- Types of software engineer
- What do software engineers do?
- Software engineer career path
- Software engineer salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Software engineer skills
- Pros and cons of being a software engineer
- Software engineer work-life balance
- Typical employers
- Related jobs
- More information
Are you looking for an exciting career using code to build innovative and interesting programmes? Do you want to work with intelligent and creative people to collaboratively construct new software and expand the field of computing? If you have excellent attention to detail and a desire to create things with your knowledge of coding languages, a career as a software engineer could be for you.
Interested in a career as a software engineer? Explore current opportunities in IT and Software Development and take your first step towards a career in this fast-paced role.
Types of software engineer
Video game developer
As a video game developer, your work is to understand what the game designer wants to achieve and write the code to do so. You develop the programmes which run the games and collaborate with other departments like animation and sound to produce the game.
Mobile app developer
In mobile app development, you write the code which makes apps work. Once you’ve developed the app, you test it then debug any issues which you find.
Security engineers are responsible for checking the security systems of software. As a security engineer, you screen for any issues in the security of the software and monitor the company’s networks to check for security breaches.
Unlike other types of software engineers, back-end engineers work with areas of the software that consumers don’t usually see. Your work could be anything from building databases to store information to developing the core systems at the centre of the software.
What does a software engineer do?
Your job as a software engineer is to make the best programme that you can. This means a large proportion of your working life is working with code. Here are some of the daily tasks that you could do:
- Understand a client’s vision for a programme
- Present your own ideas for a piece of software to your supervisor or to a client
- Write interesting and innovative code
- Test and troubleshoot the software
- Debug any issues that you find with the software
- Collaborate with technical writers to make user manuals and instructions
- Work with the marketing team to make a programme which is technologically advanced and well placed in the market
- Maintain and update your technical skills
- Keep up to date with advancements in the industry
Software engineer career path
Your career path as a software engineer depends on the type of software engineering that you’re interested in. After selecting your desired area of work, here are the typical steps that you may take in your career:
Your career begins as a junior software engineer. In this role, you assist in designing and writing code for a programme. Your work is learning the basics of how to be a software engineer. This means debugging systems, writing basic code and contributing your ideas for the software.
Your education in computer science should lead you well into a junior software engineer position because this is often the intended career path. Your supervisor won’t expect you to have perfect software engineering skills but may give you challenging work to encourage you to progress.
Some companies have entry-level software engineer jobs. As with junior software engineer jobs, your supervisor expects you to be knowledgeable but not have all the necessary skills to be a mid-level software engineer. Lots of the training that you need for the job is included in the role.
After demonstrating your skills and experience by working as a junior software engineer or entry-level software engineer, you progress to a mid-level software engineer.
At mid-level, you have a good amount of experience in working with code and can competently answer questions and provide training to junior or entry-level colleagues. You also understand software systems and coding languages more thoroughly than the lower levels of software engineers.
Senior software engineers have a greater technical understanding than less senior software engineers. You apply this knowledge to overseeing the projects run by colleagues in your department, suggesting changes and areas for improvement. Your own projects are more complex and have more prestige than the work in less senior positions. Having excellent technical knowledge and lots of experience as well as creativity in your work and enthusiasm for the job ideally positions you to work towards a senior software engineer role.
With a great amount of experience and good leadership skills, you could become a team leader. Team leaders oversee the work that the software engineers in their department are doing, ensure a high-quality level and suggest improvements for colleagues to make. As a team leader, you make sure that your team’s work is completed on time based on the deadlines that you set.
This is a management role so doesn’t include any software-related tasks for you to do other than training junior and entry-level software engineers. If a software engineer in your team has a problem with the working environment or another colleague, it is your job to respond to the issue and improve the working conditions.
If your aim is to progress high up in a company, you can be a chief technical officer. This is an executive-level position with responsibilities over the deployment of software to clients and other companies. Reaching this position gives you a great deal of power and responsibility.
Software engineer salaries
Your salary as a software engineer depends on the type of organisation, the type of work you do and your job level. Here are the salaries that you may expect when working in software engineering:
- Your starting salary as a junior software engineer or entry-level software engineer is between £25,000 and £30,000 per year.
