Software Engineering Major | Degrees, Jobs and Careers (2023)

What Does it Mean to Study Software Engineering?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software engineering is the “design, development, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that enable computers to perform applications.”

Software engineers work with a variety of programming languages, such as C++ and Java. They might work to modify existing software applications or creating new ones from scratch. The duties of a software engineer may also include setting up and maintaining computer networks.

The ability to program is, of course, the primary requirement. Software engineers must analyze and solve computer application problems. And though IT majors and professionals are stereotyped as inept social actors, it is actually very important for software engineers to possess good written and verbal communication skills. Most of their work will involve teammates with a variety of backgrounds, from fellow programmers to technical writers, marketers and project managers.

Employers usually require entry-level software engineers to possess bachelor’s degrees, but an associate degree combined with work experience may sometimes be sufficient for a startup or a rapidly expanding company. Experience and continued education can help a software engineer to advance to a management or executive position.

Because technology changes quickly, it is essential for software engineers to remain current in their field. Graduate degrees are looked upon favorably (especially for management positions), though not required. Many software vendors, such as Microsoft, Java, and Cisco, offer certification programs to assist software engineers in their professional development.Not surprisingly, nearly all of these engineering degrees are available from online colleges and universities, as software and Web development become more tightly integrated.

Successful Software Engineering Majors Have:

Technical Skills

During their college degree programs, software engineering majors should develop strong technical abilities through repeated exposure to a variety of new and traditional technologies. Students learn the principles of technical innovation by tracing the history of computers and software through to present systems and beyond.

Software engineering majors often get the earliest opportunities to experiment with new technologies. Many technical innovations come from experiments at major engineering colleges and universities. The Internet allows students to quickly distribute their new software for peer review and testing. Based on the results, some software engineering majors start to enjoy their first tastes of professional acclaim while still attending classes.

Problem-solving Skills

Any strong software engineering degree program will teach students to think critically about the problems facing companies and consumers. By developing efficient solutions to common problems, software engineers continue our culture’s constant innovation.

Software engineering majors don’t just solve problems in front of computer monitors, however. Many colleges and universities offer courses in logic, debate, and even game theory, to help tomorrow’s software engineers expand their ability to leverage technology to resolve non-technical dilemmas.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Generally, software development requires a team effort. Many students who have hacked around on their own for years may find it challenging to collaborate with other developers on complex projects. Therefore, software engineering majors learn to interact with their peers and team leaders effectively.

(Video) Is Software Engineering A Good Career?

Many software engineering programs encourage students to participate in collaborative projects. Whether part of inter-campus competitions or a school’s public outreach agenda, these programs can unite students around complex problems, forcing them to learn to work as a team to tackle large software projects.

Writing Skills

Software engineers must also learn how to present their ideas and recommendations to non-technical colleagues. Software engineering majors learn the basics of corporate communications, including proper formats for departmental communication and project reports.

Software engineers with entrepreneurial tendencies can benefit from courses in public relations. These added skills can help them write press releases and customer communications for their own fledgling companies. Regardless of the format, software engineers who can write well are tremendous assets to their companies.

Oral Presentation Skills

While developing solutions for companies and customers, software engineers must often orally present suggestions or research findings to various groups within their organizations. Software engineering majors develop the ability to blend presentation tools with classic storytelling skills in order to engage their audiences.

Software engineering majors must be ready to debate other team members about the inclusion of features into a software project, or justify changes to a project’s budget or timeline. Many software engineers, especially those working at startup firms, often find themselves addressing audiences of potential investors or reporters. The most effective software engineers can explain their projects in plain language, without resorting to insider jargon.

Accounting and Budgeting Skills

The exploding technology industry of the late 1980s and early 1990s revolutionized the roles of software engineers. Instead of working completely behind the scenes like their predecessors, software engineers have begun to play a significant role in the financial stability of their companies. Because of this, many software engineering programs are requiring their students to take basic courses in accounting, business and time management.

In small startup companies, software engineers must pinch pennies to meet deadlines under budget. When relying on small groups of investors, or even your own credit cards, to fund a venture, entrepreneurs must accurately predict the length of time it will take for a product to reach its market and generate revenue.

