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Your Guide to Becoming a Software Engineer

In 2012, there were more than one million individuals working in software engineering and development in the United States alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While that number might seem like a drop in the bucket, it is forecast to grow over time as society uses an increasing number of software programs and applications in all aspects of life.

Quick Facts: Software Engineer Industry
Median Pay:   $99,195 per year | $48 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Bachelor's degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   1,113,000

Software Engineer Occupations:

  • Software developers, applications$95,510
  • Software developers, systems software$102,880

Due to this position's high salary and relative job security, it is a top choice of study for many college students. If you are thinking seriously about becoming a software engineer or developer, this guide can help explain more about the career, job security, predicted growth in the field and what formal education is required.

Types of Software Developers

In a nutshell, this career position can be described simply as someone who designs and develops software. However, there are dozens of types of software developers, and it is important for anyone thinking seriously about this position to have a clear picture of the major categories.

First is that of application developers, which is the group of people who make the types of software the average person might use most often. For example, an application developer might have a hand in creating your favorite smartphone game or perhaps the word processor you use on your tablet to draft emails. This development job involves understanding code and having a vision for a completed project.

The second major category of developer is the software systems developer, which is the term for someone who creates large-scale systems used primarily by corporations. The job description may sound similar, but software systems developers focus on the interface of the software itself, and they are also more likely to be working as part of a large development team.

Major Employers in the Field

After getting a college education and completing any required training, graduates will have a variety of options for employment. As you might expect, many software engineers and developers work directly with computer systems corporations. While these major tech firms like Google and Microsoft may be some of the biggest employers of software development majors, graduates can also choose to pursue their skill in a variety of other industries.

Many individuals find fulfillment and satisfaction working in financial organizations, insurance companies or even in the IT department of a large retail company or political group. In addition, some graduates use their talents as freelance developers to create the next big iPhone application or social media game. The skills learned throughout your college career will prepare you to work as a software developer in all kinds of industries and businesses depending on your own personal interests and passions.

Average Salaries in Software Development

One of the main reasons that individuals choose this field for their future careers has to do with the lucrative salaries provided by many employers in the field. According to the BLS, the average software developers in the United States earn salaries of $90,060 each year. However, there were some categories of software engineering and development where the average salary was even higher. Some of the best-paying and most lucrative careers in this field were for software developers who work in the following industries: Computer and electronics manufacturing, software publishing companies, finance, insurance and computer systems design.

Types of Degrees Offered in the Field

It is important to note that there is no licensing or registration required for software developers. While there is no mandatory degree for employment in the field, those with college degrees in a related subject will have a much easier time of getting hired by the best companies with the best positions. Perhaps the most common degrees for those in this field are the bachelor's degree in computer science and the bachelor's degree in software engineering and development.

Applicants interested in pursuing either of these four-year degrees should have a minimum of a high school diploma and acceptable ACT or SAT scores. Whether students opt to earn their bachelor's degree online or through a more traditional college campus program, some of the courses that they can expect to find on their curriculum include that of operating systems, algorithms, programming languages, probability and information technology.

Predicted Job Growth For Software Engineers

Along with preparing for a career after college graduation, you should be thinking about the long-term potential of your career and education choices. Thankfully, there is the potential for significant employment growth in the fields of software engineering and development. The BLS predicts that by 2022, there will be a 22 percent increase in the demand for software developers in the United States.

This growth predictor is much higher than for many other employment avenues, which is just one more reason that software engineering and development may be a safe bet for the future. A lot of the predicted job growth can be attributed to society's increasing reliance on computer software. Since we use various types of software for everything from communication to database management and even personal entertainment, it is hard to imagine a world where there is not a big demand for those who can successfully develop software.

Characteristics That Spell Success For Aspiring Developers

As mentioned already above, having a college degree in a field relating to the development of software is the best way to get a foot in the door and find a career in the field. However, there are also certain attributes that can play a big role in whether or not a person is successful.

Many of the best software developers have a few key traits in common, and these include being able to communicate well with clients and fellow developers, analyzing situations, thinking laterally, being detail oriented, being creative and having the drive to complete projects that may seem impossible at first glance. Since deadlines in this industry are also common, it helps if you are flexible with your schedule and able to work longer hours when it is needed.

Becoming a software developer can be an exciting avenue for the right candidate, and earning an online or campus degree may be the first step toward your bright new career in technology.