How To Become A Software Engineer From Scratch

Lines of code. Software Engineering

Have you ever wondered how all the apps on your phone and computer run so smoothly? That’s because of software engineers.

Their expertise in coding and problem-solving helps our devices run so efficiently. Software engineers also help most businesses with their software systems to make sure their technological components run fluidly.

Software engineering is a rewarding career for many. It offers many opportunities for growth in the field and allows people to contribute to society’s everyday functions. If you're interested in software engineering, continue reading to learn how to land a job in this field.

What is Software Engineering?

When you think of software engineering, complicated codes probably come to your mind. You're on the right track. These codes lay the foundation for programming and system development.

Software engineering uses engineering principles for the design, evolution, and sustainment of computer programs. Each piece of software that we interact with daily was helped developed by software engineering.

Businesses need to ensure they can meet customers’ demands. To do so, their software systems need to perform at a rate at which they can handle these demands. That’s why companies are always looking for software engineers.

What Are the Duties of a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are essentially problem-solvers. They create solutions that are needed to solve business software problems. 

A business’s design team may create new software or update an old version to increase their efficiency and tackle consumer demands. Software engineers help them figure out the intricacies of the software and how each component will work.

Before software development begins, a series of steps need to be followed. They are known as the “Software Development Life Cycle” or SDLC. There are six steps in the SDLC:

  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Execution
  • Maintenance

Software engineers are integral to each of these processes because various functions in software need to collaborate to create a sustainable system. In return, it provides businesses and their customers with a flawless experience.

Software Developers vs. Software Engineers

These titles are often used interchangeably because they often overlap in software development. Both software developers and engineers are crucial to software formation, in similar ways, but through different scopes.

In short, software engineers focus on the SDLC, and software developers focus on designing and developing the project. 

Engineers need to make sure that the software has a solid foundation before it’s executed, which is why they’re part of all of the processes. 

Developers build the project from start to finish. That entails what the software will do and how it will perform its functions. Throughout the software’s development, they work with engineers to deliver a complete product for business solutions.

Related: Software Developer vs. Software Engineer

Software Engineer working on a project

Steps For Landing a Software Engineering Job

Software engineering employs people of all backgrounds and expertise levels. Although the work may seem daunting, increased training programs and education around computer science make it easier for many people to join the field.

If you’re interested in coding, application design, and business systems, then software engineering is the career for you. We’ll give you insight into the various steps you can take to become a software engineer. 

1. Education

With most careers that we step into, we may need to have an educational background in that specific field. Depending on the sector, job requirements need certain degree levels, ranging from Associates to Ph.D.

If you have a decent amount of educational experience, you'll have a better chance of landing a job. 

However, you can still land a job if you don’t have a formal educational background. Let’s take a look at the various academic requirements you can have to land a career in software engineering.

Associate Degree

An associate degree is the level of qualification between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. They're generally two-year programs. Associate degree programs have been beneficial to those who choose to go into the workforce right after graduating from high school.

You can use an associates degree to gain entry into computer science opportunities like computer programming. Having a job like this will help you develop the necessary skills needed for software engineering jobs, where programming is more complex.

Associates degrees allow individuals to gain credits towards their bachelor’s degree. You’ll only need to finish another two years afterward to get your bachelor’s degree in a computer science-related field.

Bachelor’s Degree

Obtaining a bachelor's degree is the most common way people choose to get the experience needed to work in software engineering. 

Four-year degree programs have curriculums dedicated to computer science and allow participants to learn coding languages and engineering principles that will propel them to careers in software engineering. 

Again, a bachelor’s degree is not a requirement that software engineers need to have. But if you have the resources to attend a four-year college, it’s a great option to give you a solid foundation.

Master’s Degree

Having a bachelor’s degree in computer science can land you a solid software engineering job. But with a master’s degree, you’ll be able to open another world of opportunities for your career.

Getting a master’s degree in computer science has many benefits like:

  • Being able to specialize in a specific area of engineering and development
  • Increased job prospects
  • Potential for higher income
  • Preparation for your Ph.D.

Master’s degrees can be more of a time commitment than bachelor’s degrees due to the attention to detail in the program. However, if you have one, you’ll reap more rewards in your software engineering career in the future.

