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    What Do Software Engineers Do? Job Types, Training, and Salary

    By The Fullstack Academy Team

    Software Engineering Job Types

    Last Updated: April 2024

    Anytime you visit a webpage or use an internet-powered application, you’re engaging with the end result of a software engineer’s work. To help you learn more about careers in software development, this article will cover the following topics:

    What is a Software Engineer?

    Software engineers are computer science professionals who use engineering principles and programming languages to build software products, develop web and mobile applications, and run network control systems.

    As we increasingly rely on smart devices to power our day-to-day lives, the number of software developers will only increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook is predicted to grow 25 percent by 2031.


    Do Software Engineers Only Code?

    While coding is a core skill, software engineers wear many hats! They apply their coding expertise to design, develop, test, and maintain software applications. This involves tasks beyond just writing lines of code. The role of Software engineers often involves:

    • Problem Solving: Identifying and analyzing problems, then designing creative solutions through code.

    • Collaboration: Working effectively with designers, project managers, and other engineers to bring software projects to life.

    • Testing and Debugging: Creating and running tests to ensure software functionality and fixing any errors that arise.

    • Communication: Clearly explaining technical concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences.

    So, software engineering is more than just coding; it's about applying technical expertise to solve problems and create innovative software solutions.

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    What Does a Software Engineer Do & Types of Software Engineers

    The software engineering field is broad. Developers have different sets of technical expertise, from building computer information systems to maintaining network security to creating customer-facing web pages.

    There are two primary types of software engineers: applications software developers and systems software developers.

    Applications Software Developers


    • Client-focused
    • Design software for the end user to interact with
    • Develop applications for iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, and more
    • Conduct requirements analysis
    • Tweak software and release updates regularly

    Front-end or back-end development?

    • Both

    Who do Applications Software Developers work with

    • Graphic designers, project managers, marketers, and customer success staff

    Systems Software Developers


    • Build operating systems and networks for user-facing applications
    • Responsible for both the hardware and software needs
    • Integrate disparate software products onto one platform
    • Often serve as general IT managers or systems architects
    • Design and enforce IT standards
    • Maintain IT documentation and update to new technologies

    Front-end or back-end development?

    • Mostly back-end development

    Who Systems Software Developers work with

    • Data science professionals, senior systems architects, development teams, and senior management

    Application Developer Vs. Systems Developer

    While both are crucial for software creation, application developers and systems developers have distinct areas of focus:


    Application Developer

    Systems Developer

    Primary Focus

    User-facing applications (mobile apps, web apps)

    Back-end systems and infrastructure


    Front-end technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), UI/UX design principles

    Back-end programming languages (Java, Python), system administration, database management

    Typical Tasks

    Develop features and functionalities for end-user applications, ensure a positive user experience

    Design, develop, and maintain core systems and infrastructure that applications rely on, troubleshoot system performance issues


    Collaborates with designers, product managers

    Collaborates with network engineers, security specialists

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    What Skills Do Software Engineers Need

    To be successful, software engineers need to have a diverse set of technical and soft skills to tackle complex challenges and deliver reliable solutions. Some basic skills software engineers should possess include:

    • Proficiency in programming languages such as Javascript, Python, or C++

    • Strong problem-solving abilities and an innovative mindset

    • Knowledge of algorithms and data structures

    • Ability to work collaboratively with a variety of teams

    • Familiarity with software development methodologies like Agile or Scrum

    • Sound communication skills that can convey technical concepts


    Does Software Engineering Require Math?

    While strong math skills can be a plus, software engineering doesn't necessarily require advanced mathematics. The core tasks of coding, problem-solving, and application development often rely more on logic and analytical thinking than mathematical prowess. However, some areas of software engineering, like graphics programming or machine learning, may involve more complex math concepts. Regardless, a solid understanding of basic math concepts like algebra and geometry can be beneficial for any software engineer.

    Is Software Engineering a Good Career?

    Absolutely! Software engineering offers a compelling combination of factors that make it a great career choice. Here's why:

    • High Demand & Job Growth: The tech industry is booming, and skilled software engineers are in high demand. This translates to plentiful job opportunities and strong salaries.

