Software Engineering Degrees & Careers How to Become a Software Engineer

Become Team
Become Team
November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Discover your program in minutes


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?

Software Engineering Basics

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.

Step 1
Get an Education
完成正规教育是成为软件工程师的第一步。未来的学生可以选择传统和非传统的培训项目,以获得必要的教育,以追求初级职位。Some options include:
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.
Step 2
Do an Internship
Completing an internship provides students with real world experience. Technology companies may offer internships for students with a bachelor's or master's degree who are seeking to expand their skills in specific areas, such as Java, XML or SQL. Internships typically last between three and six months and allow students to work on specific projects or products related to their skills.
Step 3
Pursue a Specialization
一般来说,软件工程有两个专业:应用程序和软件/系统开发。然而,在这些领域中存在着不同的实践领域。软件工程师可以选择成为某一种编程语言或开发类型的专家。Below is a list of example specialty areas to consider:
  • Web development
  • DevOps
  • Mobile development
  • Technical stack (e.g., Python, Ruby)
Step 4
Pursue Entry-Level Career Opportunities
After earning a computer science or related degree or completing a bootcamp program, the next step is to seek out entry-level employment. Because of the demand, software engineering has been rated one of the best entry-level careers available, according to Forbes. Although the dream job may be at Google, prospective software engineers can start with a small, local job hunt because, in the profession, experience is a critical commodity for career advancement.
Step 5
Get Certified
Although some certifications have lost their luster, they remain an integral part of the tech industry. Software engineering is precise and technical, and gaining certification verifies an applicant's knowledge and abilities. Along with experience, certification can improve a person's marketability in technology vendors (e.g., Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle) as well as professional organizations (e.g., IEEE) and are tailored to specific areas of practice
Step 6
Attend Conferences
Innovation drives change. That means software engineers need to stay abreast of the latest developments in both the general profession and their specialty. Attending conferences is a great way to network with other engineers and learn about new products, business practices, and technologies. Popular conferences for software engineers include the国际软件工程会议and theInternational Conference on Automated Software Engineering.
Step 7
Earn a Graduate Degree
A graduate degree offers the opportunity to qualify for management and leadership positions in the industry. In addition, there is more to engineering than just programming. Software engineering calls upon interdisciplinary skills such as critical thinking, cost analysis and project management — skills that can be enhanced in a master's program in computer science, computer engineering, information science or software engineering.

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.

Skills Gained

  • 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.

Skills Gained

  • Designing a web application
  • Implementation and testing client and server solutions
  • Learning user-interface principles

Operating systems

Foundational concepts, as well as fundamental principles of operating system design and operation, are examined in this class.

Skills Gained

  • Commonly used operating system programming languages
  • Computer architecture design considerations
  • File management techniques



Skills Gained

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.

Skills Gained

  • Computer programming expressions
  • Understanding how fields and methods work
  • Programming logic

Computer security


Skills Gained

  • Disaster and data loss recovery
  • User access methods
  • Fundamentals of cryptography

Project management

Techniques and methods for designing and developing software projects on schedule and on budget should be covered in this class.

Skills Gained

  • Understanding project lifecycles
  • Project planning
  • Risk management

User interface

By applying the concepts of human communication methods, students should learn how to create user-friendly software that can communicate with people.

Skills Gained

  • 用户界面设计注意事项
  • Tailoring software to human user specifics
  • Usability testing

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

Mathematical modeling Students are introduced to mathematical models, which have applications in understanding and predicting natural phenomenon and human nature.

Skills Gained

  • Applying models to real world problems
  • Identification of a particular mathematical model for a given situation
  • Quantification of variables and intended results

Software design

Software design Students should expect to examine different programming languages and learn how their particular characteristics can be applied to software creation.

Skills Gained

  • Reinforcement of object-oriented programming principles
  • Critically analyze existing computer code
  • Techniques to effectively and efficiently design programs

Software testing

Tools and techniques for practical testing of software, as well as analyzing theoretical testing models, are the focus of this class.

Skills Gained

  • 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.

Skills Gained

  • 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.

Skills Gained

  • 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

Skills Gained

  • 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

Skills Gained

  • Factors that make a useful interactive web application
  • Client-server programming methods
  • Understanding middleware

Experimentation in software engineering

This course covers how the scientific process can be applied to software engineering

Skills Gained

  • 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.

Nontechnical Skills

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.

Team player

Works effectively in group settings.

Creative thinker

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.

Industry-Specific Skills.


Skill Description
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
Java 9%
C# 8%
Java EE/J2EE 8%
.NET 8%
PHP 8%
Web services 8%
Hadoop 7%
ASP 5%
C++ 5%
DCOM/COM/Active X 5%

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.

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
  • Eclipse
  • DreamWeaver


Software engineers use object-oriented programming languages in programming and software application development. Languages often include:
  • Python
  • C++
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • Java

Operating System Software

Operating system software manages both the software and hardware resources of a computing system and is required by application programs to operate. Examples include:
  • Windows
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Program Testing Software.

Program testing software is used to find bugs and validate applications operate as designed. Examples include:
  • LoadRunner
  • Testcloud
  • Jira
  • Critiware

Web Development Software

Web development software is used in the production of websites and applications. Some of the commonly used development software includes:
  • Apache Tomcat
  • WebMatrix
  • Xamarin
  • Coda

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。

Related Careers

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


Job Growth: 19%

Web Developer

Web developers have a strong command of Internet conventions and Web applications. Using Web technologies and programming languages, such as JavaScript, HTML or AJAX, Web developers write code for websites, integrate backend systems (such as databases with websites) and develop new website features and applications.

Job Growth: 20%

Help Desk Support Specialist


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 Administrator

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%

Spotlight Careers

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

Median salary:$134,500

移动应用开发者使用JavaScript, . net和Objective-C等语言和平台来为移动设备(如iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy)构建应用程序和网站。与iOS和Android等移动操作系统合作,开发人员设计、编码、测试、调试和记录移动应用开发过程。计算机科学或计算机工程专业毕业。In today's mobile-first world, the increasing demand for personal and enterprisemobile apps导致了对开发人员的巨大需求。Gartner Inc.预计,到2017年底,市场对企业移动应用程序开发人员的需求将至少是现有人才的五倍。

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 Architect

Median salary:$126,625

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:

Bachelor's degree

Computer Systems Administrator




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree

Database Administrators




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree

Help Desk/User Support




Education and Training:

Some college, no degree

Information Systems Manager




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree

Network Support Specialist




Education and Training:

Associate degree

Systems Analyst




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree

Technical Writer




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational and Employment Wages, 2014

Related Careers at a Glance

Software Engineering Degree & Career Resources


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.




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)


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.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer

Latest Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

View the most relevant programs for your interests and compare them by tuition, acceptance rate, and other factors important to you.