How to Become a Software Engineer
From word processing applications to computer games to operating systems, software engineers design and develop the software that makes computers work. The software development process begins with identifying the needs of the software users. Software engineers then design, develop, and test the software. Sometimes, software engineers code program instructions, but usually they assign that task to computer programmers.
There are two main types of software engineers:
Computer applications software engineers
Applications software engineers design and develop the applications software like the web browser and graphics program you might run on your personal computer. They create packaged software and customized applications using programming languages such as C++ and Java.
Computer systems software engineers
Computer systems software engineers manage the building, maintenance, and expansion of computer systems. Within a company, they might coordinate the information systems between various departments and set up the organization's intranet. The software they work with operates, networks, and stores data on computer systems.
Software Engineer Education Requirements
The vast majority of software engineers have a bachelor's degree or higher. Systems engineers most often major in computer science or computer information systems. Applications software engineers most often major in computer science or software engineering. Advanced degrees are desirable for more complex jobs, including some jobs in computer security. No particular certification is required for software engineers. However, software vendors and professional organizations offer training and certification programs through which computer specialists can keep their skills current.
Job Opportunities for Software Engineers
Software engineering is one of the fastest growing occupations. Job opportunities are excellent for software engineers with at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or computer science. In 2008, software engineers earned a median annual wage of $85,430.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition