Software EngineerJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Software engineers design, develop and install software solutions for a variety of information and technological applications. They also create documentation, flowcharts, layouts, diagrams, and charts for that software. Software engineers apply principles of engineering and computer science to not just the creation of software but also testing procedures for those products.

Throughout the lifecycle of a piece of software, software engineers direct the processes of updating, patching, and repairing code. In addition to hard skills like expertise in software development, a software engineer also needs soft skills like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. Software engineers lead teams of developers, so the ability to communicate ideas to other members of the group — as well as customers, non-technical colleagues, and managers — is critical.

Sample job description

Are you a highly analytical person who’s great with computers? Do you enjoy designing and testing your own projects and improving the way things work? Software engineers use their technical expertise in combination with programming languages to write, enhance, test, and release programs and applications to users. Software engineers use a variety of tools and languages to create programs and ensure their continued integrity and periodically update functionality. These engineers can work across a variety of industries, and will often work closely with managers, clients, and other developers and engineers to create lasting solutions. This position generally favors those with strong technical skills, attention to detail, and soft skills in combination with an analytical mindset to be the most successful. If you fit this description, please apply.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Analyze, design, and develop tests for software projects
  • Test software development methodology
  • Lead ongoing maintenance, support, and enhancements in existing systems and platforms
  • Collaborate cross-functionally with data scientists, business users, project managers, and other engineers to achieve software solutions
  • Recommend software and process improvements where necessary
  • Work alongside other engineers on the team to elevate technology and follow best practices

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related discipline.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent problem-solving and analytical abilities
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Ability to lead a development team
  • Several years of hands-on software development experience
  • Experience with modern programming languages including Python and Java
  • Expertise in written and verbal communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in software engineering or a related field
  • 5+ years designing software
  • Familiarity with Java, HTML, and other programming languages
  • Ability to work long hours
  • Self-driven and not in need of strong management

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a software engineer is $120,750 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$120,050$162,450
Los Angeles, California$135,450$183,250
Denver, Colorado$112,900$152,750
Washington, DC$137,500$186,050
Miami, Florida$112,350$152,050
Orlando, Florida$103,650$140,250
Tampa, Florida$104,650$141,650
Atlanta, Georgia$109,800$148,550
Chicago, Illinois$126,800$170,800
Boston, Massachusetts$136,500$184,650
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$108,750$147,150
New York City, New York$143,650$194,400
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$117,000$158,300
Dallas, Texas$113,900$154,150
Houston, Texas$113,400$153,450
Seattle, Washington$131,350$177,750
National Average$102,650$138,850

Typical work environment

Software engineers work in an office as part of a team. This position is entirely based on software programming and review, so long hours seated at a computer should be expected.

Routinely communicating with others, be it face-to-face or remotely, is vital to this position, so time spent participating in meetings and information exchanges is very common.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a software engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Additional work hours can be necessary when approaching project deadlines.

Available certifications

As software engineers work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional. The Cybersecurity Organization offers the CSSLP to test your ability with software security best practices. After obtaining the certification, you’ll demonstrate the ability to identify vulnerabilities, secure client data, and protect against future breaches.
  • Certified Software Development Professional. The IEEE Computer Society offers the CSDP for advanced users to upgrade their resumes. If you’ve got at least 2 years of experience in the field, and are looking for a solid investment to bolster your software design, constructing, and testing methods, this is an excellent certification to obtain.
  • CIW Web Development Professional. This widely recognized certification offers multiple paths of mastery. You can become a specialist in JavaScript, database design, or Perl. These will teach you proper syntax and categorization, website implementation, debugging, and more.

Career path

The path to becoming a software engineer starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related discipline. Students should pursue internships while they are in college to gain real-world experience in the field. Some companies prefer applicants for more senior software engineer positions to have a master’s degree. While software engineers don’t always write code, having a strong background in computer programming often makes a job candidate more attractive to employers. Software engineers can move up into senior engineer roles, overseeing multiple development projects at once.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1256

2020 Employment1,847,900
Projected Employment in 20301,888,553
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 22% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift409,500 increase

The need for software engineers in the coming years should increase. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs in the IT field. Software engineers should look at solutions involving artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. More and more companies and industries are looking to AI software to make better use of the data they collect.

Increased demand for the Internet of Things (IoT) is another trend for software engineers to watch in the coming years. Devices that can be connected to the internet, from smart appliances to wearable technology, are becoming increasingly popular. Many software companies are expected to begin specializing in programming for the IoT sector, so applicants who are knowledgeable about smart technology software will be more in demand.

Another trend in the software engineering field in the coming years is the increased use of progressive web apps (PWAs). They’re a kind of website that functions like a mobile app but runs in a web browser. Companies are using them to save money because they eliminate the need for a mobile app or a mobile version of their websites. Instead, PWAs give companies the same benefits as a mobile app and offer faster load times and better functionality for customers.

Sample interview questions

  • What programming languages are you familiar with?
  • Can you discuss a recent project you completed? What were some high and low points from that project?
  • Can you describe Agile development? What are your thoughts on this methodology?
  • What are your thoughts on declarative as opposed to imperative paradigms?
  • What metrics do you use to determine a project’s success or failure?
  • How would you go about explaining a technically complex topic to someone with no technical background?
  • How do you implement error handling?
  • Can you explain the software development cycle?
  • What’s your process for finding and testing bugs in an application you created?
  • What’s the difference between an array and a stack?
  • What are web workers in HTML5? What is their significance?
  • What’s the difference between white and black box testing?
  • How would you go about making a website faster? Describe as many different techniques as you can think of.

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