Ph.D.

A Ph.D. is the highest level of education that you can get in computer science.  These programs offer individuals chances to research high-level technological advances and tackle the most complex software problems.

Ph.D. programs can last anywhere between 5 - 8 years. You can enroll in them once you’ve obtained a master’s degree. 

They aren’t needed to work in software engineering. But if you love research and want to become an expert in your field, then a Ph.D. may be the next step in your journey.

Coding Boot camps

Coding boot camps are another educational component that can lead to a career in software engineering. These programs help individuals gain knowledge and skills for computer science opportunities in a shorter time frame than traditional degrees. They’re also highly flexible programs that have virtual and in-person options to accommodate schedules.

A standard coding boot camp lasts between 8 - 12 weeks. Once they graduate, individuals will be prepared for entry-level jobs right away. However, most coding boot camps are geared towards web-based coding and not software engineering.

If you’re able to find a coding boot camp that will help you become a full-stack developer, it can help springboard you into jobs that can lead you to a career in software engineering.

Self-taught

If you’re stuck in a career you don’t like and wonder if you can teach yourself software engineering, the answer is yes. It’s entirely possible to teach yourself software engineering. But you’ll need to make sure you’re disciplined while doing so.

While teaching yourself software engineering, you must remember a few things:

  • Know what your end goal is in software engineering
  • Immerse yourself in a specific programming language
  • Continue a consistent practice of software development
  • Make sure to read code from other engineers
  • Build your own projects
Code on two screens software engineering

Self-teaching requires you to work alone. So, you must have a structure that enables you to compete with individuals with academic backgrounds. That way, once you decide to find a job in software engineering, you’ll be more than capable of handling the tasks at hand.

If you’re looking for a degree program that can help you become a software engineer, enroll in Sabio today!

2. Obtain Additional Certifications

As technological advances occur, you will need to learn new skills to remain proficient in software engineering. If you have a certification in a specific area of software engineering will allow you to stand out to employers.

You can get a software engineer certification from well-known tech authorities like:

  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Java
  • Oracle

You can also get certifications like:

  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
  • Certified Software Engineer
  • Mastering C Programming Language
  • CIW Certified Web Development Professional

To get certified, you’ll need to enroll in the program of your choosing. Certification programs cover various topics, and you’ll have a timed exam at the end of the course. Enrolling in one of these courses can help you get to the next level in your software engineering career.

3. Increase Your Experience

To get better at something, you need to increase your experience with it. That is especially true for software engineering. 

Depending on your situation, whether you’re just entering the workforce or looking to apply for a different position, it’s essential to make sure that your software engineering proficiency is still high. To do so, put yourself in situations to bolster your software engineering skills.

You could do volunteer work for a company, work on personal projects, or garner experience through an internship. Any additional experience in software engineering will always be helpful because it allows you to strengthen your credentials and stand out to potential employers.

4. Build Your Coding Portfolio

For any aspiring software engineering, it’s imperative to have a coding portfolio to show employers. It’s a great way to display past projects you’ve worked on and your versatile skill set.

As you work on projects, take time to summarize them correctly. Record all programs used and your role in the assignment. Talk about essential steps and changes that you had to make to get the program to run efficiently. The more information you have, the better. It will bode well for you in your interview.

Also, make sure that your portfolio has structure. You want to be intentional when constructing your portfolio because that will relay your final goal in software engineering. Employers will understand what you bring to the table and what you’re trying to achieve in your career.

5. Attend Conferences

Another way to increase your knowledge in software engineering is by attending conferences

The purpose of these conferences is to allow like-minded individuals to gather in a professional setting to share ideas.

You’ll be able to gain insights into the latest technological advances and learn different coding techniques. It also helps you network with other software engineers, leading to the possibility of collaborating on projects in the future.

If you want to attend conferences, you can. They aren’t a mandatory component of being a software engineer. But they will help your professional development throughout your career.

6. Apply For Jobs

Once you feel that you have the necessary training, experience, and a solid portfolio, it’s time to apply for jobs. 

Software Engineers working together on a project

As we’ve mentioned before, start by mapping out your career goals in software engineering. It’ll help you narrow down jobs so you can choose ones that are suited to your current experience level.