In larger technology companies, software engineers must often manage their own budgets of funding and human resources. They must be able to assign team members to reasonable schedules and meet their deadlines without triggering expensive overtime charges or other staff expenses.

Types of Software Engineering Degrees

Software engineering degrees are available at all levels, from undergraduate certificates to doctorates. Most careers in software engineering require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, with extensive experience, a certification or associate degree may be sufficient. Online degree programs in software engineering are available at nearly every level.

Certificates in Software Engineering

An undergraduate certificate program in software engineering usually consists of four to five basic software engineering courses, such as Principles and Techniques of Software Engineering, Design and Development, and Software Safety.

(Video) Career Paths for Software Engineers and how to navigate it.

Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Associate degree programs in software engineering generally focus on general education courses and courses related to software engineering. Courses on programming languages, database design, and technical communications are common. An associate degree typically takes two years to complete, and can be used as the foundation for a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Software Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in software engineering is usually required to launch a career as a software engineer. It includes general education courses as well as those specific to the software engineering field. Extensive education on programming languages, network systems operation, and software design and testing is common. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four to five years to complete. Many bachelor’s degree programs in software engineering require internships or on-the-job training, which can take additional time. Online bachelor’s degrees in software engineering are available for working professionals or students who simply need increased flexibility in their studies.

What Can You Do With a Degree in Software Engineering?

Software engineering majors don’t just become software engineers (though many do). Here are a few of the different career paths available.

Software Engineer

Software engineers are typically divided into two fields: computer applications software engineers and computer systems software engineers. Computer applications software engineers design and maintain computer applications (such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop) to meet specific needs. Meanwhile, computer systems software engineers construct and maintain a company’s total computer network, while planning for future technical growth.

Both applications and systems engineers must have strong programming skills. They must be able to analyze and solve problems quickly. Software engineers must often interact with clients, making excellent verbal and written communication skills essential.

Most entry-level software engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree, although some exceptions may be made for very experienced engineers.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers often begin their careers as software engineers and advance to the managerial level through a combination of work experience and education. They are typically responsible for constructing their companies’ technology plans. Computer and information systems managers must oversee the planning, design, and execution of all computer-related activities, insuring that budgets are adhered to and deadlines are met.

(Video) Computer Science Major Career Paths and Average Salaries (Part 1)

Long hours and late nights are often required of computer and information systems managers. In addition to engineering experience and an undergraduate degree in software engineering, they often possess graduate degrees in business or management.

Sales Engineer

Sales engineers use their technical knowledge to sell products and services. Software sales engineers usually get straight engineering experience first, and use that knowledge to help them sell computer software, services, or other related equipment.

Sales engineers are responsible for accurately explaining and demonstrating their products. Because so many software companies rely on upgrade cycles to generate repeat business, many sales engineers develop close relationships with their clients. By allowing clients to suggest new features and by granting them sneak peeks at new software releases, sales engineers can make a significant impact on a company’s success.

Jobs in sales engineering are often very demanding. Many sales people work on commission instead of salary, creating intense pressure to make each sale. Long hours and travel are common.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Chief Technology Officers (CTO) are executives in their industry, responsible for the technical divisions of corporations or businesses in which they work.

Chief technology officers oversee and supervise the technical staff, including software engineers and computer and information systems managers. They set and establish the policies and procedures of their department and ensure that the company is proceeding in the proper technical direction. CTOs are usually given private offices and support staff to assist them with their duties. Long hours and travel are usually required, but CTOs are among the highest paid workers in America.

Education and experience are both important components for becoming a chief information officer. CTOs often begin their careers in software engineering and earn graduate degrees in management or business.

Video Game Designer

Video game developers often specialize in one portion of the overall video game team’s mammoth task. For example, one team member may spend his entire time developing game logic, while another programs backdrops and atmospheric elements. Software engineers coordinate their efforts with game writers and graphic designers to expand the boundaries of the medium. Before new video games reach store shelves, they must first pass through another team of software engineers. These quality control specialists oversee the testing of the games by sampling new titles the same way that home players would. Testing engineers note flaws or problems in game design and make suggestions for revisions to the original design team. While developing a title, the design team and the testing team may volley dozens of revised editions between each other.

