How do I Become a Software Engineer?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2019
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Software engineers develop and maintain computer programs and computing systems for a wide variety of industries. To become a software engineer, at least a four-year college degree usually is necessary for entry-level positions, but some positions, especially those in systems engineering, might require a master's degree. Areas of study that will help you become a software engineer include computer science, software engineering and mathematics. Performing an internship while in college can increase your marketability as a software engineer. It will give you experience in the working world as well as possibly provide contacts for future employment.

If you want to become a software engineer, which is a highly skilled technical position, be sure to take advanced math, science and computer courses in high school. Getting good grades in language arts courses also is important. Collectively, these high school courses will enhance your critical-thinking, problem-solving and reading-comprehension skills, which are all very important if you want to become a software engineer.

There are many colleges and universities that provide degree programs for software engineers. There are several areas to research in selecting the best program. Look for programs with a good balance between theory and practice, an up-to-date curriculum and experienced instructors. Ask about internship programs, professional student organizations, design clinics and industry partnership opportunities. Another area to consider is the school's own technology in its computer facilities and laboratories.


Other ways to advance your knowledge to become a software engineer include gaining certifications from software vendors and professional organizations. Reading books by experts in the field also can be valuable. A couple of examples of software pioneers who have written books include Gerald M. Weinberg and Karl Wiegers. You also can attend conferences of software professionals and join student chapters of software organizations to make contacts and enhance your knowledge.

Characteristics that will make you successful as a software engineer include the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines. Strong analytical skills and an eye for details are important. Good communication skills to work with other software development team members and to present your work in front of audiences can be necessary. Software engineering takes innovation as well as practical skills, so having an innovative and creative side can be helpful in the field.

To find work as a software engineer, you can network at software engineering events, review job postings through professional software societies and use online job boards. Job fairs also are valuable to find work as a software engineer. If you have previous work experience or knowledge in a specific industry, such as healthcare or aerospace, targeting those industries can be a good idea. Some employers will give priority to software engineers who already know how an industry works and thus might be more adept at understanding its computing needs and issues.



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