Software Engineering Degrees & Careers How to Become a Software Engineer
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In the strictest sense, software engineering is the application of engineering principles to the design, development and implementation of software. Because software engineering is such as a unique, scientific and technically-driven field, special training and formal degrees are required. By getting a degree in software engineering, graduates can work in any number of fields creating video games, developing internet applications, running computer networks or implementing computer security measures for an organization. Find out more about software engineering degrees and careers, and learn about salaries and employment projections for this specialized field.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
Combining business sense with programming know-how, software engineers devise software application solutions for business problems. Software engineers work with different platforms, such as the Internet, mobile devices, and desktop computers.
Software Engineer Salaries
The market demand for qualified software engineers has created an arms race for the top talent. Salary research from ComputerWorld, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Robert Half International all reveal the same thing: Companies are willing to pay a premium to acquire top talent, with some annual salaries pushing northward of six figures. ComputerWorld's 2015 IT salary survey reported average salaries of nearly $109,000 for software engineers, while Robert Half reported earnings that range from $96,000 to $147,000. The financial climate is good for individuals considering a career in the field — Robert Half projects salaries will climb by 6.6 percent in 2016.
|Top Career in Software Engineering||Median Salary|
|Software Engineer, Application||$95,510|
|Software Engineer, Software||$102,880|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational and Wage Estimates, 2014
Steps to Becoming a Software Engineer
Software engineering is an ever-changing profession, one that adapts as new technologies are developed. Because of its shifting nature, there are multiple entry points into the profession. Although no single path to becoming a software engineer exists, the steps below outline the general path to employment.
Associate Degree (Two Years): Although employers typically prefer candidates with a four-year degree, an associate degree can open the door to entry-level jobs in the field. Students may choose to pursue majors in several related areas, such as software engineering technology or software systems engineering. Curriculum focuses on the core principles of software engineering, programming languages, and modern approaches to software development.
学士学位(四年):计算机科学或相关领域的学士学位是雇主首选的传统最低学位。学士学位课程让学生接触到更广泛的课程，其中包括数学和计算机科学基础。学生对编程、软件架构和软件测试有全面的理解。They may also take specialized courses in application areas, such as networking or embedded systems.
- Web development
- Mobile development
- Technical stack (e.g., Python, Ruby)
Software Engineering Degrees & Concentrations
Matching Goals to Software Engineering Degrees
|Career Goals and Educational Needs||Associate||Bachelor's||Master's||Doctorate||Online|
I am already working in the computer technology field, but I want to advance my career. Perhaps I could take on more responsibility by managing large software development projects or eventually working my way into a management position.
I have no educational background in computer technology or computer science, but I'm pretty sure I want to become a software engineer and begin working in the field as soon as possible.
I think I want to study software engineering, but I'm not 100% sure. I'd hate to waste four years and tons of money on a bachelor's degree on something I may not end up enjoying. I'd love it if there's a way I can get exposure to the fundamental software engineering classes without committing to four years of schooling.
I have an extensive software engineering background, having worked in the private sector for many years. My experience has given me many ideas I would like to explore and research. Also, I may want to try my hand at teaching.
I want to get work as a software engineer, but I can't afford to move to attend school, nor do I have the time to attend on campus classes during the day. Additionally, I enjoy self-paced learning so I can speed through the stuff I understand, but take my time with more challenging material.
Software Engineering Degree Levels
Software Engineering Associate Degrees
Classes typically found in software engineering associate degree programs include:
Database management systems
This course covers how database management systems work, as well as how to design, create and implement systems within an organization to meet their specific needs.
Gaining familiarity in commonly used database management systems
Learning the principles of relational, hierarchical and object-oriented databases
Understanding the current trends in data management, such as data mining and business analytics
Web application development
The architectural design of web applications, as well as programming languages and technologies to help build web applications, are reviewed in this class.
Designing a web application
Implementation and testing client and server solutions
Learning user-interface principles
Foundational concepts, as well as fundamental principles of operating system design and operation, are examined in this class.
Commonly used operating system programming languages
Computer architecture design considerations
File management techniques
Types of networks
Network design considerations
Software Engineering Bachelor's Degrees
For students fresh out of high school (or shifting over from another career) who want to maximize their professional potential in software engineering and give themselves the best chance of finding ideal post-graduate employment, the bachelor's in software engineering is worth pursuing. In fact, most entry-level software engineering positions will require this four-year degree. Some more advanced positions may require a master's degree in software engineering. In that case, a bachelor's degree could be a prerequisite to admission.
