How To Become A Software Engineer: A Complete Guide

Updated 6 April 2023

Software engineers work in almost every field. They design, maintain and test various computer software programs. If you enjoy working with computers and solving problems, then you may consider pursuing the profession of a software engineer. In this article, we examine how to become a software engineer and discuss what skills and qualifications you need to excel in this career.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

What does a software engineer do?

A software engineer designs, develops and builds computer software. Every piece of software and application you have on your computers and smartphones is probably designed by a team of software engineers. They are able to do this by learning the languages that computers use to operate. Computer engineering is in evergreen demand, making this an attractive career option for professionals who enjoy working with computers and creative problem-solving.

Software engineers mostly spend their days in an office setting behind a desk. Most of their time may go towards working on current projects, with occasional team meetings. Many software engineers may also be able to work remotely. Software engineers may also have flexible working hours, provided they handle their workload and meet all their deadlines consistently.

Related: What Is Software Engineering? Complete Guide

What should I study to become a software engineer?

To become a software engineer, a candidate has to pass higher secondary school with physics, chemistry and mathematics as their focus subjects. A minimum of 55% marks in higher secondary board examinations may be required to gain admission into reputed engineering colleges. The most appropriate course to pursue would be a BTech (Bachelor of Technology) in computer science engineering or a related field, like information technology. You may also consider other degree programmes like BCA (Bachelor of Computer Application). Some prominent colleges offering these courses are:

  • IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology)

  • BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science)

  • IISc (Indian Institute of Science)

  • NITs (National Institutes of Technology)

BTech admission process may vary from state to state for local colleges. For national-level colleges, the most popular procedure is to clear the nationwide JEE (Joint Entrance Examination), which happens in two parts - Mains and Advanced. After graduation, candidates can also pursue postgraduate courses in computer science engineering to improve job prospects and earning potential.

Related: What Does a Software Engineer Do? (Duties and Career Advice)

Skills required for software engineering

If you are interested in becoming a software engineer, you may consider developing the following skills:

  • Coding: The job of a software engineer is technical and can require coding and testing abilities. Familiarise yourself with different programming languages like C++, Java, Python and different operating systems.

  • Testing and troubleshooting: A software engineer is also responsible for testing programs and systems for bugs and errors. They may also perform maintenance and troubleshooting tasks to ensure the smooth operations of systems and applications.

  • Problem-solving skills: A software engineer addresses several technical problems and issues on a day-to-day basis. They may require good problem-solving skills to identify issues and resolve them quickly.

  • Analytical thinking skills: Testing and finding errors may require you to analyse situations objectively and think logically. A software engineer has to analyse issues to identify bugs and potential errors in the code.

  • Communication skills: A software engineer may be in constant contact with other teams for development and testing purposes. They may have to write clear reports to communicate important decisions and guidelines.

Related: Software Engineering Skills (With Ways To Improve Them)

How to become a software engineer

Follow these steps to become a computer engineer:

1. Graduate from a higher secondary school

To become a software engineer, you have to graduate from higher secondary school with a focus on subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics. Learning computer science and basic coding at the school level can orient you to the education that lies ahead. Once you graduate from higher secondary school, you can appear for national-level entrance examinations like JEE or an entrance exam conducted by your state education department, to gain admission into engineering colleges.

2. Pursue a bachelor's degree

After you complete schooling, pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering or information technology. A bachelor's degree is the most common requirement for software engineering positions. A completed bachelor's degree demonstrates that you have received advanced training in software engineering.

3. Apply for entry-level jobs

After you obtain a bachelor's degree in the field, you can start applying for jobs. Software engineers are required in both IT and non-IT fields. Apply for entry-level software engineering roles after you prepare a resume and portfolio. Keep updating your skills and knowledge to apply for positions in reputed companies in the field.

Related: How To Write a Job Application Letter: Sample Included

4. Complete an internship

Completing an internship is often a good idea if you want to become a software engineer. Internships give you real-world experience and allow you to make connections within the industry. In some cases, the internship can even turn into a part-time or full-time position. Internships are often a requirement in many bachelor's degree programs. If not, you can find one on your own after receiving your degree.

Related: Guide: How To List an Internship on a Resume

5. Pursue a master's degree

After completing a bachelor's program, you can try to get a master's degree. A master's degree may help you advance your career by teaching you additional skills that you may not have learned during your undergraduate studies. Although not mandatory, it can give you a competitive edge while applying to higher positions in reputed companies. If you want to progress into a management role, you can also pursue an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree after graduation.

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

6. Earn certification or a diploma

Formal academic qualifications help you meet the basic requirements for getting a job as a software engineer. Many graduates experience the need to advance their skills further to get specific types of jobs that they want. Certifications from competent authorities can demonstrate your technical proficiency in specific areas of software engineering. You can opt for postgraduate diploma courses to further advance your knowledge and expertise. Some popular postgraduate certification programs include:

  • PG Diploma in Cyber Security

  • PG Diploma in Cloud Computing

  • PG Diploma in Full-Stack Development

Related: How To List Certifications on a Resume (With Examples)

7. Attend conferences and workshops

Another way to advance your skills is by attending conferences and participating in workshops. Working in a technology-related field means there are always new innovations that you need to stay updated on using. By attending conferences related to your domain in software development, you can learn about new products and changes within the industry. It is also a good opportunity to network and learn from other software engineers. Workshops provide you with hands-on knowledge of best industry practices and relevant workflows.

Related: 7 Software Engineer Behavioural Interview Questions

How long does it take to become a software engineer?

Software engineering is a very lucrative career path with evergreen opportunities. To become a software engineer, you may have to complete a bachelor's course, which can take three or four years. After this, some may choose to pursue master's degrees, which take two years to complete. To apply for higher-level positions, you may require a few years of experience in the field. All things considered, it may take anywhere between three and eight years to become a professional software engineer.

Is it hard to become a software engineer?

Software engineering is a competitive, fast-growing field and engineers may find work in a wide variety of industries. Some industries which have high demand include retail, healthcare, IT and governance. While software engineering is a technical field, there are abundant opportunities for employment in non-technical domains as well. Besides learning the theoretical aspects of computer science, you may also have to practise the real-world application of engineering principles. Since technology evolves at a fast pace, it is beneficial to update your industry knowledge regularly.

Can anyone become a software engineer?

Companies may give preference to a candidate's skills and expertise, rather than their formal academic qualifications. An undergraduate degree may give you a solid understanding of important workflows and concepts, but you can also choose to pursue online certifications and diploma programs offered by reputed universities. There are many online resources that can teach you how to code, test and debug software.

If you have the skills and passion for the job, then you can learn these skills and apply for entry-level jobs without a degree. You can also choose from a range of specialisations like software development, IT analysis, full-stack development, front-end development and cloud computing.

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