If you’re an aspiring software engineer, you can expect regular opportunities to progress your career. As you learn technical skills and gain experience, new doors will open. You’ll have the choice to continue working with code, or to use your understanding of the software development lifecycle to lead teams.
You could even find yourself in a completely different field. By learning the fundamental principles of coding, you’ll give yourself a solid foundation to add value in any tech company.
Prime examples of this include Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. They all started out as software engineers, but went on to perform a range of different business roles.
Software Engineering Job Titles
Let’s look at some typical job titles to get a better understanding of just how flexible a future in software engineering can be:
Front-End Engineers: A front-end engineer focuses on building the user interface for a website or application. They’re responsible for the look and feel of a website and handle anything a user can interact with.
Back-End Engineers: These professionals work on the server-side of web applications. This includes web services, database design, integrating data feeds, and installing any other functionality. Shopping cart functionality or a secure payment system are examples of back-end development.
Full-Stack Engineer: If you combine front-end and back-end development, you get full-stack development. Full-stack engineers have a wide range of skills in both user interface design, and technical database configuration.
Mobile App Developer: Mobile engineers build software for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. They need to have a solid understanding of Android and iOS, build responsive apps that work on a range of different devices, and consider technical limitations like memory and processing power.
Graphics Engineer: These engineers use 2D and 3D digital platforms for gaming and video production. In the early days, graphics engineers were required to have expertise in math and computer science. But more recently, open-source frameworks like Unity and OpenGL handle most of the heavy lifting.
Game Engineer: The video game industry is big business and game designers are highly sought-after. The role typically involves modelling physics, 2D and 3D graphics, and game mechanics.
Data Engineer: Software engineers that specialize in big data are called data engineers. They’re responsible for storing, organizing, managing, and analyzing information. Data engineers find useful insights from data to help make informed business decisions.
DevOps Engineer: DevOps comes from development and operations. A DevOps engineer is someone who facilitates, oversees, and expedites the process of code release or deployment of applications.
SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test): A SDET engineer not only develops software but also performs testing. Their goal is to ensure software is robust, bug-free, and efficient.
Embedded Systems Engineer: Unlike standard software applications that run on computers or mobile devices, embedded software is used to control machines. Programs that run on a car, a microwave, or an elevator are examples of embedded software systems. Embedded systems engineers face unique challenges such as hard memory constraints and time-critical operation requirements.
Security Engineer: As the name suggests, these engineers design solutions to safeguard software or networks from hackers or cyber threats.
A Typical Career Path of a Software Engineer
Below is a common career path for a software engineer. Bear in mind that each company will have its own specific roadmap and this is just an example. Software engineering is a vast ocean and it’s up to you to choose where to dive in.
Software Engineer: At the beginning of your career you’ll have limited experience and start in an entry-level position. As a junior software engineer, you’ll be required to develop software to meet client requirements within a specified time frame. You’ll report to your team leader who will act as a mentor and guide you. During this period of your career you have the opportunity to learn new skills and gain essential experience working on real-life software projects.
Senior Software Engineer: After a few years you’ll become a senior software engineer. You’ll learn new programming languages, and master the software development lifecycle. You may have the opportunity to train junior engineers or even manage a small team of your own. You’ll start to be introduced to other business elements such as project budgets and high-level company objectives.
Tech Lead: As a tech lead, you’ll be responsible for the entire software development process. You’ll manage a large team of professionals involved in software design and development. You’ll be required to report development progress to company stakeholders and provide input into the decision making process.
Team Manager: If you have strong leadership skills, you can progress into a managerial-based role. You’ll be responsible for the wellbeing of the entire team and will oversee their career progression. To be a team manager you’ll need to motivate your collegues and get the best out of people.
Technical Architect: As a technical architect, you’re expected to overlook the entire architecture and technical design. You’ll be required to build processes for the team and provide technical leadership. This role will also involve looking into the scaling of support systems.
