If you're reading this article on a computer, phone or even your smartwatch, you can thank a software engineer. Software engineers are the backbone of computer products and network systems. They create code that allows you to click a mouse and access the information in this article — but their skills go far beyond building software. Let's explore what software engineers do, the must-have skills they utilize daily and how you can become a software engineer.

What is Software Engineering?

Software is the instructions given to hardware in a specific programming language like Python, JavaScript and others that tell the hardware what, where, when and how to perform. Software engineering is the process of writing, building, designing, building, testing and maintaining this code while also incorporating engineering principles, like identifying users' needs, problem-solving and testing theories.

What Does A Software Engineer Do?

Think about this. How many people use a key to start their car? Instead, you probably push a button or use a device programmed to start the car. A software engineer is responsible for conceptualizing, creating and maintaining the code that does everything from turning on a light to powering an entire city. They work with development teams, junior and senior engineers, data scientists, project managers and more to create software solutions based on the needs of clients, customers, executives, industries and you.

Required Skills for Software Engineers

Building software and executing engineering principles require hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more technical in nature, whereas soft skills tend to be interpersonal.

Hard Skills for Software Engineers

The one must-have hard skill for software engineers is understanding and executing code, but there are also a few other technical skills they need to do their job.

  • Computer Programming and Coding - From open source and source code to programming languages and network systems, software engineers build software and test different code depending on the project. For example, python is usually used for back-end software development, while JavaScript is preferred for front-end design. They are also familiar with Ruby, C#, Java, C and C++, SQL, Swift and more.

  • Database Architecture and Management - Once you create software, you'll work with data scientists and data analysts to develop and manage databases for storage and recall.

  • Object-Oriented Design (OOD) - Programs are complex. OOD is used to create a model or paradigm of the code, giving a visual impression of how the elements of the software interact. 

  • Operating Systems (OS) - Software runs on an operating system. Software engineers must master the complexities of building and testing the OS on devices and networks. 

  • Cloud Computing - There is little to no hardware in cloud computing, so software engineers often build these behind-the-scenes networks and databases and create the code that tells them how to operate.

Soft Skills for Software Engineers

Not only are software engineers born problem-solvers, but they also have to interact with a team — even if the job is remote.

  • Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking - Software engineers create applications, programs and networks that solve problems. But they also rely on critical thinking skills to identify solutions for bugs and testing complications and overcome technical issues throughout the process.

  • Communication - Software engineers deal with technically-minded teammates and those in leadership positions. Good communication skills help you collaborate with others better, so you can convey ideas and work through problems effectively.

  • Adaptability and Flexibility - Throughout the entire development process and up to launch, things can go wrong, deadlines can get missed, and software revisions are often requested. The best software engineers can just go with the flow.

Software Engineer Vs. Software Developer

Software engineers and developers have the same skills, but a day in the life of each job is very different. Software developers write code with the user in mind. Their top priority is the user journey and software interaction, so they focus on the visual aspects of a website, game, application or smart technology to help satisfy the user experience. 

Software engineers write code, but they focus on the overall function. Using a technical and analytical approach, they use math, science and problem-solving skills to build, test and implement code to make sure everything runs properly. Unlike web developers, they will create visualization models for development teams, document findings and present software solutions to key stakeholders.

A Day In The Life of a Software Engineer

While there are different software engineering specializations with unique job descriptions, here are six duties a software engineer may tackle daily.

1. Develop, design and test software based on the project requirements.

2. Collaborate with other teams, including designers, developers, quality assurance engineers, project managers and executives.

3. Analyze and troubleshoot/debug software for known issues, potential risks and those that develop over the life of the software.

4. Stay up to date on software and computer trends through research, attending conferences, participating in discussion panels and more.

5. Maintain and manage code databases where the software code is stored, reviewed and tested before being integrated into the main code.

6. Identifying and documenting code to explain how it works and how to maintain it.

What Jobs Do Software Engineers Do?

Software engineering is currently one of the most in-demand jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster-than-average 25% job growth and a labor shortage of nearly 85.2 million software engineers by 2023. According to Indeed, here are the current top ten software engineering jobs and the average annual salary for each.

  1. Video Game Designer - $60,588.

  2. Software Project Manager - $92,026.

  3. Software Test Engineer - $97,752.

  4. Javascript Engineer - $109,621.

  5. Cloud Engineer - $117,668.

  6. iOS Engineer - $119,951.

  7. Development Operations Engineer - $122,745.

  8. Applications Security Engineer - $125,589.

  9. Data Engineer - $131,189.

  10. Machine Learning Engineer - $150,804.

Become A Software Engineer In Nine Months

Though software engineering requires a high level of expertise, you don’t need a master’s degree to succeed. There are several ways to become a software engineer. You can get a 4-year degree from a college or university, learn how to code and work on software development on your own or attend online coding bootcamps. The Stony Brook University Software Engineering Bootcamp will train you for a software engineering career in nine months. 

Our 100% online Software Engineering Bootcamp will teach you to create applications and websites, code software, understand data structures, execute front-end and back-end software development and more. You'll master crucial skills and be job-ready in nine months or less. Apply online for more information on tuition and scholarship opportunities.