What is a Software Engineer?

Brendan McGuigan

A software engineer typically works with programmers and other individuals to create computer code for an application. This can make entirely new software, or produce an update for existing work. Day-to-day tasks in this field often involve things like creating flowcharts and diagrams that demonstrate how applications function so that programmers can write the necessary code for a program. Many of these engineers have a degree in computer science and often work full time at various companies that create or maintain software.

Software engineers design computer programs.
Software engineers design computer programs.

Duties and Responsibilities

Many companies employ software engineers to assemble extensive amounts of code into working applications, as well as to update and fix problems in existing software. The exact work necessary to do this, however, can vary quite a bit from one project to another. Programmers often work with a software engineer to determine what is needed when making a new application, and the engineer plans out how to best accomplish these tasks. He or she might do some programming personally, though often other programmers create all of the code; the software engineer must have a strong knowledge of various coding languages and methodologies even if he or she does not do the coding.

A software engineer may experience chronic eye strain from computer work.
A software engineer may experience chronic eye strain from computer work.

Necessary Skills

A software engineer usually has a strong background in mathematics and understands how programming works at a fundamental level. Communication skills are often vital in this field, since engineers frequently have to determine the needs of different clients and help explain the options that might best satisfy them. Engineers also typically understand leadership and task management, letting them work better with a team to ensure they meet goals on time.

Software engineers may develop the code that programs need to function properly.
Software engineers may develop the code that programs need to function properly.

How To Become One

Many people in this career have degrees in computer science, though related fields like mathematics may work in some instances. A bachelor's degree is usually sufficient, at least for entry-level positions, and a number of schools offer graduate degrees in computer science for advanced study. Professional experience may also be necessary for a software engineer, who may have previously worked in programming or development. While software developers often have need of engineers, hardware manufacturers, major ecommerce websites, and video game studios may also hire people for this position.

Software engineers test computer programs before they are sold to the public.
Software engineers test computer programs before they are sold to the public.

Importance and Job Outlook

As the need for a software engineer in many companies has grown, this has become a very popular career field. Economically, socially, and politically, computers are changing the world, and these engineers help build the tools that drive such changes. Employment experts predict that opportunities in this field are likely to continue growing in the near future. Software development has become increasingly competitive, however, so structured training and professional experience are more important than ever before.

Work Environment

A software engineer often works as part of a team, usually in an office or similar location. Many engineers work full time, often 40 or more hours per week, with additional time required during certain phases of the development cycle. Long hours at a computer can lead to eye strain, headaches, and medical conditions like carpal-tunnel syndrome, so anyone getting into programming should learn to take breaks and make an effort to avoid such potentially serious issues. This position typically pays quite well, though exact amounts depend on individual companies and the level of seniority held by an engineer.

Debate over Job Title

There is some debate over the term "engineer" as it applies to this position. Some people feel that software development is not held to the same rigorous standards as fields such as electrical engineering, and therefore should not be associated with them. Companies use this title without any professional licensure, which is a hallmark of many other engineering disciplines. As of 2012, however, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) began developing a test for software engineer licensing, though full adoption of this standard may take some time.

Software engineers must understand the needs of different clients.
Software engineers must understand the needs of different clients.

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Discussion Comments

anon945220

Does app development affiliate with any type of software engineering?

anon295580

I completed a normal degree but I want become software field jobs What can I do? Please give me any suggestions.

shyamsunder

I had done my Bsc coomputer science, but it is a certificate. i am nothing without a certificate.

i had the capability to do and maintain any type computer tasks or applications after having a bit of training, so, could you please tell me about it?

it is possible or impossible for a mature failure graduate?

anon135904

apart from any other basic things we know, is there any things that can discourage one from focusing?

anon123938

I want to become a software engineer for my country and myself. i am going to join the air national guard and become the woman i need to be for my family.

anon123648

You should be pretty aggressive to become a good software engineer.

anon111910

Don't think money wise. If you love doing something then do it. If you're good in programming and coding then software engineering is best. But if you're not good in codes then you struggle. My advice is to research about it. Software engineering is good profession.

anon80869

what do i have to know for the interview for a software engineer? what all kinds of questions will there be?

anon72211

As i don't have any experience in this field and i completed my B.Tech IT, what do i have to know for the interview for a software engineer? what all kinds of questions will there be?

anon71341

i think i want to be a software engineer in the future?

anon47234

How many hours a day is a software engineer expected to work? What is his/her annual salary range? Thank you

anon11174

what about the annual salary of software engineers and other issues requirements to enter the field and attributes that a software engineer should have?

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