- As a mid-level software engineer, the average salary is around £45,000 per year.
- In a senior software engineering job, your salary is between £50,000 and £70,000 per year.
- Executive software engineering jobs like a chief technical officer can earn more than £100,000 per year.
Qualifications and training
Your entry into a software engineering role requires you to have the relevant education and skills to succeed. Here’s what you need to start your career:
You typically need an undergraduate degree to be a software engineer. Ideal undergraduate degrees are in computer science, software engineering or information technology. A degree gives you the relevant knowledge that you need for entry-level positions on this career path.
Having a master’s degree could also help you become a software engineer by giving you a more in-depth understanding of the type of tasks you do in your career. Whilst you don’t need a master’s degree it could give you access to better jobs when entering the field.
Many employers want you to have work experience before employing you so you understand the daily tasks of a software engineer and how to work well in an office setting. Some degree programmes include time in the industry which means working for a software engineering company for some time typically during your second year of study.
You can get work experience from internships and time spent shadowing a software engineer. If you’re looking for work experience, browse available IT and software development internships.
You can complete an apprenticeship in software engineering to begin your career. Apprenticeships can either be within a company or a combination of company work and undergraduate education. Some companies pay for your degree education and pay you a wage for the work you do for them during the degree and offer you a job once the apprenticeship finishes.
If you’re interested in apprenticeships, try searching here for current software engineer apprenticeship opportunities in England.
Professional qualifications can help you progress as a software engineer. You don’t usually need any professional qualifications before you get to an entry-level position. Professional qualifications are for demonstrating your skills to move up the software engineering career path.
If you’re interested, consider some of these software engineering professional qualifications from Code Institute or Code Clan. Depending on the size of the company and the department budget, the company you work for may pay for this training.
Interested in learning how to code? Take this Bright Network Academy starting to code in Python course and this practical uses of Python course to get you started with this coding language.
Software engineer skills
Being a complex job, software engineers need many skills to work successfully. Here are hard and soft skills that you need to succeed as a software engineer:
- Coding. Your work needs a high level of coding skill. Understanding one if not more coding languages is essential for software engineering roles so you can design the software using the code.
- Math. You need good math skills to be a software engineer because the work you do designing programmes incorporates mathematical principles. This is particularly relevant to video game developers who use math to make elements of a game perform well.
- Attention to detail. One example of where you need attention to detail in your work as a software engineer is debugging code. Identifying the error in the code requires attention to detail, as does finding an innovative solution to fixing it.
- Teamwork. Software engineers need good teamwork skills. This is so you can work with your colleagues on a programme, discuss the areas that you all need to do to complete the programme and work collaboratively to make the best programme possible.
- Time management. Software engineers work to hard deadlines and have a short turnaround for their work. Effectively managing your time could reduce the amount of overtime that you work by structuring your working day effectively.
- Creativity. Software engineering is, at heart, a very creative discipline! Your work includes making new, interesting pieces of software. Being creative helps you design new programmes and find innovative ways around issues.
Pros and cons of being a software engineer
- Lots of work is available for software engineers
- Software engineering work can be highly paid
- You can receive fantastic benefits if you work for a top company
- Working for a top company looks great on your CV
- You can develop good transferable skills
- You do creative and innovative work
- You can have flexibility in your working day
- Working as a software engineer for a top company can be very difficult with long and complex application processes
- You have tight deadlines which can lead to stress at work
- You may work long hours
- You need to be up to date on the latest technology and systems which can be hard when you’re not in education
Your working life as a software engineer is mostly office-based with a possibility of working from home depending on the company. Your working hours are typically between 9am and 5pm. However, when deadlines approach, you may work overtime and sometimes over weekends to complete projects on time.
Some companies offer a higher degree of flexibility than others. This means you get work to complete before a deadline but the working hours that you choose to complete it are up to you.
Software engineer employers
There are many employers looking for talented, entry-level software engineers. Here are some top companies for you to consider:
Related jobs to software engineer
Want to learn more about beginning your career as a software engineer? Learn about how Bright Network member Ravi got his software engineer job with top consultancy firm Accenture.