Four of the typical classes that can be found at most software engineering bachelor's degree programs are described below:
Object-oriented software development
Students will take an advanced programming language in order to solve common computer problems and tasks.
Computer programming expressions
Understanding how fields and methods work
Disaster and data loss recovery
User access methods
Fundamentals of cryptography
Techniques and methods for designing and developing software projects on schedule and on budget should be covered in this class.
Understanding project lifecycles
By applying the concepts of human communication methods, students should learn how to create user-friendly software that can communicate with people.
Tailoring software to human user specifics
Software Engineering Master's Degree
Depending on the program, a master's degree in software engineering takes about two years to complete. Many programs are designed for students who are working full-time. The master's degree not only provides additional knowledge of the software engineering field, but also offers education in management and leadership, so that graduates can take on more complex projects, be able to successfully coordinate those projects and work well with a team.
Students who enter a master's degree program in software engineering can expect to cover classes such as these:
Mathematical modeling Students are introduced to mathematical models, which have applications in understanding and predicting natural phenomenon and human nature.
Applying models to real world problems
Identification of a particular mathematical model for a given situation
Quantification of variables and intended results
Software design Students should expect to examine different programming languages and learn how their particular characteristics can be applied to software creation.
Reinforcement of object-oriented programming principles
Critically analyze existing computer code
Techniques to effectively and efficiently design programs
Tools and techniques for practical testing of software, as well as analyzing theoretical testing models, are the focus of this class.
How to troubleshoot
Methods of debugging
Analyzing and interpreting test results
Software system architecture
Covers the fundamentals of software architecture paradigm and their application to the software development process.
Identify software architectural techniques
Analysis of software design
Tools used for software architecture design
Software Engineering PhD Degree
While PhD programs in software engineering do exist, they are far less common than the bachelor's or master's degree. Usually taking at least four years to complete, PhD software engineering degrees are often research-oriented, culminating with a dissertation. In addition, students will take focused classes on very specific areas of software engineering, such as robotics, distributed systems, software security and quantitative research methods. A PhD is usually necessary for those who desire a career in research or academia, such as teaching at a college or university.
By enrolling in a PhD software engineering program, students can tailor a curriculum that's unique to them. As such, there are very few similar class schedules among students in the same program. However, the following courses would likely be helpful in the PhD course list:
Software modeling and design
Principles for developing large scale software systems.
Identification of design concepts to use when designing software
Familiarity with the Unified Modeling Language
Utilization of advanced object-oriented software architectures
Understanding of various design notation
Economics of software engineering
Students will be taught how to take profitability and economic considerations into account when designing and managing software
Quantitative modeling of software lifecycle
Cost-benefit analysis during software design
Commonly used software evaluation metrics
Software engineering for the internet
Principles on how to create useful and effective web-based software and applications are taught in this class
Factors that make a useful interactive web application
Client-server programming methods
Experimentation in software engineering
This course covers how the scientific process can be applied to software engineering
Utilizing the scientific method to conduct empirical studies
Application of software engineering experimentation techniques
Present findings in effective and compelling manner
Components of a Successful Software Engineering Career: Skills, Tools and Technology
Software engineers are expected to have a broad knowledge base and skill set in multiple proficiencies, including both nontechnical and technical areas.
因为软件工程师与非工程师打交道，比如与供应商、客户和其他团队成员打交道，所以雇主看重拥有非技术技能的个人。A good software engineer should be a:
Able to leverage the input of others to devise solutions.
Works effectively in group settings.
Able to develop new approaches to development.
Understands complex issues and knows how to use technology to solve them.
