IN THIS ARTICLE
- Is Software Engineering a Good Career?
- Software Engineering Job Market and Demand
- A Career in Software Engineering: Benefits and Drawbacks
- Software Engineering (and Related) Careers To Explore
- Becoming a Software Engineer: General Prerequisites
- What Does the Career Path of a Software Engineer Typically Look Like?
- Software Engineering Salary
- Becoming a Software Engineer: Real-Life Examples and Stories To...
- Software Engineering Future Outlook
- FAQs About Software Engineering Career
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Every year for the past eight years, Glassdoor has listed software engineering roles on its Best Jobs in America list, meaning that this career tops the chart in terms of compensation, job satisfaction, and number of job openings.
Given this rosy history, you may be wondering: what do the next eight, ten, or twenty years look like for software engineering? Will it continue to be a solid career choice?
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the details and future of the profession: the different roles, various career paths, average salaries, essential skills, and methods of education you can choose from to start your own coding journey.
Is Software Engineering a Good Career?
Software engineering is a creative, stimulating, and varied career that many choose out of passion for the field. It pays well, offers good benefits, and provides constant opportunities for professional development and relocation both within and outside of the States.
Software Engineering Job Market and Demand
Although Meta and Google might be the first companies that come to mind when you think of software engineers, the job market expands far beyond the leading tech conglomerates.
Software Engineering Job Market
Aside from tech companies, software engineers are also hired in the following industries:
- Healthcare (Johnson & Johnson, CVS Health Corp.)
- Retail (Walmart, Best Buy)
- Research and development (AT&T Laboratories)
- Media and entertainment (Netflix, Disney)
- Finance (JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo)
In 2021, there were 1,622,200 software engineering positions across the United States, and this number is expected to exceed two million by 2031.
What Is the Scope of Software Engineering?
Many of the common roles in tech fall under the broader term of software engineering. Software solutions are the power behind many industries, including data scientists in business intelligence, cloud engineers working in finance, AI developers in healthcare, and cybersecurity specialists working with the federal government.
A Career in Software Engineering: Benefits and Drawbacks
All careers are a balance of positives and negatives. With the sheer range of roles and industries to choose from in software engineering, there’s a lot you can do to personalize your career to your needs. Here, we’ll look at some of the most common benefits and drawbacks of software development and engineering.
From salaries to flexible hours, there are multiple benefits to becoming a software engineer.
While the recent layoff trends in tech suggest job security can be tumultuous for software engineers, big IT companies are just one of the many sectors developers can work in. Media, healthcare, manufacturing, government, and financial organizations all also need software engineers and keep demand for these professionals at a more-than-comfortable level.
The national average median salary for software engineers across all industries is $107,255, according to Glassdoor. Software engineers commonly also receive stock benefits, health benefits, travel benefits, quality of life benefits, and much more depending on the company in question.
Software engineering is also associated with high levels of flexibility, both in the hours you work and where you work from. While each company has its own procedures and preferences, much of an engineer’s work can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
Software engineering is all about unique challenges and creative solutions, so it’s a great career for people who want excitement and variety in their work.
Of course, all careers have their drawbacks, and the intensity of a software engineer’s workload isn’t suited to everyone.
The Pressure To Do Extra
Many software engineers consider their work a passion, which can motivate them to work into the early hours, and their free time is often spent upskilling and expanding their knowledge. Unsurprisingly, the engineers that are willing to go the extra mile are the ones that grow and rise within the company.
This leaves others feeling pressured to do the same if they want to be as successful, and this can be stressful. Having a passion for your work is a great thing, but having a work-life balance is important too.
The Effect of Global Teams
Since remote work is popular among software engineers, teams, departments, and companies as a whole can end up spread across different time zones. This can be slightly inconvenient as calls with far-off colleagues will end up being scheduled during the evening or very early in the morning, and urgent work can be thrown off schedule due to the time difference.
Software Engineering (and Related) Careers To Explore
Software development careers come in all shapes and sizes. From working in entertainment-based industries like video games or movie streaming to keeping the world safe through military and medical research, there’s a lot of variation in engineering roles.
Most commonly reserved for web development, front-end developers focus on creating the customer-facing elements of websites.
Conversely, back-end engineering is concerned with everything happening behind the scenes. This includes servers, databases, APIs, and more.
A full-stack engineer has skills and experience in both front-end and back-end development and usually works with both teams during a project to make sure both elements progress together.
Quality Assurance engineers are tasked with developing comprehensive tests to identify issues and bugs before releasing a product to the public.
DevOps is largely an organizational role that works to identify and improve inefficiencies in the development cycle. This often includes promoting collaboration between siloed teams, addressing outdated system architecture, or limiting wasteful administrative procedures.
Cloud storage is now the standard way for organizations to store and access various data and tools. Transitioning to and maintaining a cloud infrastructure requires an expert, which is where cloud engineers come in. Not only do they design and implement a bespoke cloud solution for the company. They also maintain it, improve it, and train staff to use it.
As the most general title on this list, a software developer can technically be employed to perform any or multiple of the duties on this list. However, they can also work on software development.
