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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.