the first step to achieving the goal of becoming an engineer.  Students can choose from a number of different training and educational curriculums to obtain the appropriate education to pursue an entry-level position as an engineer.  Although employers typically prefer candidates with a four year degree, an associates degree can also open the door to an entry-level position.  Students can pursue degrees in software engineering technology or software systems engineering.  Coursework focuses on programming languages and software development.  A bachelor’s degree in computer science is the more traditional route preferred by employers.  This degree exposes individuals to a broader curriculum.  Individuals that choose this path will develop a comprehensive understanding of computer science, software architecture and software testing.

Strong analytical and people skills are essential for this position.  Other skills that will improve an individual’s success in this industry and strong interpersonal skills, working well in groups and knowledge of the area that an individual is employed in are all valuable.

Software Engineer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Software Engineer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Software Engineer's can make an average annual salary of $84,360, or $41 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $60,250 or $29 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #123 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Software Engineer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Software Engineers

  • 2.5%   Doctorate
  • 19.6%   Masters
  • 49.7%   Bachelors
  • 9.7%   Associates
  • 13.1%   College
  • 4.7%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Software Engineer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -26,400 jobs for a total of 302,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #729 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Software Engineers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Computer systems design and related services 126,100 -26,800 -27%
Software publishers 22,100 3,200 3%
Self-employed workers 18,000 2,600 3%

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