Software engineering is the process of using engineering principles to develop new software applications. It’s a fundamental discipline within computer science. After all, without software, a computer is about as useful as a paperweight.
It’s a diverse field and requires skills in computer science, engineering, and information technology. Aspiring software engineers have excellent career prospects and can work in a range of different domains including web development, mobile applications, and video game programming. If you're ready to learn more, we've got your intro to software engineering, along with a list of the most popular courses to get you on your way to a tech career.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
A software engineer uses engineering techniques to build software applications that perform useful tasks. These tasks can be business-related such as word processors or spreadsheet applications. They can also be for entertainment purposes like mobile games or online video streams. In fact, software can be built for absolutely any user requirement.
In the current digital age, many different devices can run software applications. Software engineers must be able to work with various different platforms. From smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers, to smart TVs, electrical appliances, and even cars.
Fundamental Concepts of Software Engineering
Software engineering encompasses many different skills and comprises of the following core concepts:
- Computer Programming: The process of building a computer program to execute a specific task. It involves processes like analysis, resource consumption, computing, and algorithms. Source code is written by a programmer and is executed by the central processing unit (CPU). The key stages of computer programming include planning, implementing, debugging, testing, and maintaining.
- Program Design: The design process begins with the analysis of a problem statement. Possible solutions are planned out and assessed. The final solution is selected.
- Computer Systems Analysis: A problem-solving technique that involves breaking down the whole system into smaller components and studying the individual processes of these components. In other words, deconstructing and reconstructing the software system. It’s a common technique that’s popular in most development fields.
- Fundamentals of Hardware: To write efficient software, you need to first understand hardware. Computer hardware refers to the physical components of a computer system. Things like the monitor, mouse, keyboard, graphics card, CPU, memory, and motherboard. Software is the set of instructions that are run by the hardware. When combined they form a fully functional computer system.
- Network: A computer network is a set of computers that use common communication protocols to share resources provided by the network nodes. These computer networks support applications and services to the World Wide Web such as storage servers and instant messaging applications.
- Computer Architecture: Used as a set of methods to describe the organization of computer systems. It includes logic, design, and implementation.
- Mathematics for Computing: It includes topics like numerical analysis, discrete mathematics, statistics, and probability.
Popular Software Engineering Courses Available Online
After discussing what software engineering is, the role of a software engineer, and the concepts that form the basis of software engineering, you should hopefully now have a better understanding of the field.
Let’s move on, and go through some popular software engineering courses:
- Software Engineering Bootcamp
One nice feature about this program is the personal mentorship you’ll receive. Each student will be assigned an industry expert with real-life experience to answer any questions and support you every step of the way.
2. Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals Specialization
Offered by Duke University, this course introduces Java and acts as a great first step towards a career in software development. Java is one of the most used and in-demand programming languages in the space.
In this course, you’ll learn programming concepts and practical techniques to fix complex problems. The course is centered around projects, so will help you demonstrate your new skills in a highly structured way. You’ll learn basic skills required to solve real-world problems.
3. Software Development Lifecycle Specialization
The University of Minnesota offers this course online for aspiring software engineers. It includes development philosophies that are traditional, secure, agile, and lean. In this course, you’ll learn to analyze software engineering development from the four philosophies and discuss the processes within each of the philosophies.
Additionally, you’ll be introduced to Kanban, agile software development, and software development kit. By the end of this course, you’ll be able to build applications using the software development lifecycle (SDLC) framework.
4. Software Design and Architecture Specialization
If you’re interested in both design and data architecture, then this course from the University of Alberta might be just the boost you need to start a tech career. In this course, you’ll learn to apply design principles and architectures to create software applications. This course is well balanced with both practical and theoretical assignments.
You’ll learn how to plan, record, and communicate software system design. The practical examples help you develop employable skills to deal with real-world problems. By the end of the course, you’ll be able to read and write Java code.
5. Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate
Provided by Google, this course will teach you how to use Git and GitHub for version control. In addition, you’ll learn how to analyze problems and implement appropriate strategies to solve them.
You’ll learn in-demand skills such as Python, Git, and IT to debug complex problems.
6. Software Development Processes and Methodologies
In this course offered by the University of Minnesota, you’ll be given quizzes to learn how software development processes work and understand what is involved in these processes. You’ll gain experience in Waterfall, Spiral models, and RUP. Above all, you’ll get an overview of how software teams work and what processes they use.
7. Object-Oriented Java Programming: Data Structures and Beyond Specialization
UC San Diego now offers this course online, so you can become a Java expert from the comfort of home. This course is all about using Java with data structures and algorithms for organizing big data. You’ll gain experience in writing code to analyze large data sets.
A unique feature of this course is that a group of students will be selected at the end to have practice interviews with Google recruiters. Note: Invitation to a practice interview does not guarantee employment and by no means should be treated as an actual interview.
How Much Can Software Engineers Earn?
In the United States, the average annual compensation for a software engineer is $109,396. In some cases a cash bonus of $4,000 can also be earned.
Exact earnings will vary based on your experience:
- < 1 year - $102,222.
- 1-2 years - $105,023.
- 3-5 years - $105,023.
- 6-9 years - $120,125.
- > 10 years - $137,622.
Top 5 Companies for Software Engineers in the United States
- Facebook - $186,072
- Intuit - $183,476
- Juniper Networks - $163,194
- Apple - $155,248
- Walmart - $152,544
Highest Paying Cities in the United States for Software Engineers
- San Francisco, CA - $158,287
- San Jose, CA - $149,412
- New York, NY - $137,633
- Seattle, WA - $131,061
- Chicago, IL - $119,430
Hopefully this article has helped you understand the relevance of these courses and the high demand for software engineers in the job market. But before investing your time and money in any of these courses, take some time to thoroughly research the market in your local area, talk with industry professionals, and make sure that the course you choose will add real value to your skills and career.
If you’ve done all the research and you’re ready to dive in, check out our software engineering blog. We’ve collected a range of resources for those looking to get into tech, like our list of top software engineering books for newbies and seasoned engineers, as well as our ultimate cheat sheet for web developers.