Software EngineeringIf you love working with computers and you have a strong curiosity for discrete mathematics, algorithms and formal language theory, you may want to learn how to become a software engineer. Also called programmers and developers, software engineers are experts in finding the most efficient way to build software components from existing components or from raw code.

Most software engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a closely related field, such as math or computer engineering. Software engineers differ from computer scientists or researchers, who usually have post-graduate degrees, or professors, who must have doctoral degrees. These academic professionals don’t usually build software applications, but instead look for better ways to solve problems in computer science. Software engineers can also expand their opportunities by continuing their studies after graduation. Many software engineering positions require specialized knowledge in computer graphics, artificial intelligence, mathematics and other esoteric subjects.

What Is a Software Engineer’s Work Environment?

Software engineers know all about how to connect software components such that programming code falls into exactly one layer of abstraction. They learn about software design patterns throughout their senior year of college, and the years leading up to that point prepare them for the computer architecture, automata theory, math and linguistic theory needed to build efficient software. After graduating from college, software engineers typically work in an office setting with people who specialize in other areas, such as business, marketing or cyber security.

Software engineers usually work with other developers and project managers to design software applications from the top down using the principles of software design, according to Software Engineering Insider. In some settings, they design programs with a pen and paper using a symbolic language called Unified Modeling Language to represent software functionality. Then they pass these diagrams to programmers who implement the code in C++, Java or possibly a Web framework like Django or Ruby on Rails. A computer science degree typically focuses more on software design and UML than on coding, although software engineers are expected to be excellent coders, too.

How to Find Work in Software Engineering

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software engineers can expect a 22 percent increase in available jobs over the next ten years, which is faster growth than average. During college, students should get as much practice writing real-world programs outside of school as possible since college courses tend not to focus on application programming. A good way to get experience is to work on open source projects through a version-control system like Git or Subversion.

In a software engineering job interview, applicants often have to show their level of knowledge by taking tests similar to exams in college. These tests usually cover subjects like converting a looping function to a recursive function, proving the time complexity of a function or proving that a function returns the correct value.

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With the world increasingly relying on software for everyday tasks, a software engineer’s job has never been more important. If you’re interested in a challenging job in software design, information security or mobile application development, continue learning how to become a software engineer.