User Interface Designer

Some software engineers specialize in refining the experience that end users enjoy when using a particular program or system. In the early days of computers, technicians designed software for other technicians, and designers put little effort into usability. Since computer technicians understood computers, there was no need to streamline the process of getting information into or out of complex systems.

A few decades later, computers have permeated every facet of our daily lives. As more non-technical people rely on software to carry out everyday tasks, a new breed of software designers uses graphics and input devices to create intuitive, attractive user interfaces.

(Video) How I Became a Software Engineer Without a Computer Science Degree

Today’s user interface designers hope to innovate beyond the current mouse pointer and desktop by building custom interfaces for common tasks and dedicated appliances. For example, Internet-connected refrigerators that alert you to replenish groceries require specialized controls that function well in a kitchen environment. Set-top boxes that allow television viewers to record and store programs must make it easy for customers to set up complex instructions with simple remote controls.

With the widespread use of mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and tablet computers, user interface designers strive to build controls that are effortless, if not invisible. The most powerful user interfaces allow device owners to get their needs met without having to think about the complex technology behind their familiar screens.

Software Engineering Certification and Licensure

A license is not typically required to work in software engineering, but professional certifications and certification through software vendors are available. Requirements for achieving certifications vary, but most are helpful resume additions.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers offers the designation of Certified Software Development Professional, one of the most widely recognized professional certificates. The first step in completing this certification is passing an exam that tests general knowledge of software engineering. In addition to from successful completion of the exam, the IEEE requires candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree and have completed at least 9,000 hours of work experience in one of the IEEE’s 11 recognized knowledge areas.

Professional Certification is also available through the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP). Requirements for certification through the ICCP are similar to the IEEE. Successful completion of an exam and at least four years of related experience are mandatory.

Many software vendors, such as Microsoft and Cisco, also offer training programs for computer professionals. These programs typically last between one and four weeks, though attending the program may not be required for taking the exam. Though these programs and certificates can be excellent tools for training and continuing professional development, professional certifications are not a substitute for an undergraduate or graduate degree. Software engineers are usually required to hold a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

Other Associations and Certification Bodies:

  • Association for Information Systems
  • Association for Systems Management
  • Center for Advanced Computing Research
  • Computer Society, IEEE
  • International Association for Computer Information Systems
  • Information Technology Association of America
  • National Academy of Engineering
  • Society of Women Engineers

Browse Links Library Science Majors GuideComputer Engineering Majors GuideSoftware Engineering Majors GuideHealth Information Technology Majors GuideGeographic Information Systems Majors GuideComputer Programming Majors GuideComputer Science Majors GuideComputer Studies Majors GuideInformation Assurance Majors GuideInformation Systems Security Majors GuideInformation Technology Majors GuideNetwork Security Majors GuideTechnology Management Majors GuideTelecommunications Majors GuideWeb Design Majors GuideWeb Development Majors GuideComputer Forensics Majors GuideComputer Networking Majors Guide

(Video) How I became a Software Engineer with no experience or degree | my experience + tips

Our Partner Listings


What can you work as with a software engineering degree? ›

Career Options in Software Engineering
  • Code Developer.
  • Communications Specialist.
  • Corporate Trainer.
  • Embedded Software Engineer.
  • Financial Analyst.
  • Fund Manager.
  • IT Specialist.
  • Market Researcher.

What is the major work of software engineer? ›

Software engineers focus on applying the principles of engineering to software development. Their role includes analyzing and modifying existing software as well as designing, constructing and testing end-user applications that meet user needs — all through software programming languages.

What do most software engineers major in? ›

“Most software engineers start with a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a software-oriented information technology program,” Overmyer said. Applicable work experience also helps.

Which career is best in software engineering? ›

22 examples of the best jobs for software engineers
  • 15. Development operations engineer.
  • Backend engineer.
  • Software engineering lead.
  • Application security engineer.
  • Data engineer.
  • Software architect.
  • Computer vision engineer.
  • Machine learning engineer.

Is majoring in software engineering worth it? ›

Yes, software engineering and computer science degrees are likely to lead to a high-paying job. More and more companies are looking to hire talented Software Engineers, so this career track is growing more quickly than average job growth.