Can speak in both technical and nontechnical terms to a variety of audiences.
|Software Requirements||The ability to determine the needs of the software user or objective of the software|
|Software Design||The process of planning and developing specifications for software solutions|
|Software Construction||The development of software through object-oriented programming (coding), testing and debugging|
|Software Testing||The review of software systems or components prior to product release|
|Software Maintenance||The process of modifying software products to make improvements or solve issues|
|Software Configuration Management||The tracking and management of software changes|
|Software Engineering Management||The management of the software development process, from design to product delivery|
|Software Engineering Process||The methodology applied to software development (e.g., agile methodology, waterfall programming)|
|Software Quality||The ability to create and maintain software that meets its functional requirements|
|Software Engineering Economics||The knowledge of software costs, production estimation and current market trends|
According to Robert Half Technology, computer software engineers who possess valuable technical skills in the following programming, database, and Web areas may see a related increase in earning potential.
|Skill Area||% Pay Increase|
Professional certifications in software engineering establish an individual's qualifications within the field. Certifications demonstrate a conceptual understanding and technical expertise in specific areas of the profession. Software engineers can select from a variety of credentialing programs based on their career needs and professional goals. Below is a snapshot of potential certifications.
- C++ Certification.
The C++ Institute has designed multiple certification programs for both the C and C++ programming languages. Advancing in difficulty, there are associate, professional and senior examinations available for each programming language. Associate certifications are foundational in nature, demonstrating the candidate's basic knowledge of C/C++ programming. Professional certifications are advanced, measuring the candidate's understanding of complex C/C++ programing techniques. Senior is expert-level certification, testing the candidate's knowledge of highly complex C/C++ coding problems. Certifications include:
- C Programming Language Certified Association (CLA)
- C Certified Professional Programmer (CLP)
- Certified Senior Programmer (CLS)
- C++ Certified Associate Programmer (CPA)
- C++ Certified Professional Programmer (CPP)
- C++ Certified Senior Programmer (CPS)
- IEEE Professional Software Developer Certification(PSD)
Sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society, the Professional Software Developer Certification (PSD) tests the candidate's knowledge of software engineering requirements, design, construction and testing.
- IEEE Professional Software Engineering Process Master Certification(PSEPM)
The PSEPM measures the candidate's critical knowledge of software engineering. A two-part examination, the first test covers software requirements, software construction and testing, software design, maintenance and configuration management. The second examination reviews software engineering management, software engineering processes, software models and methods, quality and engineering economics, and software project management.
- IEEE Software Engineering Master Certification(PSEM)
An advanced certification, the PSEM tests the candidate's knowledge of software engineering principles as well as technical skills through an applied examination. The applied examination places the test taker in the position of a professional developer and requires the completion of two performance tasks, which are reviewed and rated.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer(MCSD)
The MCSD certification is designed for professionals working with Microsoft languages and enterprise development tools. The MCSD covers several certification areas, including Windows Store apps, Web applications, SharePoint applications, Azure Solutions Architect, application lifecycle management, and Universal Windows Platform.
Tools and Technology
软件工程师拥有一套多学科、多功能的技能，它超越了编程语言，涵盖了从项目管理到计算机科学的一切。In turn, they rely on a variety of tools and technologies to leverage their technical talent, for example:
Integrated Development Environment.The environment refers to the programming tools and applications used in software development.
- Microsoft Visual Studio .NET
- Oracle Netbeans
面向对象的编程语言。Software engineers use object-oriented programming languages in programming and software application development. Languages often include:
Operating System SoftwareOperating system software manages both the software and hardware resources of a computing system and is required by application programs to operate. Examples include:
Program Testing Software.Program testing software is used to find bugs and validate applications operate as designed. Examples include:
Web Development SoftwareWeb development software is used in the production of websites and applications. Some of the commonly used development software includes:
- Apache Tomcat
Career Trends in Software Engineering
对软件工程师的需求是由信息经济的出现和对基于消费者和基于企业的市场的技术解决方案的需求驱动的。例如，罗致恒富科技(Robert Half Technology)报告称，医疗保健机构正在寻找新的软件解决方案，以改善患者护理，而金融服务机构正在寻找方法，为客户提供更有效的技术驱动的服务。与这些传统行业相结合，新兴市场——如大数据、移动计算和安全——正在为软件工程师创造新的机会。最后，因为软件工程师的复杂技能适用于任何行业，所以它几乎是每个商业部门的必备职位。
Below is a list of related career opportunities that are projected to experience double-digit employment growth between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Business Information Analyst
业务信息分析师结合业务知识和计算专业知识，帮助公司将业务需求转化为技术解决方案。在他们的角色中，业务信息分析师利用分析技能集来研究、计划和管理如何使用信息系统和软件来解决业务问题。Job Growth: 19%
