Last updated 9/21/2023.
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?
- What Does a Software Engineer Do and Types of Software Engineers
- Software Engineering Skills
- Software Engineering Jobs and Salaries
- How to Become a Software Engineer
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.
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
- 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?
Who 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
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:
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
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.
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 touch up your software engineer resumé.
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.
Curious about which programming language to learn? Here are the best recent programming languages.