How Do I Become a Software Engineer?

Have you realized that you have an aptitude for problem-solving, playing analytical games, solving puzzles or perhaps even writing programs? Are you planning to study software engineering? Software engineering is a branch of computer science that includes the development of computer systems software and application software. With access to education becoming more equitable in recent years, the barriers to entry for software engineers have disappeared. With hard work, practice, an externship, and a passion for learning, you too can become a software engineer. First are you asking yourself, “What does a software engineer do?”

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

A software engineer is responsible for understanding every aspect of computer system software and applications. Becoming a software engineer is a journey in learning the nuts and bolts of computers, from hardware to user interface and user experience.

A career in software engineering, involves writing end-user programs, or applications. These applications are initiated by a client with a need to resolve a problem or perform a function. Software engineers may meet with the client and use their communications skills to determine what the problem is and how it may be solved. In other circumstances, they could receive the design from a team leader and be responsible for translating it into code.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a software engineer develops the applications that allow fellow colleagues to perform tasks on their computer or electronic device. A software engineer will analyze a client’s needs and then design, test and develop the software needed to perform that set of tasks. A software engineer starts by creating diagrams using flowcharts to understand how the program will be created and what software code will be needed for the application. They will debug the application once the code has been written, and documentation is kept as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades.

Where Do Software Engineers Work?

Software engineers work primarily in an office setting. They tend to work for business-to-business agencies and corporations of all sizes. At larger corporations, software engineers specialize in a task and work within a team environment. A software engineer working at a smaller company may be responsible for the entire process of creating software applications. At business-to-business agencies, a software engineer will work with a multitude of clients. They will be dedicated to a set of accounts and work with an account team including account executives and sales.

Working remotely has taken off over the last few years. Since much of what a software engineer works on is in the cloud, they have the opportunity to work from home. With some experience a software engineer may be given the opportunity to work remotely.

Skills Need to Become a Successful Software Engineer

You are born with some qualities and others are learned during school and on the job. There are several skills of a successful software engineer. Here are just a few qualities a software engineering must have to succeed.

Familiar with Programming

Students with an aptitude for programming have more than likely already experimented with analyzing, designing and coding programs to solve problems or create solutions for themselves. The enjoyment of writing a program as well as having the patience to bring it to completion are important skills to have.

Good Communication

It is important for software engineers to communicate well both verbally and in writing. A programmer is working for someone who may not have the technical expertise to understand what needs to be done and the programmer must be able to communicate this process.

An Aptitude for Math and Science

Love of math and science is important for the successful career of a software engineer. Since scientific principles are applied to understanding basic computer architecture and mathematical algorithms are applied to finding solutions, these abilities are crucial for any software engineering student.

Good Problem Solving

The whole point of becoming a programmer or software engineer is to be able to solve problems. Part of analytical thinking and program design is thinking in a way that visualizes the solution to a problem as well as understanding how to reach that goal.

A Strong Work Ethic and Love for Learning

The constant and never-ending evolution of computer architecture and technology in general means that any computer engineering student should demonstrate a love of learning. Education never stops in the field of software engineering and anyone in that career will not only learn in college classes and internships, they will learn constantly on the job.


A successful software engineer knows how to cooperate and work in a team. Being a “team player” is a vital soft skill for a potential software engineer to have. This position requires a great deal of understanding of other points of view and the ability to give and accept criticism constructively. Also, many bigger tasks will involve a team of software engineers, each responsible for their own part of the whole. Working as a team in this environment is crucial to the success of the project.

Logical Thinking and Attention to Detail

Computers communicate in a series of on and off or yes and no instructions. Software engineers who can visualize this type of communication and follow it logically to its conclusion are good at their jobs. Also, software engineering involves detail because every single design element and instruction to a CPU or programming language is constructed with precise detail.

Patience and Perseverance

Since one of the primary goals of the software engineer is to solve problems, they will need patience and perseverance to perform testing and what’s known as “debugging” a coding solution. No program runs perfectly on the initial try and a software engineer may have to make small changes and resubmit the program many times before achieving a good outcome.

What a Software Engineer Will Study

In a course of study in Software Engineering, students have a well-rounded introduction to the basics of analysis, design and coding using object-oriented techniques as well as instruction in hardware. Real-world programming projects prepare students for a successful career in software engineering.

Object-oriented Analysis and Programming

The basis for present-day programming languages is called Object-oriented analysis. Students will study the many aspects of this process such as the principles of inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation as well as how to define data structures and their methods.

Computer Architecture

To acquire the basic understanding of how computers work, software engineers study the organization of and interaction with hardware and software tools such as the CPU, Input/Output, compilers and schedulers. They will also learn how instructions are compiled from code, how the compiled code is executed using I/O and how to address memory using machine language called Assembly.


Students also learn to program using more machine language called Assembly and advanced languages such as C++ and Java, among others. Knowing how each of these interrelates to bring about a successful project outcome is crucial.

Critical Thinking and Analysis

Students use flowcharts and algorithms to design efficient and sophisticated solutions. It is critical for the student to learn the skill of analysis. Critical thinking and analysis learned in the classroom is essential to be successful in software engineering.

Communication and Teamwork

Along with learning individual technical programming skills, students learn how to work together in a collaborative fashion to achieve their goals. Working in a team environment is vital in accomplishing the ultimate goal.

Good Written and Oral Communication

Along with analysis comes communication skills because software engineers need excellent communication skills to understand the nature of a problem and to explain possible solutions to their client, whether it is a person or an entire department. After they understand the problem the software engineer needs to formulate a design to reach the goal or end result. Deciding how to write the program before it’s started is always good form.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a software engineer is a challenging and rewarding career. There is always something new to learn and companies never run out of projects to complete. If you enjoy coding, have critical thinking skills, are a good problem solver, and ready to learn, then becoming a software engineer might be the right career path for you.

Did learning about software engineering interest you? University of Silicon Valley offers a comprehensive Computer Science & Engineering degree programs taught by entrepreneurs who are in the thick of the industry. In this project-intensive Software Engineering concentration, you’ll not only cover the fundamental concepts of the software development process, but you’ll explore the different ways that complex software systems are changing the world.

University of Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.

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