How Do You Become a Software Engineer?

Interested in becoming a software engineer? Springboard can help! Explore everything you need to know about becoming a software engineer in this guide.

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Whenever you’re browsing a webpage or toying around with a newly downloaded internet-powered app on your phone, you’re directly interacting with the work of a software engineer.

While it takes a lot of dedication to gain the skills necessary to become qualified for all of the requirements listed on a software engineer job description, becoming a software engineer is not a predictable career path. Many software engineers come from a range of different educational and vocational backgrounds. One of the most exciting things about becoming a software engineer is that software engineering itself can actually be learned in a number of different ways.

Read on to find out more about how to become a software engineer.

What Is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are responsible for building—or engineering—any kind of software. There’s no limitation in regards to software products or software types. Software engineers can create desktop programs like GarageBand or PowerPoint, or mobile applications and web applications like Instagram or Gmail.

Software engineers can also be called computer programmers—but software developers and web developers are a little bit different.

What Is the Difference Between a Software Engineer and a Web Developer?

Web developers are software engineers who specialize in building specifically web applications. So, while a software engineer is not always a web developer, a web developer will always be a software engineer.

Salaries are alike for both software engineers and web developers, as is the day-to-day structure and role responsibilities, with the main differences coming down to product type, scope, and development methodologies.

software engineer vs software developer

How to Become a Software Engineer in 6 Steps

Software engineering is a constantly evolving field. Because of this, there is no 'right' way to become a software engineer. There are multiple ways to get into computer programming, depending on your educational background, technical skills, and areas of interest.

The steps below outline how you can get hired as a software engineer.

  1. Understand your end goal. It’s important to be crystal-clear before you set off on your software engineering journey to decide on what your goals are––becoming a software engineer takes time, hard work, and dedication. The most obvious way to get an education in software engineering is to take university-level courses. The most popular majors across software engineers who have university degrees are computer science, data science, mathematics, probability, and statistics, or other types of engineering. It's important to note you do not necessarily need a software engineering degree (either a bachelor's degree or a master's degree) to become a software engineer. Learning software engineering as an undergraduate is only one path: a 2019 developer survey found that only 62% of software engineers had majored in the above fields.
  2. Learn a software engineering language. Software engineers use programming languages to write the code that powers programs. In order to become a software engineer, you should make yourself familiar with at least one of the popular programming languages. Choose a language that you enjoy, and then practice as much as you can to become comfortable applying it to different tasks and coding assignments. The most popular software engineering languages are Python and JavaScript.
  3. Learn additional coding tools that developers use. Depending on the language, many of these tools can be found in places like Github, where engineers come together to share knowledge and open source projects. These resources will also help you build out your software engineering community and learn from other software engineers.
  4. Work on real-life projects. The most important part of becoming a software engineer is understanding how to apply your theoretical knowledge to actual tasks and assignments that challenge your abilities and help you learn as you go. This is crucial to building out a portfolio that you will be able to share with future employers.
  5. Build your professional network. Interview, and apply for your first job as a software engineer at a software company.
  6. Do an online course or online bootcamp. While some software engineers find success in completing these steps on their own, many need guidance and additional support. For this reason, many aspiring software engineers turn to an online bootcamp experience for a comprehensive and supported approach to learning software engineering.

software engineering programming languages

Software Engineering Job Profile, Skills, & More

When software engineers build programs or software systems using code, they usually follow a process that goes through various development stages. In modern technology, most teams rely on the Agile framework to structure their software development journeys.

All successful software engineers must have:

  • Technical proficiency
  • Design-forward thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Operational practicality

Learn more about what a software engineer job description looks like here.

How Can Springboard Help You Become a Software Engineer?

Want to know how to get into software engineering or a related field? Springboard’s software engineering online bootcamps are comprehensive, accessible, and come with a six-month job guarantee.

The Software Engineering Career Track is designed for those who have basic skills in JavaScript, an aptitude for problem-solving, and strong communication and collaboration skills.

The online, six-month, self-paced curriculum will help you master key aspects of front-end web development, back-end web development, databases, and data structures and algorithms. You will learn to:

  • Build static webpages with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Create beautiful, interactive client-side web apps
  • Make well-designed server-side JavaScript applications using Node and Express
  • Build powerful single-page web apps with React

If you’re just starting out your software engineering journey, Springboard also offers a Software Engineering Prep Course, which gives students a crash course for foundational skills in web development—including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—all via a curriculum specifically designed to help you pass the admissions technical skills survey necessary for the Software Engineering Career Track. Together, the Springboard prep course and Career Track prepare students for entry-level positions in a software engineering field.

Software Engineering Career FAQs

Want to know more about how to get into software engineering? Read on to find the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Can you become a software engineer without a degree?

Yes. A 2019 career survey found that only 62% of software engineers had come from a traditional tertiary educational background. There are many paths you can take to becoming a software engineer without a degree; the most popular option is an online bootcamp, which can help prepare you for a career in software engineering by giving you a solid foundation in key aspects of front-end web development, back-end web development, databases, and data structures and algorithms.

What is the best language to learn to be a software engineer?

Software engineers use programming languages to write the code that powers programs. In order to become a software engineer, you should make yourself familiar with at least one of the popular programming languages.

The most popular software engineering languages are:

  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • C#, C, and C++
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • R

Software engineering jobs, while consistent in many of their responsibilities, are constantly evolving as consumer demands change. In 2020, the most popular software engineering jobs as reported by TechRepublic that showed growth in demand were:

  1. AR/VR engineer (1,400%)
  2. Gaming engineer (146%)
  3. Computer vision engineer (146%)
  4. Search engineer (137%)
  5. Machine learning engineer (89%)

software engineer jobs

What tools do software engineers use?

Software engineers rely on diverse tooling to stay organized and effectively collaborate with their teams. Source control tools like Git make it easy for developers to merge their code and keep it organized in a centralized repository that allows them to track and test progress. Continuous integration tools like Hudson and Jenkins add an extra processing layer once code is committed, and then use additional plugins to create documentation or compile statistics. Finally, for software engineers working in an Agile environment, many rely on the JIRA Agile framework as their primary project management software.

Ready to switch careers to software engineering?

Springboard offers a comprehensive software engineering bootcamp. You’ll work with a one-on-one mentor to learn key aspects of front-end web development, back-end web development, databases, and data structures and algorithms. Modules include learning resources, practice exercises, projects, and career-related coursework. 

Check out Springboard's Software Engineering Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not quite ready to dive into a software engineering bootcamp?

Springboard also offers a Software Engineering Prep Course, where you can learn the foundational web development skills (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) needed to pass the technical skills survey for the Software Engineering Career Track.

Download our software engineering salary guide

This 21-page guide breaks down the software engineering career path and how to optimize salary figures.

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