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Roles directory / Software Engineering

Software Engineer

Overview

Software engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining software applications. They use their technical skills to write clean, efficient, and high-quality code to solve complex software problems.

Also known as:
Software Developer, SDE, SDE 2, Software Development Engineer

Skills

Typical years of experience

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Software Engineer

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What is software engineering?

Software engineering is a discipline that deals with the systematic development, design, testing, maintenance, and documentation of software. It involves applying engineering principles to create reliable, efficient, and scalable software solutions that meet specific requirements and solve real-world problems. 

Some of the systems that software engineers build include:

  • Operating systems
  • Web applications
  • Mobile applications
  • Enterprise software
  • Video games
  • Database management systems
  • Cloud computing services

What does a software engineer do?

What is software engineering?

Software engineers develop, design, and test software applications and apply engineering principles to the process of building software. To do so, they use a variety of methodologies, tools, programming languages, and frameworks.

A software engineer performs many of the tasks that a software developer does, but with a big-picture, design-centric approach. This distinction means that they’re focused on structure design and eliminating technical debt, in addition to writing great code.

On a more technical level, the core job responsibilities of software engineers include:

  • Writing high-quality, maintainable, reusable code
  • Collaborating with stakeholders in an agile environment
  • Developing, reviewing, and debugging software
  • Designing scalable software systems
  • Preparing and conducting systems programming tests

What kinds of companies hire software engineers?

Any company that’s building websites or applications will need to hire software engineers. The employers hiring the most engineers with this skill set are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world’s largest technology companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Oracle.

Companies in every industry need technical talent to help them modernize and innovate their business practices. Finance, social media, aerospace, defense, consulting, retail, healthcare — the impact of software engineers is near endless. 

Software engineer salary and job outlook

On average, software engineers receive highly competitive compensation packages. However, sources on tech salaries often present different and at times conflicting numbers. Estimates for the average base salary for software engineers in the U.S. range from $115,326 to $167,304. Salaries will vary depending on experience, skills, industry, location, and company size.

The job outlook for software engineers is equally promising. From 2021 to 2031, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of employed software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers in the U.S. to grow by 25%.

Software engineer skills & qualifications

Technical skills

Software engineers use a range of programming languages to build applications. These can include:

  • C
  • C++
  • C# 
  • Go
  • Java
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Software engineers also work with database tools to manage platform and user data. These include relational database technologies (SQL, MySQL, Oracle) and non-relational database technologies (MongoDB, Redis, Apache Cassandra).

Beyond working with those technologies, software engineers also have the ability to plan the big picture and early stages of software development. System design is a skill that involves selecting and planning the core components of an application in order to design scalable, maintainable and efficient software systems.

Soft skills

Technical competency alone isn’t enough to succeed in a software engineering role. Mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills are also essential. Employers often look for engineers with strong soft skills, including:

Experience & education

After competency, the most important qualification for software engineers is experience. On-the-job experience and training is a critical requirement for many employers.

Then there’s education. About 75% of developers worldwide have a bachelor’s degree or higher. If you’re recruiting, screening, or hiring engineers, there’s a high likelihood that many of them will have a degree. And many companies still require engineers to hold four-year degrees. 

However, experience and training outside of higher education can equally prepare a candidate to succeed in a software engineering role. Research has shown that 86.7% of developers have taught themselves a language, framework or tool outside of a classroom or course. And bootcamps and online training are popular ways to learn new technical skills.

Software engineering trends

In the fast-paced realm of software engineering, staying up to date with the latest trends is paramount. The landscape is constantly evolving, with new technologies and methodologies redefining the development lifecycle, enhancing user experiences, and introducing new possibilities. 

Artificial intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become more than just a buzzword; it’s now a driving force behind innovation in the field of software engineering. With its ability to simulate human intelligence and automate tasks, AI is transforming the way software is developed, deployed, and used across industries. 

One of the key areas where AI is making a significant impact is in automating repetitive tasks. Software engineers can leverage AI-powered tools and frameworks to automate mundane and time-consuming activities, such as code generation, testing, and debugging. This enables developers to focus on higher-level problem-solving and creativity, leading to faster and more efficient development cycles.

AI also plays a crucial role in enhancing decision-making processes. Through machine learning algorithms, software engineers can develop intelligent systems that analyze large datasets, identify patterns, and make predictions. This capability has far-reaching implications, ranging from personalized recommendations in e-commerce platforms to predictive maintenance in manufacturing industries.

Kubernetes

As software applications become increasingly complex and distributed, the need for efficient management of containers and microservices has become crucial. This is where Kubernetes, an open-source container orchestration platform, comes into play. 

At its core, Kubernetes simplifies the management of containerized applications. Containers allow developers to package applications and their dependencies into portable and isolated units, ensuring consistency across different environments. 

One of the key benefits of Kubernetes is its ability to enable horizontal scaling. By distributing containers across multiple nodes, Kubernetes ensures that applications can handle increasing traffic loads effectively. It automatically adjusts the number of containers based on demand, ensuring optimal utilization of resources.

DevSecOps

According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the global annual cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $8 trillion in 2023. Security is more important than ever, which has led many engineering organizations to reconsider the way they approach and implement security practices. And that’s where DevSecOps comes into play. 

One of the key benefits of DevSecOps is the ability to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities early in the development cycle. By conducting security assessments, code reviews, and automated vulnerability scanning, software engineers can identify potential risks and address them proactively. This approach minimizes the likelihood of security breaches and reduces the cost and effort required for remediation later on.

Progressive web applications

In an era where mobile devices dominate our lives, progressive web applications (PWAs) have emerged as a significant software engineering trend. So much so that desktop installations of PWAs have grown by 270% since 2021. PWAs bridge the gap between traditional websites and native mobile applications, offering the best of both worlds. These web applications provide a seamless and immersive user experience while leveraging the capabilities of modern web technologies.

PWAs are designed to be fast, responsive, and reliable, allowing users to access them instantly, regardless of network conditions. Unlike traditional web applications that require a constant internet connection, PWAs can work offline or with a poor network connection. By caching key resources, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, PWAs ensure that users can access content and perform actions even when they are offline. This enhances the user experience and allows applications to continue functioning seamlessly in challenging network conditions.

5G

5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology, is set to revolutionize connectivity and enable a new era of innovation. With its promise of ultra-fast speeds, low latency, and high capacity, 5G opens up a world of possibilities for software engineers, paving the way for advancements in areas such as autonomous vehicles, smart cities, immersive experiences, and the internet of things. And as mobile networks continue to grow and consumers adopt more 5G devices, software engineers will have the opportunity to build new applications that take advantage of 5G’s capabilities