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How to Become a Software Engineer: Education & Career Requirements

Nov 03, 2019

Learn what to study to become a software engineer. Research certification information and experience required for starting a career in computer software engineering. View article »

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  • 00:01 Essential Information
  • 0:30 Career Requirements
  • 1:18 Research the Field
  • 2:08 Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:56 Experience & Skills

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Computer Software Engineer?

Computer software engineers, or software developers, design and develop software applications or computer systems. They may develop computer applications for clients as well as the major systems that make a computer run. Occasional extended work hours are typical, and travel to meet with other members of design teams might be required. Since much of a computer software engineer's work is done on the computer, telecommuting is often an option for this job.

Software Engineer Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some employers may prefer a master's degree
Degree Field Computer science, software engineering, or related field
Certification Voluntary certification is available
Key Skills Analytical, problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills as well as creativity and attention to detail; familiarity with database management, development environment, program testing, and other related software
Median Annual Salary (June 2019) $83,681*

Source: *PayScale.com

How to Become a Software Engineer

Step 1: Learn About the Career

Since computer software engineering includes a variety of tasks and job descriptions, the first step aspiring software engineers may need to do is to research the field before pursuing education and training that will prepare them for a particular career path. The types of software that computer software engineers create, test, and evaluate include business applications, network control systems, operating systems, databases, middleware, and computer games. Software engineers may use a variety of programming languages.

Those who work primarily with computer systems may design and implement data assurance and system security, as well as customize computer systems to meet the needs of clients. They may also set up intranets, which are networks that allow different computers within an organization to communicate.

Step 2: Fulfill Computer Software Engineer Education Requirements

Since a software engineer's (or software developer's) entry-level education typically involves a bachelor's degree, the next step is to complete your degree program. Those who work with applications typically graduate with a computer software engineer degree or another related degree in computer science or mathematics. Courses in a computer science undergraduate program may include computer fundamentals, data structures, principles of programming languages, software engineering, and computer architecture.

  • Success Tip: Participate in an internship! Employers may prefer to hire those who have relevant experience added to their software engineering qualifications, in addition to a bachelor's degree. Students can participate in internships during their undergraduate education to enhance their employment prospects. Internships also enable students to gain hands-on experience and learn new skills from professionals in the industry.

Step 3: Gain Related Experience and Skills

Since computer software engineers design new software programs, they should have a high degree of creativity. They should also have strong problem-solving, mathematical, and analytical skills, as well as the ability to work with abstract concepts. Communication skills are also important since they may interact with hardware engineers, industrial designers, manufacturing operations personnel, and end users to develop software products. An entry-level position, such as a computer support specialist or computer technician, can help prospective engineers develop these skills and obtain hands-on experience in the field.

Step 4: Consider Professional Certification

Obtaining certification can demonstrate a certain level of competence and make job applicants more competitive. Product vendors, software firms, and professional computing societies, such as the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP), offer certification programs. Those who seek certification from a product vendor or software firm may be required to work with the company's products, while certification from a professional computing society typically requires a series of examinations, maintenance of membership, and periodic recertification.

Step 5: Continue Your Education and Training

Since technology is constantly changing, the job tasks performed by computer software engineers change often as well. Employers, colleges and universities, private training institutions, software vendors, and professional computing societies offer continuing education and professional development seminars to help computer software engineers learn the skills necessary to keep up with changing technology. You might also consider a master's degree. Some employers look for prospective software engineers who have a master's degree. Programs like the Master of Science in Computer Science are available on-campus and online.

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