What Is Software Engineering? Complete Guide

Updated 28 August 2023

Software engineering is a fast-growing field that is responsible for the development and delivery of systems used in modern computers, mobile phones and machinery. Software engineers develop innovative ways to use available technology, continuously improving upon the efficiency and functionality of programs. If you are planning a career in software engineering, it is important to understand the broad scope of this career path. In this article, we will discuss what software engineering is, what software engineers do and how you can start your career as one.

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is the process of designing, developing and maintaining software systems. It is a branch of computer science that is concerned with all aspects of complex computer programming like design, implementation and maintenance and is responsible for the development of systems used in modern-day computers.

Software engineers mainly develop products that work on computer systems, but they also develop applications for high-end mobile devices and complex machinery. Software engineers can work in a variety of industries ranging from government to biotechnology.

Related: 9 Types Of Software Engineers (Plus Salaries And Duties)

What Does A Software Engineer Do?

A software engineer's roles and responsibilities depend on their industry and specialism. For instance, some engineers work as ethical hackers to develop systems and processes that help protect their client's computer networks against malware and phishing attacks. On the other hand, some software engineers specialise in designing interactive video gaming systems. While a software engineer's daily duties can vary widely, here are some common day-to-day responsibilities of a software engineer:

  • Examining and determining user needs: Analysing the system requirements of a primary duty of a software engineer. They analyse the specifications of the required software and do validations for the same.

  • Designing software: Designing the software includes defining the architecture, components, interfaces and other characteristics of the system or application. The design of software takes place through interface design, architectural design and details design.

  • Developing software: Developing the software is the main component in the software creation process. It is the process where programming, verifying, testing and debugging take place.

  • Testing end-user software: To check the quality of the software, it is necessary that empirical and technical testing is done. It is done to ensure that the product meets the end-user requirements. It ensures that the software is built correctly and there is no flaw.

  • Maintaining software: Software engineers update the already created software and perform maintenance. Modification in software is required as and when a fault occurs and software engineers are responsible for this as well. It includes error correction, optimisation, omission of unused and outworn features, and improvement of features that already exist.

Scope Of Software Engineering

Emerging as one of the fastest-growing fields, software engineering has a broad scope. Companies are constantly trying to upgrade their computer systems to stay relevant in this digital era. Software engineers can help them achieve this.

Depending on their knowledge and work experience, different candidates can qualify for different levels of software engineering jobs Here are some roles and responsibilities of different levels of software engineers:

Entry-level

In an entry-level software engineering role, you may work independently or with a team under the direct supervision of a lead software engineer depending on the size and scope of the company you are working in. Depending on its size, a company may have only one software engineer who is responsible for handling the company's systems or may have a large team of engineers working together to build world-class systems.

Intermediate

Gaining three to five years of experience in software engineering, you enter the intermediate level and can become a programmer analyst, data specialist or application developer depending on your specialisation.

Senior

With more than five years of experience in software engineering, you can advance to the role of a principal software engineer. In this role, you can work with the upper management of the company to analyse the needs of the business and prioritise the systems that need to be built. Senior software professionals work towards building scalable systems, managing more technical aspects of projects and increasing efficiency.

Related: Lead Software Engineer Responsibilities (Plus Skills)

How To Become A Software Engineer

You should have specialised knowledge of computer programming and software development to become successful in this field. Software engineering is one of the highest paying and continuously evolving fields. It is important for software professionals to regularly update their skill sets, learn continuously and pursue continuing education to become successful in this role. To start your career as a software engineer, you can consider taking the below steps:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

To become a software engineer, you need a four-year bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science or information technology. You can join an AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) approved institute that provides reliable education and a degree in this field. There are many reputed engineering institutes, such as The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IITs) and The National Institutes of Technology (NITs). Most of these institutes require you to clear an engineering entrance examination to order to be qualified to get admissions into them.

For instance, IIITs screen candidates through Joint Entrance Examination-Main (JEE-Main) while IITs use the Joint Entrance Examination-Advanced (JEE-Advanced). If you are interested in becoming a software engineer, you should start preparing for these entrance examinations as early as possible, preferably along with your class XII board exams. While a college degree is almost essential for getting a software engineering job, in some cases, candidates with strong programming skills and a degree in some other areas can still enter into this profession.

2. Gain professional experience

Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have relevant experience in their field. You may consider working in an entry-level position related to software engineering while you pursue your bachelor's degree in order to gain relevant experience and skills. You can work in a job role of a computer support technician, which will help you improve your problem-solving, troubleshooting and other hard skills while you gain the necessary education for a job as a software engineer.

Related: 15 Questions To Ask An Interviewer As A Software Engineer

3. Learn essential programming languages

While your college curriculum may include some of the programming languages that are important to become a software engineer, you will probably need to learn other programming languages on your own. A software engineer should be proficient in:

  • Java

  • SQL

  • Python

  • C#

  • C++

  • JavaScript

Software engineering is an ever-evolving field with innovations coming in every few years. With the advancement in this industry, other new programming languages might get added to this list, and you should utilise trade publications and industry research to check if any new language needs to be added to this list. Learning never stops in this field, and most likely you'll have to learn several new programming languages as the industry advances.

4. Complete a software engineering internship

Apart from the theoretical knowledge of software engineering, colleges typically also offer their students to join some organisations for internship programs. Internships are a chance for you to gain practical experience working as a software engineer. If your college does not arrange for internships, you can look for companies that provide internships for software engineering students. These internships will give you an opportunity to perform real-world tasks that a typical software engineer performs on a daily basis.

5. Complete certifications and courses

Certifications and other relevant courses help boost your professional profile and show your commitment to excel in the field of software engineering. You can do professional certifications like PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), which recognises your skills and knowledge of agile methodologies. Apart from this, there are a variety of courses available on the internet related to software engineering. You can consider enrolling in them to enhance your skills and show your commitment to prospective employers.

6. Earn a master's degree in software engineering

A master's degree is not compulsory, but it can help you increase your chances of getting employed as a software engineer. Some companies look for candidates with master's degrees in some specific areas of software engineering. You can have an advantage over other candidates if you have completed your master's degree.

Related: How to Get the Job You Want

Skills Required To Succeed As A Software Engineer

Some of the skills that you will require to succeed in your career as a software engineer are:

  • Basic networking concepts

  • Programming languages like C++, Java and Python

  • Databases like Oracle and MySQL

  • Android development

  • Web languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript

  • Artificial Intelligence concepts

  • Object-Oriented Design (ODD)

  • Debugging software

  • Testing software

  • Coding in modern languages like Ruby, R and Go

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

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