Are you looking for a high-tech career with a positive job outlook and opportunities to work at some of today’s leading companies? A career in software engineering could be the appropriate choice for you. There is no one answer to “how to become a software engineer”; however, virtual platforms, resources, and flexible online college and university programs make it easier than ever before.
Although organizations may promote expedited boot camps and Youtube influencers offer quick videos promising to dispel programming fundamentals, it’s essential to research the credibility and relevance of available resources. In addition, pursuing a traditional bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science gives applicants an edge in the competitive job market.
Learn about how to become a software engineer, options for software engineer schooling, and the typical career path in 2023.
Four Steps to Become a Software Engineer
Whether you’re interested in changing careers or moving into higher leadership positions, reskilling and upskilling in computer science can make you a desirable candidate in the tech-driven workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate for software engineers is expected to surge 25% over the next decade, boasting a much higher growth rate than all other occupations.
However, the U.S. BLS also finds that although software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers can land jobs with a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology, certain employers favor those with a master’s degree.
The following recommended steps outline a way to build the necessary education and skills to break into lucrative software engineering jobs.
1. Enroll in a Bachelor’s Program in Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, or a Related Field
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in STEM, consider enrolling to build foundational skills. Software engineers possess analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills needed to excel in their roles.
Having a Bachelor's in a STEM field with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher is favorable for acceptance into many Computer Science Master's programs. Apart from the practicalities of qualifying for computer science programs and jobs, understanding computer science fundamentals in a Bachelor’s degree will help you jumpstart and advance your career long-term.
2. Apply for a Software Engineering Internship
Applying for a software engineering internship is an excellent way to transform theoretical knowledge into real-world application. Working at a reputable company also grants professionals access to knowledgeable colleagues and potential mentors.
According to Glassdoor, a few of the top employers for software engineers include Amazon, Cisco Systems, BlackBerry, SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, and TD. Additionally, many universities offer students networking opportunities and connections with alumni networks that may open the doors to mentorship and career prospects.
3. Earn Industry Certifications
There are many software engineering certifications available online. Research and consider all your options before deciding on one certificate. Ask yourself, “What area do I want to specialize in?” “Which software engineering roles are interesting to me?” “What skills do I need to learn?” “Is the certification recognized and accredited?” Courses can range in price from $150 to over $16,500.
According to Indeed’s Career Guide, some of the top software engineering certifications include:
- Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP): A certification hosted by the cybersecurity company (ISC)² teaches participants the fundamentals of software development and security systems.
- Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP): This is an advanced certification made for expert software engineers looking to obtain a standard industry certification and requires a minimum of two years of experience and prerequisite certifications.
- Certified Software Engineer: A certification offered by The Institute of Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) that involves three exams covering Information Systems Core, Software Engineering, and Object-Oriented Analysis and Design.
- CIW Web Development Professional: A web development series that allows developers and engineers to validate their web-based skills.
- C programming language: A certification that covers the most commonly used programming language and requires prerequisites to show knowledge of related languages (C++).
- Oracle: Gaining certification in Oracle, a popular cloud-based program, allows professionals to promote their familiarity with the platform, from Junior Associate to Master.
- Microsoft: In a Microsoft certification, software engineers demonstrate their experience with Microsoft’s product Azure and associated solutions.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS): Like Microsoft, Amazon offers various widely-used products that software engineers use daily. This certification covers the basics of AWS, including architecture, development, and lifecycle management.
Other popular certifications include Salesforce, Agile project management methodology, and Chef. Each certification allows engineers to demonstrate their understanding of software engineering.
For example, if you aim to work at Amazon, one of the world’s top companies for software engineers, it’s recommended that you pursue the AWS course or enroll in a related program that covers the course content.
4. Continue Your Education with a Masters in Computer Science With a Software Engineering Track
One of the many benefits of online education is the specificity of programs and course content. If you’re confident that you want to enter a career in software engineering, you can enroll in a Masters in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering to acquire specific, in-demand skills designed for today’s workforce.
Students learn software verification and validation, distributed systems, advanced object-oriented development, and advanced software engineering. In addition to hands-on skills, students dive into the ethics of software engineering, identifying strengths and weaknesses in software packages, communication and collaboration across teams, and how to solve everyday challenges on software engineering projects.
Although every employer does not require a Master’s degree, it demonstrates an expert level of knowledge, commitment, and skill that allows software engineers to make organizational decisions and lead teams. Overall, a Master’s degree in computer science can open doors for career advancement within an organization and prepares professionals with the needed confidence and capabilities to enhance their job performance.
What Career Paths Can You Pursue With a Masters of Computer Science?
More organizations are leaning into digital transformation efforts and harnessing tools like cloud, automation, and sophisticated software architecture to expedite business processes and outcomes. This trend spikes the demand for computer science professionals capable of building, testing, and maintaining systems.
As a result, software developers (software engineers), quality assurance analysts, and testers will see more than 162,900 job openings materialize yearly, on average, through 2031. A few common software engineer career paths include working as:
- Mobile Developers: In a mobile-friendly world ruled by iOS and Androids, mobile developers help build apps that companies need and consumers use daily.
- Back-End Developers: Unlike front-end developers, these professionals focus on the systems that run behind the scenes, including a website's functionality, online accounts, and engagement. They use languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and PHP to be successful in their role.
- Full Stack Developers: Finally, full stack developers work on both the front and back end to maintain customer experience, security, quality assurance, and other fundamentals of a website’s interactivity.
In addition to these top roles, computer science and software engineering professionals can work as AR/VR, gaming, computer vision, machine learning, security, and data engineers. The possibilities are vast, and many of the skills are transferable so that software engineers can pivot into interesting related professions throughout their careers.
What is the Future of Software Engineering?
Based on the current employment projections and continued digital transformation growth, the software engineering future is bright. The current trends indicate three top predictions for the future of software engineering, including the power of customer demands, the development of open-source software, and the introduction of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality (AR), and the internet of things (IoT).
Customer demands are driving businesses to enhance CX and UX. This shift will likely surge the demand for full-stack, front- and back-end developers. Additionally, the emergence of open-source software requires upskilling for engineers in their familiarity with open-source projects.
Finally, the rapid introduction of new technologies underscores the importance of agility; software engineers must constantly learn about the latest software products and understand how to evaluate the influence of technologies on the effectiveness of their organization’s current systems.
How Can I Start My Career in Software Engineering?
If you’re analytical, career-oriented, and inspired by technology and development, consider starting a career in software engineering to enter suitable jobs. If you’re currently working as a software engineer and looking to reskill and upskill to transition into leadership positions and increase your lifetime earning potential, Baylor University’s Online Master of Computer Science Software Engineering track could be right for you.
Baylor’s Master of Computer Science degree can be completed 100% online in as few as 1.5 years. Baylor University ranks among the Top 5% of Best National Universities. This recognition allows graduates to be recognized among the world’s top employers. Master’s degree graduates from the Baylor School of Engineering and Computer Science work at leading organizations, including Amazon, Google, IBM, Tesla, and others.
Download the course guide or visit the Online Master of Science - Software Engineering Track page to learn more about the program.