For quite some time now, software engineering has been one of the most popular and sought-after professions in the field of IT. It seems that with time, more and more people are asking the question – how to become a software engineer? A career path that is famous for offering mind-blowing salaries and unbeatable job security, it is pretty simple to understand why becoming a software engineer is such an attractive concept to many young people out there. If you’re one of them – sitting there and wondering how long does it take to become a software engineer – you’ve come to the right place.
In this tutorial, we’ll talk about the most important aspects of becoming a software engineer. We’ll begin by describing the profession itself (and telling how it’s different from software development – that seems to be something that a lot of people tend to mix up). After that, we’ll talk about the main things that you need to know in order to become a software engineer. Finally, at the very end, we’ll cover the motivations that most people have while choosing this specialty.
Table of Contents
Since it would be a tad bit difficult to talk about how to become a software engineer without first establishing a clear idea of what it is, let’s get that out of the way right now. Even if you do already have a clear picture of this profession, you never know – maybe you’ll still learn something new? Also, I’ll tell you a simple, yet the super-effective rule of how you can distinguish software engineers from software developers.
Software engineers deal with the creation of the platforms on which the software is then built. Although it might sound confusing at first, you can think of it this way: if a specific piece of software is a house, then these engineers are responsible for building the foundation on which the house will stand. A pretty complex process!
Now, with that said, how do software engineers differ from software developers? Well, a good rule of thumb is to understand that software engineers CAN be software developers, but software devs CANNOT be software engineers (most of the time). Software developers create the software and everything around it, while engineers are responsible for building the actual core of the program.
With that said, you can probably understand that the software engineer career path is one that’s full of many different tasks and surprises. These engineers have to be quite well-versed in various different fields of IT – concentrating on their specific job descriptions simply won’t be enough.
Now that we’ve had a brief introduction, you should be able to distinguish a software engineer from a developer. To continue our tutorial, let’s move straight to talking about becoming a software engineer.
How to Become a Software Engineer?
Since this profession is as multi-layered as it is, it will probably be of no surprise to you when I say that there are a lot of things that go into becoming a software engineer. We won’t cover them all, however. What we’ll actually do is focus on three big factors that will determine your success in the field of software engineering. These three factors are education, experience, and motivation.
Education is probably the most important aspect when it comes to working in the field of software engineering. If you want to what it takes to become a software engineer, always keep in mind that a proper, adequate education should be your first goal.
After you finish high-school, you actually have a few different choices education-wise. First of all, the most common route is to enroll in a college or university. You should pick the program that will be closest to software engineering – computer science, maths or even software engineering itself (if you manage to find a formal education institution that would offer this specialty, that is). During your university years, you should focus all of your attention on keeping your grades as high as possible, starting from day one. The reason is actually pretty simple – everybody and their pets want to find out how to become a software engineer these days. Since the competition is so fierce, every single aspect of your life that’s associated with the specialty is going to be important. If you show great results from day one, you’ll maximize your chances of becoming a software engineer in no time.
On the topic of time, many people seem to wonder how long does it take to become a software engineer. Well, to give you an honest answer, it really depends on the amount of effort that you put in AND on the route that you’ve chosen to approach the software engineer career path from. If you take the traditional path and spend three or four years in a university or college, you can expect to get an entry-level job as soon as you graduate (assuming that you’ve worked hard and got your name out there). However, there’s another alternative – becoming a self-taught software engineer.
If you decide to skip university or college altogether, you can choose to learn from the resources that you’d find online. Courses, tutorials, “1-on-1” tutoring… There are a lot of different methods to go about it! It should be noted, though, that while this new form of learning is becoming increasingly popular with other specialties out there, things are a bit different for people who want to learn how to become a software engineer. This is mostly because software engineering is considered to be a very all-encompassing specialty – there are many different things that you have to master in order to become a fully-fledged software engineer. This is naturally a really difficult task – it becomes even more complex when you decide to learn it on your own. Most companies are still adamant on hiring people with appropriate diplomas, and don’t really want to “risk it”. If you do manage to find an online program that would also offer certification, however, you would definitely increase your chances of being able to enter the software engineer career path successfully.