Also, make sure that your update your resume, LinkedIn profile, or profiles on other job boards. It’ll give employers a more recent view of your skills and how you can fit into their companies.

Remember to remain confident throughout the job searching process. As you look through roles, employer tasks may seem daunting. But you should trust your capabilities and know that the perfect position for you will come in due time. Patience is key!

Important Programming Languages to Know

As you start out as a software engineer, it can be difficult choosing the right programming language. Why?

Your career goals will define the path you take. That also includes learning a programming language that lands you a solid job. If you’re having a hard time choosing one, we’ll break down the top programming languages that are in demand today.

Python 

Those who are beginning their coding journey often choose Python because it’s one of the easiest programming languages to learn. It’s used for data science and back-end development. 

Python’s coding is versatile, which is why it’s useful in various capacities such as web applications or artificial intelligence. It uses indentation to separate code, making it easier for a developer to work throughout it. But sometimes, that can make it harder to copy the code.

Google has backed Python exclusively over the last ten years, increasing its popularity among computer science pundits. Popular apps like Instagram and Pinterest are built using Python.

JavaScript

JavaScript is another common coding language learned by those that are entering the computer science field. It’s used in all web browsers.

When you see interactive elements on a website or certain visual effects, that’s due to JavaScript. It’s useful when editing web pages because you only need to add some code to incorporate a new element rather than updating the entire webpage.

JavaScript is often used in collaboration with HTML and CSS to help web browsers run smoothly. If you’re interested in web-based coding, learning JavaScript will help you launch a solid career.

Java

Java may have part of the same name as JavaScript, but the two languages aren’t related. Java is a popular language because of its slogan, “Write once, run anywhere.” 

After you write code in Java, you’ll be able to run it on any platform that uses Java. It’s pretty much in most things that we use today, such as video games, mobile apps, and business software.

Java’s most popular use comes from the development of Android apps. Its versatility and simplicity make it an excellent choice for those who want to learn a well-known coding language right away.

C++

C++ is an extension of C, one of the longest-running programming languages around. It’s a general-purpose coding language used to develop desktop apps, web browsers, video games, and business software systems

Some of the top tech companies, such as Google and Amazon, are significant users of C++. However, if you’re just starting as a software engineer, you may want to learn another coding language first.

C++ has complex syntaxes and other features that make it hard for new programmers to understand. It also doesn’t support run-time checking, which shows you errors or defects as the software is running.

But, learning how to read C++ will give you more opportunities for higher-paying jobs in the future. It also helps you understand other programming languages like Python and Java.

HTML

HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, is used in the creation of web pages. It ensures that texts and images are correctly displayed when the webpage is completed.

HTML is one of the most important languages to learn because every webpage we visit has a foundation in HTML. There are many computer science careers that learning HTML is useful for, such as software engineering, web development, and email designing.

Learning HTML is common among those that want to work in computer science. It’s an easy language to learn and can help lay the foundation to learn other web-based programming languages like JavaScript.

GO

Go, also known as Golang, is a Google-developed programming language used for system-level programming. It’s like a Swiss Army knife; it’s compatible with everything.

Today’s technological breakthroughs mean that older programming processes will need to be compatible with newer functions. Go provides compatibility and simplicity to help software engineers increase system functions in different networks.

Although it’s a relatively new programming language, Go has become one of the most popular programming languages that developers want to learn next. Besides Google, other companies such as Netflix, Uber, and Twitch use Go to help with their system processes.

Related: What Is Coding? A Deep Dive into Coding Careers

Benefits of a Career As a Software Engineer

As we choose a career, our goals revolve around having a sustainable salary and a healthy work-life balance. Landing a job in software engineering will do just that. In this next section, we’ll look at some benefits of working as a software engineering.

Pay

Software engineers have high potential earning income. The average salary for entry-level software engineers is roughly $87,000 a year. Compared to most jobs where entry-level positions pay $30,000 a year, software engineers get compensated for their skill set.

As you continue to gain more experience as a software engineer, you’ll be able to earn more money. Senior software engineers can earn up to $110,000 a year or more. Also, if you happen to get an opportunity to work in Silicon Valley, your base salary can be upwards of $130,000.

