How to Become a Software Engineer

Software engineers design applications and programs for use on handheld digital devices and manage enormous computer networks, and to become a software engineer you usually need a four year undergraduate degree.


To become a software engineer, you usually have a four year undergraduate degree in either computer science or in software engineering. According to College Navigator, there are seventy programs in software engineering in the United States, so there are many schools to choose from.

Choose your school based on how interested you are in the school, if they have a placement survey that tells you who hires their students--which you can usually get from the department offices or from the career services office if they perform these surveys--and find out how many classes are taught by professors with PhDs, and how good their computer lab facilities are. You can usually get this information on a college tour.

There are enormous numbers of certification courses for software engineers, such as the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) offered by IEEE Computer Society, but you need to complete your degree before becoming eligible to pursue some of these certifications.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently a high school student or not yet admitted to college, you will have to take courses in mathematics, and if available, computer programming. You should also consider taking a course in logic, usually classified as a philosophy course, because this form of logic is the basis for many computer programming language structures and conventions. If you are already a good programmer you will find this course to be basic but informative about the origins of programming.

While a college student, become a student member of IEEE Computer Society. This professional association offers career advice, certification, and an online job board. In addition, you also get deals on purchasing computer books.

Explore the most popular types of programming languages and try to learn as many languages, even at a basic level that you can. While in college, you will become proficient in one or two programming languages, but it can be useful to have a basic knowledge of several programming languages. These skills will help you with employers who are dealing with legacy systems or who have their own programming preferences. You can easily determine the most popular programming languages by searching on a vertical search engine, like Indeed or SimplyHired, for job postings for software engineers and researching their required languages for currently available positions. These preferences may change on a whim, so it is a good idea to do a job posting scan every six months, especially of the postings of a company that you really want to work for.

Types of Software Engineering Jobs

Software engineers develop games, applications for business functions such as spreadsheets, and they work on operating systems and maintain networks. You can find opportunities in game development, either in a company or as an entrepreneur who works with a team to design applications, like those for the iPhone or Facebook. There are careers designing and maintaining operating systems, whether for personal or corporate use. You can also work for a corporation and design, plan and program applications to manage their business functions. Other opportunities include working in computer security and encryption, potentially an enormous field for software engineers.