A software engineer creates programs that help others do their jobs, enjoy computerized entertainment or network within an organization. Every computer program, mobile application and online platform is the product of a software engineer. These workers have strong computer programming skills and tend to be good at math. Since software must be created for all types of functions, many software engineers also have a secondary expertise. They might have skills in economics and write financial software programs, or they might have experience in civil engineering, which enables them to create effective public works programs. Since every business and field of interest is touched by technology today, the types of programming and work done by software engineers is diverse. This also means that specialists in computer programming are in demand in many different areas of the workforce.

Salary

According to Glassdoor statistics from October of 2014, the average annual salary for software engineers nationwide is $90,374. However, this number varies greatly depending on the location and company where engineers are employed.

Beginning Salary

According to Salary.com, entry level salaries for software engineers depend somewhat on the type of computer programming job being done. The site lists the average entry level salary at $58,908 per annum.

Key Responsibilities

Software engineers are responsible for making sure technology meets the needs of its users. Job responsibilities include analysis of need within a company or field of business. These workers then design, develop, test and upgrade programs to meet those needs. Software developers often collaborate with specialists in other fields to make sure that programs fit the needs of the users. They also frequently work with other computer specialists in order to create the best possible software and interfaces.

Necessary Skills

Those who work in computer programming must be both analytical and creative in their thinking. They must have well-honed computer skills as well as good communication skills and interpersonal relationships. They must be good at problem solving and also have a knack for providing great customer service. Detail-oriented workers have a better chance at succeeding in this career than those who have difficulty paying attention to details. Those with the best interpersonal and customer-service skills often advance into project management where they oversee the development of large software projects.

Degree and Education Requirements

Software developers need a bachelor’s of science degree. Usually this degree will be in computer programming. However, many math majors also excel as software engineers. Because technology today is often developed for specific industries, those seeking to become software engineers may find it beneficial to gain expertise or take classes in specialized areas such as business, finance or healthcare. Some software engineers continue their education with a master’s degree in computer programming. Even after degree completion, these workers must make a point of keeping up with the latest innovations in technology in order to remain relevant in their chosen field. Master’s degrees, continuing education and additional specializations help programmers land jobs that require higher amounts of responsibility or work with more technical and specialized computer technology. For example, software engineers working in healthcare will have more opportunities if they pursue education in healthcare as well as in computer programming.

Pros and Cons

Many people are pursuing careers in computer programming today. This makes a lot of sense because the field is growing at nearly double the rate of average jobs nationwide. However, to succeed in software engineering, you need to be willing to learn about more than just computers and mathematics. This career requires the ability to learn, listen and come to an understanding of your users’ needs. It requires continual learning and the willingness to take classes on emerging technologies. Software engineers are often required to obtain certifications in order to work on certain projects. Although the average annual salary for software engineers in the United States is well above the national average across all occupations, there is also some issue with programming jobs being outsourced to countries that pay lower wages. Choosing a job in software engineering means a commitment to hard work and continuing education, but the rewards for those who enjoy making life easier through technology are great.

Getting Started

If you wish to become a software engineer, take every opportunity to learn and work with computer programming. Many degree programs in computer science encourage students to pursue internships during their schooling. Often, individuals pursuing careers as software engineers will take jobs as computer programmers in order to gain experience in the field of technology.

If you have a desire to design software for a specific industry, take some classes or get a secondary degree in a field related to that industry. Many software engineers have degrees in fields such as finance or biology. This additional expertise helps them work more effectively with professionals who need their products. Since software for hospitals and pharmacies rely on an understanding of the profession, companies that require this software actively seek software engineers with medical or biochemical backgrounds. The same type of requirements effect financial institutions, the automotive industry, government organizations and many other places that employ or consult with software engineers.

Future Outlook

At first glance the job outlook for software engineers appears to be excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in software development are projected to grow at double the average rate for all occupations nationwide. Demand for new programs and software to suit a variety of mobile devices is driving this job growth. However, many students are graduating with degrees in computer programming every year. Additionally, some companies have begun outsourcing jobs in software engineering to countries where they can pay lower wages. Both of these factors mitigate the good news of projected job growth to some extent. However, the continuing growth of technology accompanied by the fact that most customers prefer their software developers to be nearby means that software engineers should continue to be in high demand for some time into the future.

Software engineering is a fast-paced, highly technical career. If you enjoy studying math and doing logical thinking puzzles, this career might be ideal for you. Individuals that have both a great attention to detail and an ability to collaborate well with others tend to make good software engineers.

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