What should I do if I want to be a software engineer? ›

  1. Enroll in a software development program. The first step to becoming a software engineer is to enroll in a software development degree program. ...
  2. Gain internship experience. ...
  3. Choose your specialty. ...
  4. Pursue industry certifications. ...
  5. Continue your education.

Where can I work as a Software Engineer? ›

Software engineers may work in computer systems design firms or electronic product manufacturing companies. Some are employed by software publishers or in applications development offices, such as insurance carriers and corporate institutions.

Do software engineers do coding? ›

Software engineers use the scientific method and have advanced mechanical skills in addition to basic coding skills. Programming typically requires earning a degree or completing a coding boot camp, while software engineering requires that plus several years of experience.

Why should I study software engineering? ›

Software engineering is important because specific software is needed in almost every industry, in every business, and for every function. It becomes more important as time goes on – if something breaks within your application portfolio, a quick, efficient, and effective fix needs to happen as soon as possible.

Is software engineering a hard major? ›

Yes, software engineering can be somewhat hard to learn initially – especially for those without programming or coding skills or any background or knowledge of tech – but there are many courses, tools, and other resources available to help people learn to become a Software Engineer.

What is the hardest part of being a Software Engineer? ›

The most difficult part is staying motivated and focused when running into a complicated data modelling issues or debugging. Software development is an attractive career option for many but being truly successful at it takes talent and motivation.

What skills do software engineers need? ›

How to Become a Software Engineer: Software Engineer Skills
  • The ability to analyze complex technical information.
  • The ability to analyze business requirements and assess impact within the existing database architecture.
  • Good research skills.
  • Be an excellent problem solver.
  • Have experience building software applications.
7 days ago

Which IT field has highest salary? ›

Top 10 Highest Paid Jobs in IT Sector in 2022
  • Data Scientist.
  • DevOps Engineer.
  • Big Data Engineer.
  • Machine Learning Engineer.
  • AI/ML Architect.
  • IoT Solutions Architect.
  • Cloud Architect.
  • Blockchain Developer.

Who is the highest paid software engineer? ›

Top 10 highest paying software jobs in 2022
  • Data security analyst. ...
  • Data scientists. ...
  • DevOps engineer. ...
  • Mobile app developer. ...
  • Full-stack developers. ...
  • Data warehouse architects. ...
  • Site reliability engineers (SRE) ...
  • System engineer.

What is the highest paying software job? ›

Let's Check on the Top 15 Best Paying IT Jobs in Technology for 2023.
  • Cloud Architect - $107,000.
  • DevOps Engineer - $140,000.
  • Blockchain Engineer - $150,000.
  • Software Architect - $114,000.
  • Big Data Engineer - $140,000.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Architect - $130,000.
  • Data Scientist - $150,000.
7 days ago

Do software engineers do a lot of math? ›

Despite its name, software engineering does not require math. At least, it doesn't require as much math as you might think. There are numbers and problem-solving, but you won't have to break out your AP Calculus certificate or trigonometry textbook to program—or engineer—software.

Do software engineers travel a lot? ›

The teams can sometimes consist of people in the same building, and sometimes they are spread across the country or the world. Some software engineers work in an office but others travel to their client's business.

Which is better it or software engineering? ›

Software engineers do complex work and design solutions that IT support engineers are unable to. In a nutshell, they are responsible for designing and implementing software. Being aware of the differences helps ensure that we get the best person to solve our tech related issues.

What should I study first as a Software Engineer? ›

You should first earn a degree in computer science or a related field. You should have at least a bachelor's degree to begin your career as a software engineer. Majoring in computer science will offer you the most useful background for designing software.

What coding do you need for software engineering? ›

Simply put, if you're looking to get into software engineering, you'll need to know C and C++. Not to be confused with the web-page development focused JavaScript, Java is a widely used software programming language at the core of many programs, applications, web-pages and systems.

Which language is best for Software Engineer? ›

Python and C++ are two of the best programming languages for software development, though each language has its ideal uses. Python is versatile in its practical applications; developers often use it to power artificial intelligence, machine learning, web, and development.

