The Truth About Software Engineering: Is It Really Hard?
Don’t let the numbers trick you. Roughly 4.3 million Americans work as software engineers, more than 1% of the population.
Yet you should not believe that being a software engineer is easy. To have a full-time and successful career, you must spend time honing your skills and navigating through the workforce. However, you can build a great job in less time than you think. Here are the facts about becoming a software engineer.
Getting an Education
You should plan on getting an education if you’re going into software engineering. It will help you develop your skills, connect with others in the industry, and provide resources like career support. There are three main avenues for getting an education in software engineering.
Software engineering is becoming popular on college campuses. Colleges awarded nearly 4,000 degrees in 2020, up 15.1% since 2019. Most professional software engineers have college degrees, partly because many companies require bachelor’s degrees from applicants. You may be able to get a job with a certificate or associate degree.
A four-year program will give you comprehensive knowledge of software engineering. You can learn how to code, build websites, and design your own programming language. You can also learn about computer science and theory. While pursuing a major in software engineering or computer science, you can pursue a major or minor in business, helping you run companies. Getting a bachelor’s degree is a significant time commitment; you must work long hours on homework and projects.
After getting your bachelor’s degree, you can attend graduate school and get additional degrees. A master’s program in computer science can teach you about machine learning, AI, and other modern computer tools and concepts. You will be more qualified for executive positions that make more than $200,000 a year.
A bootcamp is a short-term program in which you learn about computer engineering in a hands-on environment. Most bootcamps have small classrooms, letting you receive individualized support from your teachers.
Bootcamps offer less information and training than college programs. However, they are more affordable, and students with jobs or family responsibilities can enjoy them. You can take several bootcamps with self-teaching sessions in between and be an expert on programming.
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Many bootcamps offer free or affordable courses, letting you learn computer programming at your own pace. You can also buy books and watch lectures online.
Self-teaching is a good option if you’re in the middle of your career and cannot take time off to attend classes. However, you must have good time management and self-motivation skills to teach yourself any complicated subject. You also will not make connections that can help your career unless you study with others.
Many people start in software engineering by learning the best programming languages. Software designers make open-source languages like Python easy for beginners to learn, but it can take weeks or months to understand them. You can use many resources online for your education, which makes it affordable to learn them.
Software engineering requires many soft skills. You have to be a self-starter who can conceive and execute new projects. You must follow the news about computer systems and software and experiment with new tools. Some bootcamps can help you with these soft skills, but software engineering can be challenging if you can’t develop them quickly.
Communication skills are among the most essential skills for tech careers. You must be able to explain your technology to non-technical people and advocate for yourself. You should be an excellent public speaker, writer, and reader who can focus on small details. Before you start applying for jobs, find a tutor or take classes so you can be a better communicator.
Finding a Job
Getting a degree is an important first step in software engineering. Another step is to build a portfolio that you can present to employers. Colleges and bootcamps can help you do this, but you can also have a portfolio of side gigs or independent projects. Keep adding to your resume and portfolio even after you get a job, as you will keep your information timely.
Even entry-level jobs require experience. You can use volunteer and freelance gigs to boost your resume, especially if you can use your employers as references.
Many job interviews for software engineering positions require you to solve coding problems. You should prepare for these problems in advance by solving practice quizzes online. The interviews also include job questions like, “Why are you interested in this position?” Make sure to practice answers to common questions in advance.
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Working as a Software Engineer
Most people follow the same software engineer career path. They start as an individual contributor or junior engineer working for a company. After a few years, they can become a regular engineer with more responsibilities and a higher income. If they earn their employers’ trust, they become senior engineers with advisory and mentoring responsibilities.
Some senior engineers become managers. You must have phenomenal leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills to qualify. After years of experience as a manager, you can become an executive and help run the company you’ve worked for.
Some people leave their companies to become freelance software developers. They work for clients and companies that need temporary assistance with projects. Freelancers are their own bosses and can set their hours and salaries. But freelancing requires great time management skills, responsibility, and self-motivation.