Software engineering is a branch of computer science. It involves designing, developing, testing, and maintaining software applications using engineering principles. Software engineers build all types of software including business applications like word processors and spreadsheets, operating systems, graphic design packages, mobile apps, websites, and video games.

The field has seen incredible growth in recent years. This is largely due to the boom in mobile communications, the Internet, and the popularity of smart devices. Smartphones, smart TVs, and tablets have changed the way we consume information forever. Software engineers are responsible for building the websites and apps we use on these devices.

If you’re an aspiring tech wizard and interested in a software engineering career, read on. This article will help you understand how to get started in this rewarding and lucrative field. We’ll discuss the different study options available to you and answer the ultimate question lingering in your mind: are software engineering degrees really worth it?

The Difference Between Software Engineers and Software Developers

People sometimes confuse the terms software engineer and software developer. The two are closely related and work in tandem most of the time. However, there is a subtle difference between the roles. A software engineer participates in software development but does so while applying engineering principles.

Software engineering is a broad role that involves identifying customer problems, capturing user requirements, and creating software to solve these problems. Software development is more focused on the actual process of designing and coding the software.

If you're in this for the long haul, then you'll want to learn all the skills to become a full-fledged software engineer.

Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer

For a successful career in software engineering, you’ll need a range of different skills. Let’s first look at the soft skills:

You’ll also need technical skills and knowledge of software engineering tools and techniques:

Software Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

A BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Software Engineering is the most common, and traditional program taken by aspiring software engineers. It covers the study of computer programming, which is an essential component of software engineering. It also teaches the methodologies, practice, and tools to develop software.

Most bachelor’s degrees take 4 years to complete and cost around $40,000. They give students a broad understanding of the software development life cycle. This includes requirements engineering, software architecture, software design, testing, implementation, configuration management, and release.

Some colleges also offer integrated BSc courses in computer science and engineering that cover computer engineering and provide a strong foundation in software design and development. These programs have the added advantage of providing students with a deeper understanding of how software works with hardware components like RAM (random access memory), storage, and the CPU (central processing unit).

Software Engineering Master’s Degree

Master’s degrees usually last 2 years and are typically taken after a bachelor’s degree. They provide more insight into software engineering and give students the opportunity to specialize in certain areas.

If you’re interested in learning advanced coding and in-depth programming techniques that weren’t covered in your bachelor’s course, a master’s could be for you. This degree can help prepare you for real-life projects and includes modules like advanced project management, quality assurance, software metrics, and software verification.

Software Engineering Certification

Certification courses give students the opportunity to validate their skills and keep up to date with the latest software engineering techniques. They’re more affordable than degree programs and can be completed in a much shorter time frame.

Plus, they look great on your resume and demonstrate to future employers that you’re dedicated to the field and motivated to keep your skills on-trend.

A software engineering course can typically be completed in less than a year. Some certifications last just weeks. Instead of teaching a wide range of subjects like a degree program, a certification course is focused on validating just a handful of specific skills.

Having completed a certification course, aspiring software engineers will increase their chances of getting hired in the field.

Can You Become A Software Engineer Without A Degree?

A degree is great for in-depth learning of software engineering topics, but not necessarily required for a future career in the field. If you have clearly defined career goals, learn all the skills necessary, and find an experienced mentor, you can achieve your dream job without investing in a 4-year degree course.

In recent years employers have been recognizing software engineering bootcamps as an effective way to get started. They’re faster-paced, career-oriented education programs designed for students that know exactly what they want. Bootcamps often include mentorship and community support and are geared around getting aspiring software engineers hired at top tech firms.

Software Engineering Career Progression

Since software engineering is a technical profession involving specialized skills and expertise, you might think that career options are limited. But this simply isn’t the case. With the right kind of interpersonal skills like communication, conflict management, negotiation, empathy, and teamwork, you can find yourself rapidly progressing through your organization and even reach top management positions.

You’ll generally start off as a junior web developer. But work hard, learn new skills and you’ll soon be promoted to a senior web developer, or even a senior software  engineer: a highly respected position where you can expect to earn around $120,000 per year.

Alternatively, you can take on more responsibility and progress further up the ladder to become a lead software engineer or technical architect. These are mid-level management positions. From there, if you're excited about leading a team and shaping company strategy, you can aim for more senior positions like Director, Vice President, or Chief Technology Officer.

Kickstart Your Software Engineering Career Today

You should now have a solid understanding of how to get started in software engineering. Degrees are the more traditional route, but alternative, highly focused learning programs could be better suited to you. Especially if you want a career-oriented approach.

Enroll in our software engineering bootcamp to take your first step in becoming a fully qualified programmer. You’ll learn all the skills necessary to land a well-paid job in tech. We provide one-on-one mentorship and give you the chance to build a professional portfolio to wow prospective employers. Schedule a call with admissions and we’ll talk you through the options.

If you’re interested in reading more about careers in tech, check out our software engineering blog. It’s updated regularly with insightful learning resources on programming, web development, and coding.

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