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Are you looking for a challenging career that allows you to work with computers and make an impact on today’s society? Consider becoming a software engineer. To work in this high-tech career, you should know how to program a computer, make decisions and plan projects.
This article uncovers how to become a software engineer, including how to get started, earning potential and how to advance in the role.
Software Engineer Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers should see a 22% employment growth from 2020 to 2030. This rate is much faster than the national average growth projection for all occupations (8%).
Software engineers typically enjoy above-average salaries as well, along with other corporate benefits like annual bonuses, 401Ks and challenging projects.
What Is a Software Engineer?
The BLS defines a software engineer as someone who “designs computer applications or programs.” Software engineers can work in just about any industry, even outside of tech.
All types of organizations, from Disney to community colleges, hire software engineers to manage software development projects and initiatives. However, large tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and LinkedIn tend to hire the highest numbers of software engineers.
Software Engineer Salary
BLS lists the median annual salary for software engineers as $110,140, but these professionals’ salaries vary depending on factors like location. Below is a list of the highest-paying U.S. metropolitan areas for software developers.
Steps to Becoming a Software Engineer
Job prospects are strong for software engineers, and there are several ways to break into this field. We’ll examine a few different paths below.
Earn a Degree
The traditional way to become a software engineer is by earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or a similar discipline. A master’s degree isn’t required to work as a software engineer, but it can be helpful for career-changers and those who want to advance their knowledge of the field.
A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete, combining general education courses with courses in your field of study. Computer science, information technology and cybersecurity are all popular majors for students interested in becoming software engineers. Computer science and engineering degrees often have more extensive math requirements than majors like IT and cybersecurity.
A degree is still the most widely accepted way to break into the field of software engineering.
Consider Obtaining a Certificate
There are hundreds of different certificates you can earn as a software engineer. Obtaining a certificate usually involves studying a particular topic in either a classroom or a self-paced setting. You would then sit for an exam that you must pass to become certified.
Becoming certified in a particular field or discipline can help you increase knowledge, gain credibility and enhance your resume. Below, we’ve listed some of the more popular licenses you can sit for.
- AWS certified developer, offered by Amazon Web Services
- Certified software engineer, offered by the Institute of Certification of Computing Professionals
- Certified software development professional, offered by IEEE Computer Society
Whether you’re looking to change careers, or you’ve just finished a degree, one of the best ways to find employment as a software engineer is to gain real-life working experience. Finding an internship is a great way to get started in a high-tech field.
You might also find a position in a related field, such as test engineer or technical support specialist. These roles can help you gain the experience you need to get a leg up in the software engineer job market.
A coding camp can also help you build experience. These online learning providers offer courses and career tracks that teach students different programming languages and data analysis skills. Check out our features on Codecademy and freeCodeCamp.
Software Engineer Bootcamps
Another great way to learn software engineering skills is by attending a bootcamp. With regard to price, program length and subject material, software engineering bootcamps are somewhere between a degree program and a regular coding camp. Coding bootcamps are not as comprehensive or long as degree programs, and they are more intensive than coding camps.
According to a report from RTI International, the median price of a coding bootcamp is $11,900. Bootcamp program lengths range from 12 weeks to 12 months.
Most bootcamps post high job placement rates, according to RTI International’s report. Moreover, many tech companies endorse and recruit from coding bootcamps. If you graduate from a software engineering bootcamp, you could qualify for jobs like software engineer, web developer, video game developer or web designer.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Software Engineering
How long does it take to become a software engineer?
Depending on the path you take, it can take between several months and several years to become a software engineer. A software engineering bootcamp may take months to complete, while a bachelor’s degree can take four years.
What qualifications do you need to be a software engineer?
Some employers are more strict than others when it comes to software engineer qualifications. Many companies require candidates to hold degrees, while others support and even recruit employees from software engineering bootcamps.
What does a software engineer do?
Software engineers write, plan and implement code. They often operate in teams and can work for small or large companies in just about any industry.