Become a Software Designer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 03, 2020

Explore the requirements to become a software designer. Learn about the job description and duties, and review the step-by-step process that can help you start a career in software design.

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Software Designers

Software designers, also known as software engineers, develop computer programs and interfaces. They may develop computer applications or the underlying systems software. This career involves a lot of teamwork, as software designers often have to cooperate with computer programmers and others in order to create strong software. Designers who want to stay ahead of the competition will likely need to keep up on the most advanced designing and programming tools, and continuing education may be necessary.

Career Skills & Info

Software designers must be knowledgable about web platform development, program testing, database management and operating systems software. They should also know how to work with computer programming languages. Software designers must be familiar with computer equipment, such as CPU processors, servers, integrated circuit testers, and mainframe computers.

As long hours may be common, physical stamina and a willingness to work more than 40 hours per week can also help them succeed in the field. From 2018 to 2028, software developers will see a 21%, or much faster-than-average, growth in jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some employers may seek applicants with a master's degree
Degree Field Computer science, software engineering or another relevant field
Certification Voluntary certification is available
Experience Entry-level; experience may not be required
Key Skills Knowledge of web platform development, program testing, database management and operating systems software; solid skills in computer programming languages; familiarity with computer equipment such as CPU processors, servers, integrated circuit testers and mainframe computers; stamina and willingness to work more than 40 hours a week
Salary* $105,590 (2018 median salary for software developers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Microsoft and IBM, O*Net OnLine

Next, we'll look at the type of education you'll need to work as a software designer.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a software designer is to earn a bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science. These programs include courses in basic computer science and teach students to apply those theories in practice. Students learn to design and program software. Additional courses may include studies in statistics, systems architecture, mathematics, and computer ethics.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Employers of software designers may prefer to hire individuals who have experience with many different computer technologies and systems. Career service centers in colleges or universities can help students find internships in software design and engineering, as well as build their resumes.

Step 2: Master's Degree

According to the BLS, some employers may prefer applicants with a master's degree in software engineering or computer science. Once enrolled, graduate students learn to apply the fundamentals of software engineering to computer software management and maintenance while learning to be cost effective. They also become acquainted with research methodologies and learn how to implement those methodologies into their platform designs. Some master's degree programs also require completion of a thesis.

Success Tip:

  • Select a specialty track with job goals in mind. Many master's degree programs offer specialization tracks in cloud computing, systems software, project management, and gaming technology, among other areas. Graduate students should carefully consider their career goals and select an area of concentration that best aligns with their career goals.

Step 3: Employment

Software designers may work with applications or systems software in a variety of positions. For example, they may find positions designing software for games, businesses, or operative systems, or even work designing flow charts representing user's needs and wants.

Step 4: Certification

Software designers who keep current with changes in technology will have the best job opportunities in this industry, according to the BLS. Though certification is not mandatory, there are several options available for software designers, including the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and IBM Certified Solution Designer credentials. Certification may increase opportunities for career advancement and professional growth.

Just to review, you'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering to obtain a job as a software developer, after which you may earn a median annual salary of $105,590.

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