Definition and Nature of Work
Software engineers are specialists who are in charge of the testing, design, development and maintenance of computer software for business and personal use.
They apply the principles of mathematics, engineering and computer science in creating managing software. These professionals are responsible for programming computers to make them operate as they should.
Engineers focused on developing system software are involved in creating the systems and software that make computers work.
These are primarily the operating systems for computers used in businesses or at home. Programming software involves debugging, maintenance and support of computer programs.
Application software involves the design of computer programs and applications. This includes word processors and commercial software that is sold to consumers.
A Day in the Life of Software Engineers
Software engineering is a practical, intuitive, creative and analytical field. Engineers come up with ways of improving computer systems to generate quality use of the technology.
This work includes tests, prototypes and evaluations of software and computer systems. Professionals deal with developing of web applications, managing systems information as well as finding solutions to user-specific problems.
This career involves the use of a systematic code structure that is needed to map out the software. An understanding of programming languages is one of the most basic requirements in this line of work. It is highly stylized for computer programming and engineering.
The code is very specific. Any error will result in unwanted changes in the system. Software engineers use this code to write system programs. It includes line by line instructions to tell the software what to do.
Software engineers have to analyze user needs in software systems in order to determine the areas that require development. They make use of technical testing tools in figuring out the best quality upgrades for the software they work on and come up with package systems and customized applications. Maintenance is also an important part of the job.
Professionals are expected to be able to work with fellow engineers. They will form part of a software team to manage work efficiently. Working as a team will allow these professionals to pull together resources and ideas to come up with more options and solutions in the development and modification process. These engineers usually work in offices or laboratories.
Software engineers may have different areas of focus. Some tend to work on software development while there are other people who prefer to concentrate on system design. Some will focus on medical software. Game design is also growing in popularity. All of these professionals work using the same software engineering principles.
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Becoming a Software Engineer
Software engineering is a career that will require applicants to have a specific skill set. The ability to program computers and experience with computer systems is a requirement. Critical thinking is also involved as well as management techniques and extensive technical knowledge.
Earning a degree in software engineering is a good place to start if you are serious about a career in this field. Those with a formal education in any field related to the subject are highly preferred by employers. It is helpful for a job application to show a level of mastery in their line of work. This list includes some of the degrees that will be helpful to gaining the necessary skills and information for a career in software engineering.
Common Majors and Certifications:
- Applied Science
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Science
- Electrical Engineering
- Information Systems
- Information Technology
- Software Engineering
Courses like this will normally take four years of full-time education. Colleges and universities will usually help graduates with internships and work placements. This will serve as a necessary foundation for a career in software engineering.
Software Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divides the software engineering profession into systems software engineering and applications software engineering. As of 2009, the estimated median annual wage for systems software engineers was $96,620. Those in this specialty could earn between $59,600 and $139,930 per year.
The median hourly wage was $46.45 with engineers earning as much as $67.28 per hour. Employers that hired the most systems software engineers were computer systems design companies, software publishers and manufacturers of computer and peripheral equipment.
As of 2008, the median annual salary for applications software engineers was $87,900 with specialists earning from less than $53,720 a year up to more than $128,870 according to the BLS. By the hour, the median wage was $42.26. Those in this field of software engineering received between $25.83 and $61.95 an hour.
Just like systems software engineers, the top industries that employed applications software engineers were computer systems design firms and software publishers. A large percentage of these specialists also went on to management positions.
Software engineers are not limited to these positions. There is a wide range of job opportunities open to them. They have flexible skills that are used in a number of industries. Networking and web firms as well as high-tech businesses often hire software engineers. Global companies, government agencies, medical institutions, manufacturing firms and the military all need professionals in this field.
There is also opportunity for advancement of in this career through the attainment of certifications and master level degrees.
Is this career right for you?
It is important for those interested in software engineering to decide on the aspect of the field they want to focus on. All of them apply the same principles of software engineering, but the concentration will vary. Specialization is important for making the most out of a software engineering career.
This is an Association for Computing Machinery interest group for software engineers. They hold forums where specialists and professionals related to the career come together to discuss new developments and analyze existing practices in the field. Their mission is to find ways to improve software engineering through interaction among communities concerned with the topic. The group also hopes to further the development of software engineering as a profession.
This is a non-profit organization for software engineers, market researchers, consultants and other professionals. They hold conferences to discuss issues pertaining to computer systems performance. The council posts findings and evaluations on their website.