High Demand

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for software engineers will grow about 9% over the next three years. Why?

Software engineers are always needed because businesses want to increase their efficiency. Employing software engineers can help companies develop new systems and update previous software to ensure customer satisfaction.

As long as you have the skills and discipline, you’ll always be able to land a job in software engineering.

Entrepreneurship opportunities

One of the many reasons people start a career in software engineering is to build their own tech start-up eventually. Throughout your career, you’ll learn vast knowledge and gain an understanding of programming languages that will allow you to branch off into your own business. Investors are always looking to fund start-ups that offer business solutions.

But, remember that you’ll need to be fully committed to your business to be an entrepreneur. On top of high proficiency in software engineering, you must have the necessary business skills to create a successful company.

Location Flexibility

Do you have a computer and internet connection? If you answered yes to both of these questions, you could work as a software engineer anywhere. 

Software engineering doesn’t always require you to be on site. You can work on projects anywhere in the world. 

There are also many opportunities to travel while you work as a software engineer. It’ll allow you to gain worldly insight into engineering solutions that you could apply to your projects.

Various lines of code used in Software Engineering

Flexible Work Schedule

Due to COVID-19, more companies are shifting their cultures to allow employees to work from home. Again, the only tools you need to work as a software engineer are an internet connection and a computer.

If you have those, you’ll be able to enjoy being a software engineer from the comfort of your house. Do you want to wear a robe all day or lounge on the couch while you program? You’ll be able to enjoy those luxuries of working from home as a software engineer.

Learn how to grow your software engineering career with these tips from Sabio!

Disadvantages of a Career as a Software Engineer

With the good, there’s always some bad; that’s an unfortunate part of life. The same is true for software engineering. 

While it offers great benefits like pay and career opportunities, it has some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Competition

Since there’s always a massive demand for software engineers, many people will be looking at the same job opportunities you are. The better the job and perks attached to it, the harder it will be to land that opportunity.

That’s not meant to be discouraging. But you’ll need to make sure that you can separate yourself from the competition with extra certifications, knowledge of multiple programming languages, and a solid portfolio.

Work-life Balance

Work-life balance is essential to many employers. It helps them maintain a healthy routine in their lives. However, when you’re working as a software engineer, it can take a hit.

Depending on who you work for or a current project, you may need to work long hours. Yes, you’ll be paid well, but your family and social life may struggle at some points while you’re working on completing projects.

Stress

Software engineering isn’t easy by any means. You’ll be required to know what specific coding errors mean and give solutions to fix them. Some problems will be more complex than others. Smaller coding errors may even show up as larger development issues down the line.

Maintaining clean code and meeting deadlines are two significant factors needed to be a successful software engineer. Both require a high level of focus, which can lead to stress over time.

Continuous Learning

In software engineering, you need to “Keep up with the Joneses.” If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, it means you need to keep up with the times.

You will have to learn about different innovations in programming so that you can continue to fulfill your roles in your job. Technology is constantly changing, and you don’t want to be in a position where you’ve only learned one programming language.

Difficulty As You Age

Software engineering is considered a young person’s sport. Tech start-ups come around every three years, which means there will be new ways to tackle coding issues.

One potential issue for aging software engineers is memory. They may start to forget simple coding processes that allow them to solve problems faster or lack experience with a new programming method. 

Also, it’ll be harder to change your job as an aging software engineer because younger employees are eager to land a career-related opportunity.

Is Software Engineering the Career For You?

Today we’ve broken down the ins and outs of a potential career in software engineering. It’s a challenging but rewarding career. 

You’ll get paid well, be able to travel, and have plenty of growth opportunities. But you’ll also need to work long hours and potentially figure out another career once you hit your mid-40s.

If you feel like you’re up to the challenge and know that this is the career path for you, then check out Sabio today. You can contact us to learn more about our coding programs that will help you become a successful software engineer in no time.

Related Links:

Want to learn more about Sabio? Attend an info session where you will have the opportunity to ask questions Sign up here sabio.la/info 

Ready to start coding? Free coding classes available to get you started sabio.la/free-coding-courses

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