Computer Software Engineer Career Overview


Computer Software Engineer Career Overview

Learn more about the exciting field of computer software engineering to see if this career path is right for you. Explore computer software engineer schooling, salary expectations, duties, and job growth expectations today. Whether transitioning careers or just completing high school, there are many opportunities for you to take the next step toward this rewarding career.

What Does a Computer Software Engineer Do?

The role of a computer software engineer is to design and develop software by applying theories of mathematical analysis and computer science to test, evaluate or create software applications and systems that are crucial for making computers work.

Due to new changes in technology, tasks performed by computer software engineers are constantly evolving and changing. The software designed by computer software engineers can include business applications, operating systems, network control systems, middleware, and computer games. Computer software engineers must be proficient in the theory of computing systems, software structure, and hardware.

Computer Software Engineer Job Description

The job of a computer software engineer begins by analyzing the needs of a user and then developing, designing, and testing the software to see if those needs are met. Flowcharts and diagrams are created during this process as well as algorithms that inform the computer what to do.

The specific computer software engineer job description typically includes coordinating the maintenance, expansion, and construction of an organization’s computer systems. They will work with each department’s needs and then make technical suggestions. Computer systems software engineers may also help implement or design system security or data assurance.

Many of these positions require extensive knowledge of one or more programming languages. Expect to be familiar and proficient with Python, Java, C, C++, and other common languages to design and maintain software and systems in your future role.

Typical Software Engineer Working Conditions

What does a computer software engineer do daily? These professionals usually work in a comfortable and clean environment where computer equipment is located. Traveling may be a part of the job for computer software engineers working for consulting firms or software vendors.

The typical workweek for a computer software engineer is 40 hours, sometimes 50 hours. Due to long periods spent typing at a computer, computer software engineers can develop back discomfort, eyestrain, or hand and wrist problems on the job. Proper posture, frequent breaks, and exercise outside of working hours can help minimize these risks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26 percent of these professionals work in computer systems design companies. An estimated 8 percent work in manufacturing and an additional 8 percent work as software publishers.

Software Engineer vs. Computer Engineer

While software engineering is a popular career path, there are many options available for you if you’re interested in working with technology. Compare software engineer vs. computer engineer roles to discover the differences and similarities between these two common career pathways.

Many of the similarities and differences depend on the specific employer and position in each career path. For example, senior engineers in both fields may spend more time managing teams and coordinating goals rather than focusing on the daily task differences.

Similarities Between Software and Computer Engineers

As their names imply, both positions focus on engineering in the technology industry. Both professions require an in-depth understanding of computer technology, computational processes, and mathematics.

You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree to work in either field. These positions both offer competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement.

The work environments of these careers are also similar. In both cases, you’ll likely work a full-time schedule coordinating tasks with a team of other engineers. Most positions require you to work on the computer, either in an office environment or from a remote location.

Software and Computer Engineering Differences

Despite their similarities, there are distinct differences between these two computer technology engineering positions. Computer engineering roles typically focus on data processing, computing devices, and data management. They can also include work in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing.

Software engineering positions focus on programming principles, software development, user experience, and the future of software design. These roles can include hardware systems, but often with more focus on software applications.

Computer Software Engineer Salary

The median computer software engineer salary in 2020 was $110,140, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The most common entry-level education requirement for this systems software engineer salary is a bachelor’s degree.

This median pay represents a wide range in pay based on location, experience, and job description. The lowest 10 percent of salaries for this career, for example, are all less than $65,210. The highest 10 percent of earners in software engineering enjoy a salary over $170,100, according to BLS.

Software Engineer Salary vs. Computer Science Salary

The expectations of software engineer salary vs. computer science salary are comparable. According to BLS, the median pay in 2020 for computer hardware engineers was $119,560. These positions also required, on average, a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions.

How to Become a Computer Software Engineer

Train to become a computer software engineer with these steps:

  1. Earn a high school diploma, focusing on mathematics and computer science courses
  2. Earn a bachelor’s computer software engineer degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and technology accredited program
  3. Practice problem-solving, project planning, coding, and communication skills
  4. Consider enrolling in an accredited master’s degree program in computer software engineering

The minimum computer software engineer schooling for most positions is a bachelor’s degree, but many encourage a master’s degree in a relevant field. Typical majors chosen by computer software engineers are software engineering, mathematics, or computer science.

Relevant skills are also important for employers when selecting applicants. For employers using computers for scientific or engineering applications, professionals with a computer software engineer degree are usually preferred. For companies using computers for business applications, computer software engineers who have taken courses in management information systems and business are also preferred.

Software Engineering Qualifications

Qualifications important for computer software engineers are analytical skills, problem-solving skills, creativity, attention to detail, communication skills, and the ability to work with teams as well as working with abstract concepts. Computer software engineers looking to advance to managerial positions should also have business skills.

Other software engineering qualifications include coding, algorithms, and digital logic skills. You may need these industry skills and experiences to create a competitive application for entry-level positions.

Recommended Skills and Experiences

Relevant programming skills are also important for employers hiring computer software engineers. Partaking in internships can also help computer software engineers find employment.

Employers may send their computer software engineers to professional development seminars for them to be skilled in the latest technological advances. Some students may also take continuing education courses.

Certification is usually offered by product vendors or software firms for computer software engineers. Becoming certified demonstrates competency and provides an advantage to job seekers.

Continuing Education Opportunities

You may not be required to be licensed to work as a software engineer, but certification and additional degrees can help make your application stand out. Explore Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers membership and credentialing opportunities for professional advancement. Review other professional organizations for membership and credentialing options.

Consider master’s degree programs in software engineering or related fields to expand your opportunities. Continuing education is an excellent way to hone your skills, learn new concepts and improve your resume.

Computer Software Engineer Job Market

Out of the 1.3 million jobs held by computer software engineers and computer programmers, 385,200 are held by computer systems software engineers. The number of software engineers is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS. This means you can expect an additional 409,500 jobs by 2030.

This is significantly more than the number of new jobs expected in computer hardware engineering. The job outlook for hardware engineers between 2020 and 2030 is a 2 percent increase, which is slower than the average job growth in the nation.

Computer software engineers with strong programming, interpersonal, and business skills will have the best jobs available to them. Those leaving the workplace and retiring will also create more jobs for computer software engineers. Businesses looking to upgrade or customize their computer systems will also require the work of computer software engineers.

Computer software engineers with experience are more likely to advance in their careers. Advancements can include becoming a project manager, manager of information systems, or chief information officer. Computer software engineers with a lot of experience can also become system designers or independent consultants.

Reasons for a Strong Job Market

As computer networking grows, such as internet technologies, there will be an increase for computer software engineers. The need for updating systems and safeguarding will also increase the need for computer software engineers. The need for computer software engineers to implement and safeguard such systems will also increase the need for computer software engineers.

Increased Internet Use

The increasing use of the internet, as well as websites, will create the demand for new software and products. Computer software engineers will be necessary for businesses looking to customize this software.

Cybersecurity Threats

Concerns over cybersecurity and new software needs will also increase the need for computer software engineers. They will be needed to develop and design security systems and applications and even integrate them into old ones.

New Coding Requirements

Application coding has a limited life span. Every line of coding may become outdated or inefficient in as little as a few years. As a software engineer, you can not only refresh existing code but develop ways to identify coding issues before they affect productivity.

Growing Complexity of Projects

As software engineers continue to pursue more efficient and advanced projects, these complex tasks may require additional engineers to assist in the design, development, and maintenance of the software. Continued innovations are expected to result in a continued increase in the number of engineers needed in the industry.


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