Become an Application Engineer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 11, 2020

Research the requirements to become an application engineer. Learn about the job description, duties and step-by-step process to start a career in applications engineering.

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Should I Become an Application Engineer?

Application engineers - sometimes called software application developers - create, design and test computer software programs. Their job may require them to create specific applications to meet clients' needs, modify existing applications to fix problems or install new applications.

Software application developers usually work in an office environment, though some telecommute, allowing them to work from home. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for software application developers are expected to increase an estimated 26% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average when compared to all other occupations.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree, though some employers hire engineers with less education provided they have significant work experience
Degree Field Software engineering, computer science, math or a related field
Certification Voluntary certifications are available from the IEEE Computer Society
Experience Applicants with a bachelor's degree typically need 1-2 years of experience
Key Skills Analytical, communication and problem-solving skills; mathematical and inductive reasoning abilities, knowledge of database management, web platform development and program testing software; familiarity with Java, .NET, SQL and C programming languages, ability to use application servers and logic analyzers
Salary (2018) $103,620 yearly (median for all software developers, applications)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, IEEE Computer Society, Occupational Information Network

Steps to Become an Application Engineer

Step 1: Graduate from a Bachelor's Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field is often required to work as an application engineer. Programs focusing on software application engineering are unavailable. However, there are computer science departments offering Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering programs, many of which are approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

These 4-year degree programs typically include coursework in programming basics, discrete structures, systems programming and computer administration. Other courses cover software testing, quality assurance, software project planning and software architecture. Dual master's and bachelor's degree programs in software engineering are also available. These programs usually require an extra year of study.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship. Internships allow students to develop their programming skills and gain the hands-on work experience necessary for a job in this field. These opportunities can also help them network with other application engineers.
  • Participate in a research project. Many bachelor's degree programs include research or capstone projects as part of the curricula. Students undertaking these projects can access the latest technology and get experience working in all stages of product design and testing.
  • Become certified. The IEEE Computer Society offers the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) credential to entry-level professionals who would like to establish themselves in the field. Certification is open to students in their final year of undergraduate study; recent college graduates can also apply. Requirements include passing scores on a written exam.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

In addition to a bachelor's degree, employers of application engineers commonly seek candidates with around 1-2 years of experience. To meet these requirements, prospective engineers can start out in entry-level positions, where they're responsible for installing and maintaining software or overseeing customer support. They might also look for opportunities to take on tasks like debugging code or creating user interfaces for websites and databases.

Step 3: Earn Advanced Certification

The IEEE Computer Society offers the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) credential to individuals who would like to further demonstrate their skill and professionalism. Successful candidates will need a bachelor's degree and two years of work experience along with passing scores on an exam.

Hopeful application engineers should earn a bachelor's degree, gain work experience through internships and entry level positions and earn advanced certification to demonstrate their skills.

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