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

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 25 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In many ways, software engineers power the world with the solutions they build. In an increasingly digital world, they have a pivotal role that can leave a lasting impact on the lives of millions. Understanding the exact roles and responsibilities of a software engineer can help you determine if you wish to become one. In this article, we answer "What does a software engineer do?", discuss how they differ from a software developer or programmer and offer tips and advice on how to build a career in this field.

Related: What Is Software Development? A Complete Guide

What Does A Software Engineer Do?

What does a software engineer do, can be explained as someone who uses the principles of mathematics, engineering and computer science to build systems and software. They create a wide range of business applications and solutions, ranging from simple computer games to complex operating systems. These engineers work closely with designers, programmers and testers during the process of developing systems and software. Their work has contributed to a new age of user applications and systems that have enabled individuals and organisations to become more efficient. Here are a few typical responsibilities of a software engineer:

  • Understand client and user requirements

  • Work with different teams to design, develop and test software systems and applications

  • Document the development process and create manuals for future maintenance and updates

  • Maintain the system with timely updates

  • Troubleshoot programming and developmental errors

  • Implement new systems and programmes or modify existing software

  • Ensure safety and security of software solutions and applications

  • Train new members of the team

The responsibilities of a software engineer may vary drastically depending on the industry and specific role. For instance, a software engineer working at a fin-tech credit start-up might be more involved in creating analytical solutions, whereas someone working at a SaaS company may focus on data security.

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What Are The Differences Between A Software Engineer, Software Developer And Programmer?

People tend to use these terms interchangeably. While there are many similarities between the three roles, they are also sufficiently different. Here is what to know about each:

Software engineer

A software engineer is responsible for designing and creating software solutions and applications. The role requires knowledge about computer science and engineering, along with expertise in different programming languages. By planning and designing solutions, software engineers essentially play the role of an architect in the process. They ensure that the user and client requirements are addressed in the solutions they build.

Software developer

Software developers take the plan that software engineers create and build the system or application by coding it. They are an important part of each stage of the software development lifecycle. They also oversee the entire process of designing, coding, testing and fixing the software.


Programmers are the ones who write, analyse and edit the actual lines of code using the framework provided by the software engineer, under the guidance of the developer. They are usually involved in limited stages of the development lifecycle and tend to focus on one part of the bigger solution. Programmers usually specialise in a few programming languages and are also sometimes called computer programmers or coders.

Related: What Is a Software Developer? Definition and Skills

What Are The Different Types Of Software Engineers?

One way to classify software engineering careers is by the type of role and seniority. These job titles usually include principal software engineer, lead software development engineer, technical architect and software engineering manager. Software engineers can be divided into two broad categories:

Applications engineers

Applications engineers create or modify applications for user requirements and utility. Business owners and employees use these applications to serve their customers. They usually work on client-focused projects and develop creative solutions for commonly used operating systems and programmes.

Systems engineers

Systems engineers create, maintain and upgrade the digital systems and backend infrastructure of a business. They help businesses maintain digital assets, networks and databases and help organizational digital systems keep pace with their growth. This role is more focused on serving internal company needs and requirements.

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What Industries Hire Software Engineers?

Virtually every industry employs software engineers to create systems, applications or software solutions. The increasing digitization of services in the following sectors makes them particularly lucrative for software engineers:

  • Health care

  • Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI)

  • Human resources

  • Energy

  • Retail

  • Public sector

  • Manufacturing

  • Aerospace

  • Education

  • Media and entertainment

  • Transportation and logistics

  • E-commerce

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Do Software Engineers Get Paid Well?

Software engineers are some of the best-paid professionals in the tech world. The role is widely respected and has significant potential for offering career growth opportunities. The average salary of a software engineer is ₹6,39,047 per year. But, you can earn a much higher salary depending on where you choose to work. For example, the average salary of a software engineer in Mumbai, Maharasthra is ₹8,01,725 per year, on average. Similarly, the estimated salary for a software engineer in Hyderabad, Telangana is ₹7,98,670 per year.

The salary also depends on your expertise in specific programming languages, soft skills and relevant work experience.

What Are The Skills Required To Become A Software Engineer?

The following technical and soft skills are essential for software engineers:

  • Understanding computers and systems: having an in-depth understanding of how computers, systems and software work. Expertise in basic digital concepts, tools and technologies

  • Expertise in one or more programming language(s): These include Python, JavaScript, C#, C++, Ruby and Java. Experience in more languages and frameworks results in higher salaries and better employability prospects.

  • Logical thinking and problem-solving: an aptitude to understand challenges and apply the most suitable solution. Analytical skills also help software engineers solve problems.

  • Adaptability: The flexibility to learn and work in new environments, update skills and adapt as per the changing technological landscape is vital. Software engineers are required to commit to lifelong learning.

  • Creativity and imagination: Software engineering requires creativity to envision the end product and work backwards to build it.

  • Communication skills: Collaboration and teamwork, two essential parts of the role, require exceptional communication skills. These skills are also helpful during documentation and client meetings.

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

What Are The Educational Qualifications For Software Engineering?

A Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech.) or an allied subject is essential to start your career as a software engineer. To pursue a Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech.) or Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.), you are required to have studied the subjects of physics, chemistry and mathematics in your senior secondary education (10+2). These degree programmes usually last three to four years. Engineers who pursue a Master of Technology (M. Tech.) can specialise in focused domains and skills. This adds value to their application while applying for jobs and can differentiate you from other candidates.

Short-term intensive training courses and coding boot camps are also popular ways to learn how to code. These courses usually offer certifications and last for a few months. It is important to note that first-hand experience in software engineering and development holds significant value in the tech industry. Many successful engineers and developers today are self-taught and do not have formal education in the subject.

Related: 50 Software Engineer Interview Questions (With Answers)

How To Become A Software Engineer?

Here is how you can make a career in software engineering:

1. Learn more about the job

Before you commit, make sure that you have gathered adequate information about the role, future prospects and responsibilities of a software engineer. Understand if your interests align with the skills you may be required to excel. Consider talking to IT professionals and your professors before selecting your specialisation.

2. Get the right education

A degree in computer science or a related field is necessary to start your career as a software engineer. In addition to theoretical knowledge, you are also required to have adequate application and practical experience to successfully navigate job interviews. Most interview processes involve a test, so practical coding experience is often necessary.

3. Gain professional experience

Internships are the most common ways for students to get real-world professional experience in the IT industry. They are usually a mandatory part of most bachelor's degree programs. Try to complete more than one internship while you are in college to gain more exposure, learn varied skills and create connections.

4. Continue updating your skills

Once you are employed full time, hone your skills. The tech world changes rapidly, and the professionals who are a part of it are required to keep learning. Whether in the form of a master's degree, attending tech events, certification courses or working on personal projects, find ways to continue to learn new skills.

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Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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