Artificial Intelligence Careers to Consider: Software Engineer

For those with an interest and a knack for all things computers, it might make sense to consider a career as a software engineer. In contrast to “theoretical” computer science, which tackles ideas that sometimes only exist on paper, software engineering is considered a branch of “applied” computer science, which means using and improving on the computers we already have.


What does a software engineer do?

In its most basic form, software engineers apply engineering methods and principles to anything having to do with software: its design, utilization, testing, and upkeep. It’s a role that requires both a level of creativity (in order to design a program that meets the needs of the client) and of technical know-how (since you’ll need to maintain what you’ve created).

Since software engineers are charged with creating, testing, solving any issues, and maintaining software, this position demands the wearing of many figurative hats. People sometimes confuse “software engineer” with “computer engineer” or some other kind of information technology (IT) role.

While they’re all similar roles in the sense that they involve working with computers, they are by no means identical and certainly can’t be used interchangeably. While software engineers apply engineering practices to software design (it’s right there in the name!), computer engineers design and create hardware for computers, such as circuit boards, microchips, and routers. IT professionals, on the other hand, are in charge of installing and maintaining computers, networks, databases, and software.

What education and skills do you need?

Most hiring managers will look for a candidate with at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a major in something like software engineering, information technology, computer and information systems, or computer science. Certain companies prefer a master’s degree in software engineering, especially for those looking at managerial positions.

Regardless of your specific degree, you’ll want a complete and intensive understanding of different programming languages such as Python and Java. Software engineers also work with different version control systems such as Jenkins, Travis CI, and Git. A familiarity with databases like MySQL and web development frameworks such as AngularJS will also likely give you an advantage. Other hard skills hiring managers look for include the ability to design different algorithms, writing and debugging code, and proficiency in calculating large amounts of data in a short period of time.

Soft skills are also important, specifically, the ability to problem-solve when running into a malfunction, as well as the exemplary communication skills needed to work successfully with other members of the development and operations teams and explain the features of new programs clearly and concisely to clients.

What does the role’s future growth look like?

Software engineers can expect a much quicker growth in job openings than other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While they lump together tech roles like software developers and quality assurance analysts, the numbers still look quite promising with a growth of 25 percent over the next decade—roughly 153,900 openings projected each year from 2022-2032.

What to expect in terms of the average salary?

Earnings will depend on the company’s location, size, and specific industry, but PayScale lists the average salary for a software engineer as $83,657 in 2023. This includes not only base pay, but also the possibility of bonuses and commissions that certain workers receive as part of their compensation package from their respective companies.

While many people considering a job as a software engineer are initially attracted by the generous salary, this type of role can be a perfect fit for those who like to see the practical fruits of their labor. Designing and implementing a program you designed—and witnessing how you’ve made your clients’ lives easier or more productive—can be an extra reward for a job well done.

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