Software engineers are the people who create computer software and solve problems by applying mathematical and scientific principles.
Job titles and descriptions are hard to standardise in IT. So instead of being called a software engineer, your job title may include references such as database/software/systems/web developer/engineer/programmer, depending on the system you are working on. You may also find that the programming language you use, such as Java or Python, may become part of your job title.
In some companies, software engineers have a more defined role working within a group of IT specialists, including system analysts, system designers and system testers. This means that software engineers need to be able to communicate with and translate the needs of different teams.
Software engineers tend to work in constantly changing environments with shifts in the strategic direction of the business they are working for and technological advances. Your day to day role will involve creating, maintaining, auditing and improving systems to meet particular needs of the business by testing both hardware and software systems to diagnose and resolve system faults.
You will also be expected to write diagnostic programs and design and write code for operating systems and software for efficiency – making recommendations for future developments when required.
Software engineer responsibilities
Software engineers are expected to:
- analyse user requirements
- consult colleagues & clients about the maintenance and performance of software systems to modify current operating systems or write new ones
- continually update their technical skills and knowledge
- create technical specifications
- develop existing programmes by analysing them and identifying areas for modification
- evaluate the software and systems that make computers and hardware work
- integrate software products and enable platforms that seem incompatible to work together
- investigate new technologies
- maintain systems by monitoring and correcting software defects
- research, design and write new software programmes and computer operating systems
- write and test code, communicate with any programmers involved in the project and rewrite the code as necessary
- write systems to control the scheduling of jobs or to control access allowed to users or remote systems
- work closely with other employees such as sales and marketing professionals, project managers, and UX designers
What qualifications do software engineers need?
Although the role of the software engineer is open to all graduates, most companies will expect you to have some technical ability. This means studying one of the following subjects might give you a bit of a boost:
- computer science
- computer software
- computer systems engineering
- information systems
If you have a degree in a non-computer-related subject, you may want to take a postgraduate IT conversion course or a technical postgraduate course.
Many employers may also look for evidence of you continuing your professional development outside of the classroom, such as project programming experience.
What skills do software engineers need?
The software engineering skills that are required include:
- ability to communicate clearly and concisely, especially when explaining complex issues
- ability to work in a team and alone, and manage own workload
- business skills
- career motivation and a willingness to continue to learn
- commercial awareness
- knowledge of computer technologies and systems
- an analytical and logical yet creative approach to problem-solving
- a meticulous and organised approach to work
- technical competency
- thoroughness and attention to detail
What are the career prospects for software engineers?
Various career levels are available to software engineers, with promotion dependent on experience and ability.
Entry-level software engineer posts will involve formulating the objectives and scope of systems and designing code (under supervision). Then you will typically progress to working at the highest technical level – preparing detailed specifications from which programmes can be written.
When you have around five years of experience, you may progress to being a senior software engineer, supervising the activities of a team of developers.
Progression from here would usually be into management, such as project management or team leadership, or you can become a consultant or designer via a more technical specialisation.
If you are looking for software engineering jobs, or need a software engineer to fill a role in your organisation, then get in touch with the team of experienced recruiters at Agile Recruit.