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Software Engineering Career

Career Description

A Software Engineer designs, develops, tests, and evaluates the software and systems that make computers work. Software engineers can be involved in the design and development of many types of software, including computer games, word processing and business applications, operating systems and network distribution, and compilers, which convert programs to machine language for execution on a computer.

Common Work Tasks

  • Analyze user needs and software requirements to determine feasibility of design within time and cost constraints
  • Design, test, and develop software
  • Convert algorithms into computer language
  • Coordinate the construction, maintenance, and expansion of an organization’s computer systems
  • Modify existing software to correct errors,  allow it to adapt to new hardware, or to improve its performance
  • Consult with customers about software system design and maintenance
  • Develop and direct software system testing and validation procedures, programming, and documentation
  • Coordinate installation of software system
  • Prepare reports and correspondence concerning project specifications, activities and status

Other Job Titles

Software engineers are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Computer Scientists
  • Applications Engineers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Systems Programmers
  • Systems Software Engineers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Most employers prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor’s degree and broad knowledge of, and experience with, a variety of computer systems and technologies. The usual college major for applications software engineers is computer science or software engineering. Systems software engineers often study computer science or computer information systems. Graduate degrees are preferred for some of the more complex jobs.

Certification and Licensure
Systems software vendors offer certification and training programs,  but most training authorities say that program certification alone is not sufficient for the majority of software engineering jobs.

  People interested in jobs as software engineers must have strong problem-solving and analytical skills. They also must be able to communicate effectively with team members, other staff, and the customers they meet. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, they must be able to concentrate and pay close attention to detail.

Software engineers must continually strive to acquire new skills if they wish to remain in this dynamic field. To help keep up with changing technology, workers may take continuing education and professional development seminars offered by employers, software vendors, colleges and universities, private training institutions, and professional computing societies


The median annual salary for software engineers is $79,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $119,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $49,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of web developers are:

  • Software publishers - $84,560
  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $78,850
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services - $78,850
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $78,850
  • Insurance Carriers - $74,230

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  38%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 324,000
  • Employment 2006 : 857,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,181,000
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