Chief Technology Officer: A CTO is the head of an organization’s technological needs. They oversee R&D and employ technology to improve products and services for their clients.
Responsibilities of a Software Engineer
Here are some common responsibilities associated with the software engineering role:
- Design and develop software using the software development lifecycle.
- Meet with customers to understand their needs and provide continuous updates.
- Design and develop test cases and test automation suites.
- Collaborate with cross-functional teams and clients to come up with effective solutions.
- Monitor and maintain existing systems and work on enhancements when needed.
- Keep teams up to date with the latest project data.
- Coordinate the installation of new systems and maintain existing ones.
- Test and debug of software.
- Train junior engineers.
Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer
Below is a comprehensive list of skills needed to work as a software engineer. They’re split into hard and soft skills. Hard skills include the technical know-how required in order to develop software. These skills can be learned through study. Soft skills are personal attributes of an individual that help them succeed at work. You’ll need to constantly practice soft skills to improve them.
Database Design: Most projects will involve a database. You’ll need to understand how to store and retrieve information efficiently using SQL (Structured Query Language). You’ll also need to master relational database design and optimize large database systems for speed and efficiency.
Version Control Systems: When working on large projects in multiple teams, version control is vital. If mistakes are made, version control systems allow you to revert back to previous versions of the code. This saves time and keeps everything organized. You can also track exactly who in the team is responsible for each change. GitHub is the industry standard version control system for software developers.
Software Development Life Cycle: The SDLC is a standard approach used when building software applications. It includes planning, requirement capture, designing, building, testing, deploying, and maintaining.
Problem-Solving: It’s rare to find two client problems the same. A software engineer should be able to analyze various problems and come up with elegant solutions.
Research: Whether you’re researching previous projects, looking for inspiration, or trying to find new solutions online, software engineers should possess good research skills.
Attention to Detail: Software engineers need to be accurate and precise. This is important for coding, where a tiny error can result in the whole system crashing. You’ll also need to write detailed technical documentation so other programmers and users can understand your work.
Communication: Software engineers need to communicate with clients and collaborate with team members. Both written and verbal communication is important to become a successful software engineer.
Teamwork: It’s rare to work on a software project alone. You’ll have to collaborate with other engineers and solve problems together. You’ll also work with non-technical professionals such as sales and marketing experts.
Organization: A software engineer should be an excellent multitasker. You’ll be required to work on multiple projects with strict deadlines. You’ll have to identify high-priority tasks and manage your time effectively.
Positive Attitude: Software engineers must be passionate about their work and have a desire to create effective solutions for their customers. When faced with professional criticism you should take on board the feedback and try to learn from mistakes. For a more in-depth look at what’s required, check out our post on software engineering skills.
The Future’s Bright for Software Engineers
Software’s all around us and a big part of our everyday lives. From booking a cab, to playing your favorite music, it’s all done with software. This tech boom has created a huge demand for talented software engineers.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that by 2026, there’ll be a shortage of 1.2 million software engineers. According to Indeed, in 2019 the U.S. software market faced a shortage of 475k engineers. It’s been reported that 67% of hiring managers are looking to expand their software teams and are facing challenges in hiring talent. In 2019 the hiring demand for game engineers was 146%. Security engineers were also in high demand. This year AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) engineers top the demand list.
These unprecedented demands have translated into lucrative compensation packages as tech firms jostle to secure top talent. A software engineer in the U.S. can now earn at least $100,000.
How to Become a Software Engineer
A degree in software engineering or computer science is the traditional approach taken by many students. But with tuition fees rising and a typical bachelors course lasting 4 years, some are seeking alternative forms of education. Software engineering bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular. Unlike a degree course, they hone in on the skills employers are looking for to help students fast-track their way into a well-paid position.
If you’re interested in becoming a software engineer, enroll in our software engineering bootcamp to kickstart your tech career. You’ll gain hands-on experience by learning with industry professionals. We’ll support you every step of the way to help you land your dream software job.
Feel free to browse our tech blog to read more insightful articles on tech careers.
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