Computer Software Engineer Career Profile

Computer software engineers have the highest, and perhaps the most misunderstood, career profile in IT. The traditional view of the software engineer as a pioneer in technology is quite true, but the media folklore image is a long way from the career facts. To get to the top as a software engineer takes great talent, business skills, often hard work and a thorough understanding of the industry on all levels. 

The Work Environment

The software engineer's workplace can be a workshop, a lab, an industrial setting, an office or a laptop. Software engineers in the corporate sector are usually employed working directly on operating systems in a back room systems environment.

The work of software engineers is very diverse, and may involve:

  • Software research and development: This is the basis of the famous public image of software engineers. It's the area in which new code and systems are created.
  • Debugging: Fixing problems with software. All software requires intensive debugging and dealing with running issues. This is one of the most important parts of software engineering, a form of intensive quality control. 
  • Software testing: New software requires lengthy testing and operational checks before marketing.
  • Servers: The workhorses of the world, servers are a primary focus of software engineering.
  • Applications: Applications are a major area of commercial development for software engineers. Some are extremely valuable commercial and intellectual properties.
  • Commercial IT software management: This may be in house or outsourced IT work, including all of the functions of a support service.
  • Client services: Software engineers have a natural role in dealing with client needs for software and specific requirements for business systems or other technology. In many cases, hardware and software interfaces have to be developed.
  • Consultancy: Consultancies in this area are often big business. The software engineer acts as a technical adviser, and in many cases oversees work on code for clients.
  • System design: Another important area of code writing, usually including the full range of software applications related to new technology, or redesign of systems.
  • Communications systems: Modern communications are all software based. Software engineers are the front line operators working with live communications systems and media.

Wages: $60,000 to $120,000. Note that this doesn't include the value of proprietary rights affecting code and applications.

Hours: Highly variable, includes shift hours, and extra time on projects, debugging and other tasks outside baseline working hours.

The Career Environment

Software engineers develop their skills and achieve career progression at the basic professional levels through experience as well as qualifications and specializations. This big range of possible roles allows for considerable career mobility. Most software engineers are familiar with several computer languages, which adds considerable depth to their career options.

The Business Environment

If you're a creative person with a talent for software, your talents can create your career. At the truly creative level of software engineering, designing new applications, software and in some cases whole new concepts, the software engineer may be able to create valuable intellectual property.

This is the area where the business skills and experience are so important in software engineering careers. Some consumer software is used universally, and the intellectual property rights are worth billions. Software engineers need excellent understanding of the commercial value of their work, and the methods of protecting their legal rights.