Software Engineering

Software engineering involves creating software that is affordable, of high quality and able to be used by many people. Because computers are complex, many aspects are involved. Software engineering incorporates principles of math, science and engineering. Software engineers create many products, such as business applications, computer games, middleware, networks and operating systems.

There are two main types of software engineering: computer applications engineers and computer systems engineers. Computer applications software engineering involves designing and maintaining computer systems that can be used by just one person or by a group of people to use. Computer systems software engineering involves designing programs for companies. This may include creating specialized programs to help with payroll or data entry functions or an internal secure network such as an intranet. Software engineering is always evolving due to updates in technology. Plus, computers and software are an important aspect of the personal lives and careers of most people.

Software engineering consists of many duties. Software engineers must first work with the client to determine their needs. During this process, they may create documentation such as charts, graphs and detailed instructions. These instructions are for the computer and are called algorithms. These instructions are then translated into a programming language that can be understood by the computer. Software engineers then design a system or software that addresses the client's needs.

To develop new software, software engineers should know programming languages and coding and how to develop algorithms in order for it to operate properly. Although some software engineers may work independently to solve problems, software engineering typically involves teams of engineers working together in to create the new system or software. Teams may consist of not only engineers, but design, marketing and manufacturing specialists as well.

A job in the software engineering field typically requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. A master's degree may be preferred for more technical or highly complex positions and a variety of experience with computer systems is highly desirable. Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door and some larger companies may hire recent graduates. However, some companies may require prior work experience. Employers are also looking for engineers with personal traits such as problem solving, analytical ability, attention to detail and communication skills. Software engineers should also be willing to learn new skills and stay abreast of the latest technology to remain competitive in the software engineering field.

The work environment for software engineering jobs varies by job duties and company. Software engineers often work more than 40 hours a week in order to meet deadlines. Although many work in offices or computer labs, some may travel frequently to meet with clients. With more duties able to be done remotely, more and more software engineers are able to telecommute.

Software engineers account for more than 1.3 million jobs. They can be found in many industries, with 32 percent in the computer systems design industry. Many of those in the software engineering field also work for computer manufacturers, insurance companies, financial institutions and software publishers. Nearly 50,000 engineers in the software engineering field are self-employed and work as consultants for companies. Computer applications software engineers earn salaries ranging from nearly $54,000 to almost $129,000 with an average of nearly $88,000 annually. Computer systems software engineers earn an average of almost $93,000, with salaries ranging from $58,000 to more than $135,000.Those who work in the commercial equipment and supplies field earn a bit more, at nearly $94,000. Those in the scientific research and development field average the most, at slightly above $102,000.

The future is very bright for the software engineering field. In fact, software engineers are expected to be the fastest-growing occupations, increasing by 21 percent overall. Advances in technology, concerns about computer security and the constant push for better and faster computers will make software engineers in high demand. Job growth is expected to increase very rapidly. Those with a strong knowledge of programming, as well as communication and business skills, will have the best opportunities.

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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