Software engineers, often referred to as software developers, design innovative software for businesses and clients. From a personal banking app to a company’s project management workflow system, software engineers are behind many of the essential apps and programs that make business and daily life more efficient.
Companies rely on software engineers to create better online experiences for their employees and customers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for software engineers will grow by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026, adding as many as 302,500 new jobs.
Due to its reputation as one of the fastest-growing technology jobs today, software development was ranked as the #1 Best Technology Job in America for 2021 by U.S. News & World Report. Discover how much software developers make on average across the U.S. and what it takes to succeed in this high-demand field.
Interested in pursuing a career in this fast-growing field? Follow these five steps to become a software engineer:
- Enroll in a degree program
- Gain internship experience
- Choose your specialty
- Get certified
- Continue your education
1. Enroll in a software development program
The first step to becoming a software engineer is to enroll in a software development degree program. You don’t need to have a background in technology to pursue this degree path – most software development programs begin with foundational courses to help you learn common coding languages and basic programming skills, followed by more advanced courses to prepare you for entry-level roles in software development.
A bachelor’s degree is a requirement for most full-time software engineer positions. However, some students may choose to start out with an associate degree in software development. This path allows you to pursue entry-level information technology roles and gain experience as you work towards your bachelor’s degree.
2. Gain internship experience
Internships allow you to get hands-on experience in your field and put your skills and knowledge from class into practice. They are also great resume-builders and can be instrumental in helping you land your first job after college. Many aspiring software developers will complete an internship to position themselves for competitive entry-level software development jobs.
Working at a few different internships throughout your college career can also help you discover the types of companies you would like to work for after graduation. Software engineers can work in a variety of industries and business settings – such as healthcare, banking and marketing – so it’s important to explore which environment best suits your personal career interests.
3. Choose your specialty
Software engineers will typically specialize in computer applications software or computer systems software. Applications software includes word processors, games and other computer applications that allow users to perform a specific task. Computer systems software includes the computer operating systems, such as file management tools, system utilities and debuggers. The user does not typically interact with computer systems software.
A bachelor’s degree software development program will prepare you for roles in either specialty and your internship experiences can help you determine which path you are most interested in pursuing. Both specialties require creativity, as well as advanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
4. Pursue industry certifications
A software development degree program will also prepare you to sit for industry certifications, such as the Oracle Certified Java Programmer or the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer, which are valuable differentiators for entry-level candidates. Pursuing these certifications can help you advance your software development career and allow you to pursue roles with additional responsibility and specialization.
5. Continue your education
With experience, software engineers can advance to information technology project managers who oversee the software development process. A master’s degree may be required for advanced roles. Software engineers can pursue an MBA in Technology Management to develop the leadership and management skills necessary to advance their careers.