The career trajectory of a Software Engineer

Looking for a career that will keep you in demand and earning well? Demand for software engineers is set to increase by 25-30% in the near future.

Written by

Sigrid Kenmuir

We spend a lot of time on the internet and using devices these days. From smartphones and tablets to laptops, game consoles and even our cars, there’s no escaping them and that trend isn’t going anywhere. Right now, there is high demand for software engineers and that demand is set to skyrocket.

What is software engineering?

It’s a side of engineering dealing with the creation and maintenance of software products. Due to the nature of this changing environment, software engineers learn to work within a set of methods, best practices, and principles rather than rigid parameters.

It’s made up of two distinct parts: software and engineering.

  • Software: a collection of codes, documents, and triggers that do specific jobs and fill specific requirements.
  • Engineering: the development of products using methods, best practices, and principles.

Software engineering covers roles such as web, app, or game developer, IT consultant, multimedia programmer, or information security analyst, among others. Depending on your interests and aptitude, there are many different avenues and industries in which you can work.

How do you become a software engineer?

Since software engineering requires an ability to learn and use various programming languages, it tends to attract those who are quick to pick them up. Often, this aptitude shows up as early as middle or high school, with kids teaching themselves programming and coding to play video games or create apps for school. 

For others, it’s something they get into in college, studying full degrees and even post-graduate degrees in the subject from university or college, community college, online university, or even through short courses in specific programming languages. Some people have even learned the ropes through YouTube, Github, and CodePen! In short, there’s no specific route, and a formal degree is great but not always required, depending on the role.

What do software engineers earn?

Software engineers are highly sought-after, and the average annual salary for a software engineer is more than 50% higher than the national average salary in the US. Entry-level positions start out at about $97,178 per year, rising to roughly $119,868 per year at four to six years of experience. Senior software engineers can earn up to $227k, though the median salary is around $152,459 per year.

Some other careers in the same field are: 

What does a software engineer’s career path look like?

There are many opportunities for those trained in software engineering. Some progress up the ranks from junior to senior, eventually leading a team of software engineers. Others transition out into careers in web development or consulting. 

What type of skills does a software engineer need?

They need a lot of technical skills, but they should also have interpersonal skills, and be able to effectively communicate with users and stakeholders in order to train, test, and debug software from initiation all the way to the end product. Software engineers are often involved from the early stages of software planning right through to the testing, development, training, and support stages.

A software engineer should be well-versed in:

  • Programming and coding: Software is designed using code, such as Javascript. It’s important to know a few and know how to learn more.
  • Design and architecture: Can include front- and back-end design  elements, or simply well-designed and arranged code.
  • Information analysis: Problem-finding and problem solving are key skills in the software engineer’s back pocket.
  • Communication and planning: A good developer is able to communicate with non-technical people as well as they do with tech-savvy people.

What else can you do with the software engineering skill set?

There are both technical and non-technical skills involved in being a software engineer. Programming languages are useful if you transition into web development, and logical and creative problem solving is useful in almost any career. 

The hard skills you’ll learn from software engineering will enable you to move easily across industries and careers, but it’s the soft skills – communication, comfort with learning new things, a solutions-based approach –  that will give you the longevity you need to make those leaps.

How do you get into software engineering?

As we mentioned earlier, training for this industry comes in many different shapes and sizes, from self-taught whizzes to those with traditional degrees. No matter which route you take, we recommend starting off with coding as early as you can. It’s a foundational skill, and learning one often leads to learning more. We recommend starting with Javascript, as it’s the most widely used language, and going from there. 

How can I get started?

High school students can sign up for an iX LaunchPad course in Software Engineering and college students can apply for iX Summer’sSoftware Engineering summer program.

Photo source: 1, 2, 3

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