To sum up, proper education is super important for people who want to know how to become a software engineer. It is definitely advised to study this topic (or any other one related to it) in a college or university. Furthermore, if you have the opportunity to get a master’s degree after you’ve finished your bachelor’s – great! This will be a huge addition to your CV!
If you’ve just finished your studies, chances are that you have close to no experience in the field. After all, you probably wouldn’t be looking for information on becoming a software engineer if you were already an experienced engineer, now would you?
Experience is an important part of software engineering. Naturally, this mostly applies to people who want to get a high-paying job right from the get-go. If you’re just starting out, however, you probably aren’t aiming at one of these jobs. That being said, it can be difficult to find an entry-level software engineering job because of the competitiveness that this part of the job market experiences.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re learning how to become a software engineer is that there are many different ways that you can gain relevant experience – past work is just one of these ways. Remember when we’ve talked about giving it all you’ve got from day one of your studies? Well, this also applies when we’re talking about various seminars, workshops, and individual projects – if you’re an active member of the software engineering community, you will undoubtedly get noticed sooner or later. Personal projects are great because you not only get the chance to practice your skills but also build a sort of a portfolio that will be an amazing addition to your CV once you actually go to a job interview.
All of that being said, it is worth mentioning that potential employers these days are actually much more flexible when it comes to hiring people who have little to no experience in the field. A lot of companies have special training programs designed for newcomers – employers pay just as much attention to a person’s personality as they do to their skills. However, if you truly do want to learn how to become a software engineer, you should try to get as much experience as possible, whatever that experience would be.
Finally, motivation will play a huge part in you being able to get a job as a software engineer. It is also one of the deciding factors for the question “how long does it take to become a software engineer?”. Let me explain.
Many people tend to think that motivation is only relevant when you’re going to a job interview. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Motivation has to be something that you apply every single day, whether it be university assignments, individual projects or actual work. And it goes to show! If you motivated to be a software engineer, it will be obvious from the work that you do.
Furthermore, motivation means that you actually put in the time and effort to research the subject even when you “don’t need to”. If your engineering work starts and ends at a specific hour and as soon as you enter or exit the office, you can’t really say that you’re motivated or passionate about the subject. In order to truly stand out of the crowd of people who are looking for ways how to become a software engineer, you have to spend time learning about it even on weekends, holidays and other free periods of time that you might have. If you’re not motivated, however, it will be exceptionally hard to do so.
You might think that all of this is rather subjective, but believe me – it’s important. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this career path is very competitive – there will be lots of people trying to get the same job position that you’re applying for. If you don’t have that *something* which makes you stand out of the crowd, it will be very difficult to actually score that job.
Furthermore, when you actually start working in your first entry-level software engineering job, your motivation (in addition to a few other things) will determine how fast you manage to climb the career ladder.
Why Become a Software Engineer?
Now that we’ve covered the main aspects of how to become a software engineer, let’s take a step back and talk about why people want to get into this career path, in the first place.
First of all, job security. If you manage to actually receive the spot of a software engineer in a growing company, you can be sure that you’ll have all of the possibilities to build a solid career out of it. Software engineers rarely change their workplaces – it’s a stable job, which is awesome for anyone who wants to find a company and just dedicate all of their time and energy into perfecting their engineering skills within that specific company.
Another huge reason for why people love this profession is the salary. According to Glassdoor.com, software engineers in the US should make around $103,000 USD per year or a bit over $8580 USD per month. That’s an amazing salary! Truth be told, the career path does require a huge amount of time and effort to truly master, but (as you can definitely see for yourself) the rewards are truly worth it.
So, we’ve reached the end of this “How to Become a Software Engineer” tutorial. At this point, you should not only know some of the main aspects that go into being a software developer but also be able to provide a short description of the job itself and explain just how it differs from that of a software developer.
I hope that the information provided in this article was useful to you and that you have managed to find what you were looking for. I wish you all of the best in your software engineer career path!