How To Become a Software Engineer After College in 5 Steps

The path to a successful software engineering career after college can be difficult to navigate. Find out what you need to know to be a software engineer in this guide.

become a software engineer

After graduating from college when you start looking for software engineering positions, you'll probably notice a trend during your job search. Even with 1.46 million software engineering jobs in the United States—many fresh college graduates find it challenging to get their first engineering role. It’s a tough market for people who don’t have much experience. 

You need a planned strategy if you want to land your first software engineering position. Let’s look at what you can expect to do as a software engineer and the best ways to get a job.

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer is a professional who designs, develops, and tests software. It isn't only about writing programming code. Engineers are responsible for understanding and using the principles of software engineering.

‌It starts in the software design phase, where software engineers need to determine the best software architecture for a project. Once the engineer develops their architecture, they develop software applications for users. When development is complete, they evaluate and test their work until it fills all the requirements laid out by the project’s stakeholders.

Why Become a Software Engineer?

Software engineering is the perfect career path if you enjoy solving problems. This broad field encompasses a variety of job roles associated with both computer applications and systems. This enables you to work in the area or areas that intrigue you most. For instance, some software engineers invest their time building or rebuilding computer information systems. Others utilize their skills in web page creation or enhance a company’s network security. It’s up to you which direction you want to take.

You can also work in any industry as a software engineer because almost every organization uses software to some extent. Be it e-commerce, healthcare, or even a nonprofit organization, software engineers are required in pretty much every field. Netflix, for instance, hires software engineers to maintain and upgrade its streaming platform on the web and smart TVs. Facebook uses engineers to upgrade its website and analyze user data.

What Are the Required Skills to Become a Software Engineer?

To become a software engineer, you'll have to develop your technical skills—but keep in mind that beyond tech skills, you'll also need soft skills to succeed in this role:

  • Programming languages
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity

Where Do Software Engineers Work?

In a world where everything is becoming digital, people are needed to create software to connect everyone. You can find software engineers in healthcare, manufacturing, government, and every other industry you can think of. Small businesses and large tech companies alike need engineers to create software that gives their companies an advantage.

How Much Are Software Engineers Paid?

Software Engineer Salary

According to PayScale, the average salary for a software engineer in the United States is $87,146 per year. Of course, this number can change drastically depending on your location and experience.

‌For an entry-level engineer, the starting base salary is around $63,000. If you’re more experienced, your salary can go as high as $128,000.

How to Become a Software Engineer After College in 5 Steps

Become a Software Engineer

The job hunt might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow a few simple tips, you’ll be on your way to landing your first job after you finish your college degree.

1. Learn what your ideal company wants

You won't necessarily learn all the programming languages you need while you're in school. The tech industry moves fast, and college curriculums don't always keep up.

‌To maximize your chance of landing a job, look at the different programming languages the company you want to work for uses. Learn more about these common languages below to match what organizations are looking for:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • PHP

2. Apply to the right jobs

It’s important to look at the skills listed on the job description to make sure your current skill set matches what the company is looking for. 

‌Consider a recent job description from Airbnb, for instance. You might not have learned Android programming in your college—so if you want to be a fit for this job, you’ll need to improve your Android development skills on your own.

‌However, keep in mind that you don’t always need to be a master at every skill a company needs. If you do well in an interview and show that you’re a great engineer, a company is still likely to bring you on for the job.

3. Polish your CV and commit your code to GitHub

If you don't have much full-time job experience, it's hard for a company to gauge your engineering skills. Luckily, you have open source projects available to show your skills on real software projects.

‌You can either create your own project or contribute to open source projects on GitHub. Your code commits are public, so companies can check out your coding credentials before they hire you. Your GitHub repository also acts as an online portfolio to show what you can do on your own.

‌Once you publish your code online, you’ll need to get your resume ready for applications. 

A resume is the first thing an employer will see from you. Write it to make sure you showcase your experience and skills.

‌Don't just do the bare minimum on formatting, either. Look for resume templates online to find one that looks great. Ideally, keep your resume to a single page. Focus on the information most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

‌For example, if a job description asks for a software engineer that is responsible for writing programming code using JavaScript and Node.js, make sure you talk about your JavaScript and Node.js projects in your resume to show your experience with those technologies. Avoid highlighting the old C++ projects you created when you first started programming because this won’t add value. 

4. Practice your interviewing skills

Interviews are a crucial part of the job search process. The hiring manager will be able to tell if you know what you're talking about. Practice with a friend you trust to help you refine your skills.

You are likely to see technical questions during your software engineering interviews to test your in-depth knowledge of programming fundamentals and technical expertise. An interviewer might ask you to build a simple website, demonstrate how an algorithm works, or create a data structure. Make sure your skills are up to par so you can demonstrate what you can do.

5. Do an online course or bootcamp

‌Even if you have a great education, the tech world moves fast. What you learned in college might not be current with the way companies work today.

‌That’s why it’s critical for you to keep up with the latest software engineering skills on your own. Sign up for an online course or bootcamp to learn the latest programming languages and frameworks popular with companies. Not all college degrees include these in their curriculum, and programming languages move and evolve fast. 

Plus, not everyone who wants to get into software engineering has the ‘right’ technical background—in computer science, information technology, or the like. Just because you don’t come from one of these educational backgrounds, doesn’t mean you cannot become a software engineer. 

Online courses and bootcamps help bridge the gap in both technical and soft skills and have the added benefit of matching students with industry professionals who can provide guidance and job-ready insights. Online bootcamps like Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track also include an industry capstone project, which gives students the opportunity to put into practice what they learn and work on a solid, real-world software engineering project to show off to employers.‌

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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