How many hours do software engineers work? ›

Software engineers usually work 40 hour weeks, but nearly 17 percent work 50 hours or more a week. Also, software engineers may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines and resolve problems.

Is it hard for software engineers to find a job? ›

Getting a job as a software engineer is never easy, but, for a few key reasons, it's especially difficult the first time around. First, you're not likely to have a professional network or existing software engineer connections who can make introductions on your behalf.

What does a software engineer do on a daily basis? ›

Software engineers spend their day solving problems in web applications and programs, writing code, attending meetings, and collaborating with their peers. They usually work on several projects at once.

How many years does it take to be a software engineer? ›

How long does it take to become a software engineer? Most software engineering jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, which takes four years of full-time study. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's, which requires an additional two years of study.

Why are software engineers paid so much? ›

Engineers are not only paid for their works to be done, but also for “future work” that they might need to do by “keep updating themselves”. So that's it! Three things that make software engineers highly paid: limited supply for its demand, high responsibilities, and the effort to be adaptive.

Where is the best place to study software engineering? ›

Carnegie Mellon University
  • #1. in Software Engineering.
  • #1. in Computer Science (tie)

Do software engineers have a good life? ›

Yes, software engineers do have a good life. Software engineers earn high salaries and because of the high demand for professionals in this field, they enjoy job growth opportunities and job security.

Are software engineers happy? ›

Based on a small survey of 350 respondents, some 70.3 percent of developers said they were happy at work, versus 14.4 percent who said they were unhappy, and 15.3 percent who claimed indifference.

What is the hardest engineer major? ›

What Is the Hardest Engineering Major?
Top 3 Hardest Engineering MajorsTop 3 Easiest Engineering Majors
1. Chemical engineering (19.66 hours)1. Industrial engineering (15.68 hours)
2. Aero and astronautical engineering (19.24 hours)2. Computer engineering and technology (16.46 hours)
1 more row

Is software engineering high paying? ›

The salary of a software engineer/developer in India is among the highest in the country.

Which IT field is the hardest? ›

7 Hardest IT Jobs to Fill
  • Cybersecurity Consultant. Qualified security consultants are hard to find. ...
  • Systems Analyst. Some companies basically consider an analyst anyone who sits at a computer. ...
  • Database Architect. ...
  • Systems Integration Engineer. ...
  • Embedded Software Developer/Engineer. ...
  • Developers. ...
  • DevOps Engineer. ...
  • Wrapping Up.
30 Oct 2017

Which is the easiest field in software engineering? ›

Java Developer

Java, just like Python, is easy to learn as well as quick to write, compile, debug, and learn when compared to other programming languages.

Is software engineering coding hard? ›

Software engineering is challenging to learn from scratch — but with a bootcamp, even industry newcomers can build a strong knowledge base and ready themselves for an entry-level role quickly if they are willing to put in the time, hard work, and dedication.

What subjects u need to be a software engineer? ›

Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry and physics is normally needed. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study.

Which software field is best for future? ›

Software engineering is the best career to start ever. We're seeing a global boom in this field. Evans Data Corporation's Global Developer Population and Demographic Study says that there are 26.9 million developers worldwide. By 2023, there will be 26.7 million, and by 2024, 28.7 million.

Which course is best for high salary in software engineering? ›

Top 10 Highest paying software courses for Professionals
  • Certification for the full-stack developer. ...
  • AWS Cloud Practitioner. ...
  • Experts in Robotics, Process and Automation (RPA) ...
  • Full-Stack Developer. ...
  • The Internet of Things (ioT course. ...
  • UI/UX development. ...
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)


1. 12 Best Career Paths for Software Engineers | How Much Do Software Engineers Make? Software Job Tier
(Jake Voorhees)
2. Career Paths For Software Engineers
(Clément Mihailescu)
3. ALL Engineering Majors & Careers Explained | 22 Types of Engineers
(Engineering Gone Wild)
4. How to choose between software engineering and data science | 5 Key Considerations
(Tina Huang)
5. Highest Paying Engineering Career Tier List (Engineering Jobs Ranked)
(Shane Hummus)
6. Computer Engineering Careers and Subfields
(Zach Star)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Last Updated: 03/25/2023

Views: 6003

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (73 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.