    • Creative & Challenging: Software engineering is more than just coding; it's about solving problems and building innovative solutions. It offers a blend of creativity and technical challenge.

    • Lucrative Salaries: Software engineers consistently rank among the highest-paid professions. The potential for career growth and earning potential is significant.

    • Flexible & Rewarding: Many software engineering roles offer flexible work arrangements and remote work opportunities. The work itself can be highly rewarding, seeing your creations come to life.

    If you enjoy problem-solving, are passionate about technology, and want a stimulating career with excellent earning potential, then software engineering might be the perfect fit for you!

    Software Engineering Jobs and Salaries

    Thanks to strong industry demand and their own technical expertise, skilled software engineers who focus on applications and systems are compensated well for the value they deliver. Companies headquartered in tech hubs like New York and California, in particular, offer in-person and remote coding career opportunities with even higher average earnings—while software engineers remain in-demand at companies of all sizes nationwide.

    According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for application developers is $99,558 per year, and $92,562 for systems developers in the U.S. Of course, applications and systems developer jobs are not the only two positions available in the field of software engineering. Other common roles include mobile developers, applications architects, quality assurance analysts, and database administrators.

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    Where Do Software Engineers Work

    According to LightcastTM, there are over 1 million open software engineering roles in the United States, making them one of the most in-demand jobs. With such high demand, software engineers can find themselves in a variety of industries, including technology, finance, healthcare, government, and more.


    How to Become a Software Engineer

    Completing a two- or four-year computer science degree has, until recently, been the only path to successfully launching a career as a software engineer. Other math- and science-related degrees in fields like information systems, electronics, and civil engineering or even community college courses have also enabled people to transition into software development.

    But a formal degree or some college coursework is no longer the only path to becoming a web developer. Coding bootcamps are an increasingly popular option for those who want to quickly transition into software engineering.

    Coding bootcamps are intensive short-term programs that focus on practical, language-specific programming skills but also typically cover information technology fundamentals. Most bootcamps are designed to prepare students to enter the IT job market more quickly and focus on the skills most in-demand with employers. Bootcamp programs are delivered online or in a certain geography (check out these online coding bootcamps).

    To help you prepare for bootcamp, Fullstack Academy offers an Intro to Coding course. Designed for complete beginners, this course will cover core principles that will empower you to succeed in bootcamp.

    Once your training is complete, you’ll need to prepare for your tech interview.

    Software Engineering Certifications and Courses

    Formal education isn't always mandatory for software engineers, but certifications and courses can significantly enhance your skill set and marketability. Consider exploring options like:

    • Coding Bootcamps: The coding bootcamps provide immersive training equipping you with core coding skills in a shorter timeframe.

    • Online Courses: Platforms like Coursera and edX offer in-depth courses on specific programming languages, frameworks, and software development methodologies.

    • Industry Certifications: Certifications like CompTIA A+ or Microsoft Azure Fundamentals validate your expertise in specific areas and can impress employers.

    These resources can help you gain valuable knowledge, build a portfolio, and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies in the ever-evolving world of software engineering.

    Every Industry Needs Software

    With the proper qualifications, a software engineer can work in almost any industry with any type of organization. While IT firms lead the pack in hiring software developers, nearly every industry needs software, including government, nonprofit, healthcare, finance, and transit and logistics companies.


    1. What exactly does a software engineer do?

    Software engineers are the builders behind the software we use every day. They solve problems and create innovative solutions through code. This involves tasks like designing applications, writing code, testing and debugging software, and collaborating with other professionals to bring projects to life.

    2. What are the skills needed to be a software engineer?

    Strong problem-solving, analytical thinking, and communication skills are crucial. Software engineers also need expertise in programming languages, frameworks, and software development methodologies. Depending on your specialization, knowledge of databases, user interface (UI) design, or cloud computing may also be beneficial.

    3. Do software engineers do coding?

    Absolutely! Writing code is a core function of software engineering. They use code to build the functionalities and features of software applications. However, the role involves more than just coding. Software engineers also design, test, debug, and maintain software, ensuring it works effectively and efficiently.

    Curious about which programming language to learn? Here are the best recent programming languages.

    Ready to break into tech?

    Learn the #1 programming language in 12 weeks with our full-time coding bootcamp.