Help Desk Support Specialist
帮助台支持专家对软件、硬件和网络系统有全面的了解。他们为公司及其员工提供各种技术支持，从解决硬件问题到管理软件程序安装到排除网络故障。Job Growth: 20%
Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts use an in-depth knowledge of hardware and software systems to determine how an organization can best utilize those resources to operate effectively. They assist companies in identifying technical infrastructure needs, research the design and installation of computing packages, and prepare cost-benefit analyses for information systems.Job Growth: 25%
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts are at the forefront of computer and network security, such as encryption technologies and firewall protection. They perform security audits, conduct risk assessments and make recommendations to improve the security of a company's data systems. By identifying weaknesses, information security analysts develop appropriate security policies that keep data safe.Job Growth: 37%
Database administrators have a technical foundation in database structure, installation and maintenance. With specific knowledge of relational database languages (e.g., Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server), they manage company databases, maintain database stability, perform database backups and modify the structure of databases in accordance with the company's data needs.Job Growth: 15%
The hottest, most in-demand software engineering skill is currently mobile application development because of exploding growth in mobile networks, phones, and commerce. By 2017, the global mobile app market will be worth $77 billion, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the mobile Web market will be worth $850 billion by 2018 says mobile industry consulting firm Digi-Capital. As a result, mobile application developers possess skills that companies want. Below is a list of three spotlight careers in the software engineering field and their corresponding salary figures according to a Robert Half Technology survey.
Mobile Application Developer
Quality Assurance Engineer
Median salary:$76,000 (QA Engineer – Manual); $89,000 (QA Engineer – Automated)
质量保证工程师设计并执行测试和质量评审计划，以识别软件开发过程中的问题。在理解软件开发生命周期和质量保证原则后，QA工程师定义测试的范围，执行手动和自动测试计划，并与开发人员密切合作，确定改进的领域。美国劳工统计局(Bureau of Labor Statistics)已将该职业领域标记为一个新兴的高增长领域，预计在2012年至2022年期间将在全国创造10万个新就业岗位。
Applications architects combine a knowledge of development tools and system architecture with business savvy and team leadership skills to coordinate the creation of enterprise-level applications. An important position, an applications architect serves as the team liaison that brings together user experience and front-end developers, programmers and quality assurance specialists on each project. A bachelor's degree in computer science or information systems is traditionally required, and it is one of the best paying occupations in the information technology field.
Software Engineer Job Growth, Prospects, and Outlook
Today, software accounts for 19 percent of the IT market in the United States, according to research from CompTIA. A convergence of several factors are contributing to the age of the software engineer: the shift to cloud-based infrastructure, the rise of mobile devices and computing, the explosion of big data analytics, the yet-to-be-tapped potential of social media, and the need for companies to provide managed services.
What Do Related Occupations Make?
Whether in online technology services, data storage, network management or security, technological innovation is driven by a central need: more effective and powerful computing solutions. Because programming languages and frameworks (e.g., HTML, SQL, Java, C++) cut across industry channels, individuals with both education and experience can stand out in today's crowded and competitive IT marketplace. In turn, other tech roles are growing alongside software engineering, with salaries that can exceed $100,000 for experienced professionals.
Related Occupations: What You Need to Know
The need for high-skilled informational technology talent stretches across specializations, from information systems to networking, databases to business intelligence. An education in computer science and software development can lead to a variety of related career opportunities throughout the technology industry. Below is a list of example occupational avenues:
Business Intelligence Analyst
Education and Training:
Computer Systems Administrator
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Help Desk/User Support
Education and Training:
Some college, no degree
Information Systems Manager
Education and Training:
Network Support Specialist
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational and Employment Wages, 2014
Related Careers at a Glance
Software Engineering Degree & Career ResourcesABET
ABET is a leading organization for accrediting undergraduate and graduate programs in science, technology and engineering fields.Association for Computing Machinery
The ACM is the world's largest computer society with the mission of promoting computer science and related fields in the educational and professional realms.CompTIA
IEEE is a leading professional organization with the goal of helping humanity through the support of advanced technology.Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP)
ICCP是一个非营利性组织，提供许多国际认可的计算机认证。Software Engineering Radio
This excellent podcast updates every two weeks or so with compelling expert guests and insider information on the world of software engineering, past, present and future.Try Engineering: Computer Software Engineer
This site offers insight into a variety of engineering careers, including software engineer. This is a great basic description of what software engineers do.
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