CAREER PATHS / AUG. 15, 2017
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How to Become a Software Engineer

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Software engineering is the process of designing, developing and implementing computer programs and systems. It’s a great career choice if you are passionate about technology and want a high-salary. Continue reading to find out if Software Engineering is the right career path for you.

Research the Profession

Job Description

The responsibility of a software engineer involves engineering, computing, project management and software development. An engineer uses concepts from mathematics and computer science to design, advance and test computer systems and applications. The work ranges from business productivity tools, such as word processors, spreadsheets, and databases; along with Web content management systems, graphics editing programs, games, operating systems and programming languages.

Your duties may vary depending on what type of system you are working on, but, typically responsibilities include:

  • Working closely with project managers, business analysts and graphic designers, to find out what the client wants and the best way to achieve it.
  • Talking through requirements with the client and the development team.
  • Taking part in technical design and progress meetings.
  • Writing or amending computer code.
  • Testing software and fixing problems.
  • Keeping accurate records of the development process, changes and results.
  • Carrying out trials and quality checks before release.
  • Maintaining and supporting systems once they're up and running. 

Software engineers can choose to become experts in a single programming language or type of development. Below is a list of example speciality areas to consider:

  • Web development - developing a site for hosting on the internet.
  • DevOps - a software development and delivery process that emphasises communication and collaboration between product management, software development, and operations professionals.
  • Mobile development - developing any kind of program for mobile application.
  • Technical stack (Python, Ruby) - a combination of software products and programming languages used to create a web or mobile application.

Essential Skills and Qualities

To become a successful software engineer you will need to possess the abilities mentioned below:

  • A problem-solver who can come up with creative ideas.
  • Great attention to detail.
  • Organised and efficient.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Ensuring work is completed promptly.
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work alone, as well as, part of a team.
  • Being able to delegate work, set tasks and lead by example.

Working Hours and Conditions

The wonderful working world of a Software Engineer can vary, depending on if you are working freelance or employed in an office. Although you will occasionally travel to meet with clients, you will usually spend around 37 to 40 hours a week at your desk. This profession requires heavy interaction with computers and other information technology devices.

Salary

A software engineer’s salary varies by employer. Larger tech companies, like Google, will most likely pay a higher starting salary than a small independent company. But, you can use the salaries below as a rough guide:

Beginning Engineer: £22,000 - £32,000

Experienced Engineer: £32,000 - £40,000

Senior Engineer: £40,000 - £51,000

Source: PayScale

Get the Qualifications

Often when people think of software engineers they assume that it may not be a job for them. Contrary to belief, anyone can be a software engineer as long as they are willing to learn. Many people do not study to become an engineer and get their lucky break through working hard at an internship. If you would like to study to increase your chances on securing your dream job you can apply for one of the below courses:

Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, or a related field, is the minimum degree preferred by employers. Bachelor’s degree programs expose students to a broader curriculum, one that provides a foundation in mathematics and computer science. Students develop a broad understanding of programming, software architecture, and software testing. They may also take specialised courses in application areas, such as networking or embedded systems.

Associate Degree (Two Years)

Although employers typically prefer candidates with a four-year degree, an associate degree can open the door to entry-level jobs in the field. Students may choose to pursue majors in several related areas, such as software engineering technology or software systems engineering. Curriculums focus on the core principles of software engineering, programming languages, and modern approaches to software development.

Coding Bootcamp (8 to 12 Weeks)

Coding bootcamps are a relatively new educational path for aspiring software engineers or developers. These programs typically last between eight and 12 weeks and place students into a hands-on, immersive learning environment; they will learn computer languages such as Java, Ruby, JavaScript, Python, HTML and CSS. Upon graduation, students should be ready for entry-level careers as developers.

Postgraduate Degree (One to Two Years)

If you would like to further develop your skills and get a higher salary, you might consider a Master of Science in Software Engineering. You will get further training in systematic, quantifiable and cost-effective approaches to software development and will be able to work across multiple hardware platforms. You will also have the opportunity to advance your skills in computer language systems.

 

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Land Your First Job

Software engineering is a rapidly growing field, with more graduates wanting to excel in a well-paid career. To have a good chance of immediate employment after graduation you should aim to achieve a 2.1 in you bachelor's degree. As this is a highly competitive market, you should constantly be on the search for new courses that will make you more desirable to employers. Aside from your educational background, you must also make a good first impression in your interview. Ensure that you do your research and brush up on some of the most common interview questions to give yourself an advantage over other candidates.

As this is such a diverse field there are a few paths that you can follow below:

Applications Development - Problem solving-based, non-Web-based software development that includes programming languages such as Java and C#.

Systems Development - Designing and coding background software created to support application development; includes program languages like C and C++.

Web Development - Designing software or applications to run in a Web browser and use languages such as HTML, JavaScript and PHP.

Embedded Systems Development - Designing computing systems and software to work on non-computing devices, such as automobiles. Use programming languages such as C and assembly language.

How to Get Work Experience

A good way to get your foot in the door at a major tech company is via networking. Find networking events online or through your university that you can attend and make sure you put yourself out there to bag a great internship or graduate position.

Where to find Software Engineering Jobs

There are many jobseeker sites available to find a job. Create a public profile and post your resume on professional sites. The following websites are highly recommended:

Develop Your Career

In this fast-paced industry, you will need to keep improving your practical skills and broadening your knowledge. Eventually, you can advance to a management position or work with embedded software which is more complex.

Lao Tzu once said: ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’. This cannot be more relevant when talking about your career choice. If being a software engineer is something you are interested in doing follow the above steps and you will be on the road to success.

 

Is a career in computer engineering the right choice for you? Leave a comment in the box below…

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