As you might expect, game developers make video games for PC, consoles, handhelds, and more. It’s a creative and passion-driven role in a fast-paced industry.
These engineers specialize in developing software applications and operating systems specifically for smartphones and tablets. This can include games, lifestyle apps, financial apps, and everything in between.
Becoming a Software Engineer: General Prerequisites
While juniors learn a lot of skills on the job, there’s still a lot you need to study yourself before searching for your first engineering role.
The foundational knowledge you need as a software engineer depends on your goals and interests. You might want to study about how computers work or you might want to dive straight into programming languages. If programming is just one of the paths you’re considering, introductory courses or books on the subject can help you learn more about the subject and develop an interest.
You actually have a lot of options when it comes to education. College degrees are becoming less relevant as more and more tech companies remove them from employment requirements. Instead, self-study, online courses, and software engineering bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular. As long as you acquire the skills and build a portfolio to showcase them, you’ll have everything a hiring manager could ask of you.
Both soft skills and technical skills are important for software engineering, as most roles entail working on one small segment of a much larger project or product. Collaborating with other teams and departments is an essential part of the job, as committing changes to a larger project is a complex process that requires extensive testing.
There are also many kinds of specialized skills you can choose to pursue as your career progresses—problem-solving, debugging, technical leadership, management, and more.
Tools are hugely important to the programming profession—the software, operating systems, and languages you choose to develop skills and knowledge in will greatly affect the type of work you do. For example, web developers learn HTML and CSS, back-end engineers learn Python, and game developers often work in C++ or C#.
Get To Know Other Software Engineering Students
What Does the Career Path of a Software Engineer Typically Look Like?
Most software engineering careers begin with a junior position. Thanks to the large amounts of testing and debugging in any project, juniors are an important part of any team and positions are always available. Most junior programming roles have broad scopes, allowing you to learn about different aspects of the software development lifecycle.
After completing your first year, you might find yourself with newfound interests or skills in a particular area you want to pursue. By networking inside and outside of your company, you can continue to expand your knowledge and build connections that lead to new opportunities.
Fast forward a few years, and you’ll find yourself nearing the status of “senior” engineer. You’ll have experience, skills, and domain knowledge, and you might also be developing skills in people management or technical leadership. You can choose which areas you want to focus on and start moving into senior roles.
Some of the most senior titles for software engineers are “staff engineer,” “principal engineer,” and “technical director,” and you can choose to work towards these after landing a senior role. If you don’t want to get involved in management or decision-making, you can also stay a senior engineer and just increase your salary as your experience develops.
Software Engineering Salary
Software engineering salaries just keep getting better—Glassdoor reports peaks of $386,000 for highly experienced principal engineers in the United States.
Entry-Level Software Engineer
The average salary for a junior programmer is $100,000, meaning it’s possible to bag a six-figure salary right from the get-go.
Mid-Level Software Engineer
After a few years on the job, you can increase your salary by $20,000-$50,000 on average. Where you work and whether you enter a management role can affect how much you earn.
Senior Software Engineer
Salaries of senior software engineers can vary greatly depending on the state, the industry, and your role. The average range across all industries is between $102,000-$154,000. If you have progressed to a role like staff or principal engineer or become a director of some kind, your annual salary is more likely to range between $166,000-$268,000.
Becoming a Software Engineer: Real-Life Examples and Stories To Inspire You
Since software engineering is such a popular career choice right now, there are lots of real-life stories out there to learn from. Hearing about someone who took the chance and succeeded can often help you get excited to do the same.
With a completely unrelated History degree for education, Steph Fajardo gained the technical skills to launch a software engineering career by enrolling and graduating from a coding bootcamp.
It’s also possible to go from zero to employed completely by yourself. Internet Made Coder went from being a total novice to landing a software engineering role in just four months. With no software engineering degree, he used online courses and resources and threw himself into his studies—and it worked!
Software Engineering Future Outlook
Computers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are software engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of software engineering roles is going to grow by 25% in the next decade, which is much faster than average. This means large numbers of new software developer jobs and a real need for new engineers to fill them up.
FAQs About Software Engineering Career
We’ve got the answer to your most frequently asked questions:
What Type of Software Engineers Are Most in Demand?
In big tech hubs like Silicon Valley, what’s in demand can change quite frequently. With the recent hype around ChatGPT and other AI, machine learning and artificial intelligence engineers are in high demand. For a more stable level of demand, cybersecurity is essential but understaffed in all industries from government and military to private companies.
Is It Hard Being a Software Engineer?
Depending on the role and industry you choose, tight deadlines and high expectations can make the job challenging. But it’s also rewarding and well-compensated.
Do Software Engineers Need Math Expertise?
Most of the key skills needed to become a software engineer don’t really require math. For web developers, game developers, back-end engineers, cloud engineers, DevOps engineers, and the like, all the math is taken care of by the various tools you use. AI and machine learning developers are a little different though, often requiring formal education in advanced mathematics and statistics.
Which Is Better: Computer or Software Engineering?
It depends on what you’re interested in and what skills you want to learn. Software engineering is all about creating and developing new applications and solutions through programming. Computer science, however, also includes developing the hardware and improving the computers themselves.
Since you’re here…
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