Software Engineering Perspectives.
What Is Software Engineering? Definition and Job Outlook
Software Engineering Definition
Software engineering is the application of various approaches and practices for the development of computer software. Software engineering is directly related to computer science, where engineers take systematic and disciplined methods to the development, operation and maintenance of software.
What Is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is a discipline that covers all aspects of software development, including designing, building, testing, distributing and maintaining software products. The field requires engineering principles, problem-solving abilities and programming language skills to design software that meets various user needs.
What sets software engineering apart from other disciplines is the flexibility it demands. Teams should feel comfortable applying Agile and Waterfall methods — the former promoting a more fluid approach, the latter offering a more structured option. And while languages like C++, Java and Python are common in software engineering, the discipline is constantly evolving to include new programming languages like F#, Clojure and Apache Groovy. Those who excel in software engineering know how to juggle complex projects, pivot between different work methods and keep up with the latest industry technologies and trends to provide the best digital experiences possible.
At the heart of this discipline are software engineers. These computer science professionals use their understanding of engineering principles, methods and languages to create, maintain and update computer software. The software engineering field is very broad, with engineers having various roles and areas of technical expertise.
Types of Software Engineering
All parts of the software development life cycle — budgeting, analysis, design, development, testing, integration, maintenance and retirement — are considered a part of software engineering. These tasks often fall into three separate buckets depending on the needs of the project: operational software engineering, transitional software engineering and software engineering maintenance.
Operational Software Engineering
Operational software engineering involves tasks related to how software interacts with a system, including tasks and decisions made on its budget, how it works for teams and customers, its functionality within the system and any risks it may pose.
Transitional Software Engineering
Transitional software engineering involves tasks related to the software’s flexibility and scalability when it’s shifted out of its initial environment.
Software Engineering Maintenance
Software engineering maintenance covers tasks related to improving and debugging existing software to account for changes in environment, emerging technologies or vulnerabilities and bugs that may have been neglected during a previous development cycle. Eventually, maintenance is phased out and retirement is initiated.
Software engineers use languages to program computers to execute certain tasks. These programming languages serve as the basis for how applications and websites appear visually and how they carry out tasks. Most languages involve complicated structures that take engineers years to learn. Below are a few of the most popular programming languages used today:
Python is an open source, user-friendly language that shines when it comes to code reusability and readability. The language is used for a wide variety of software engineering projects that range from application development and database creation to building AI and machine learning systems.
HTML and CSS
HTML and CSS often form the backbones of websites. HTML distinguishes specific elements on a web page, such as headers, paragraphs and lists. CSS adds more detail to the style and layout of these elements, enabling colors, sidebars and other advanced options.
C++ is an object-oriented language that is suited for various purposes. The language shares much of the same syntax with its predecessor C and is preferred when teams need to build software and hardware applications at a fast pace.
SQL is a programming language that allows teams to communicate with and shape databases to their liking. Software engineers rely on SQL to find specific information, organize data into tables and make adjustments to the original database.
Types of Software Engineer Roles
Software engineers have unique skill sets that allow them to perform certain computer engineering tasks. It usually takes a whole team of different types of engineers to efficiently produce successful applications. Below are just a few of the most in-demand types of engineers.
Front-end engineers specialize in the development of customer-facing products. These user interface (UI) engineers deal with everything from cross-browser compatibility and fixing bug issues to incorporating design elements that provide the smoothest user experience on applications and websites.
Back-end engineers specialize in the logic, performance and coding of the application that users don’t see. These engineers focus heavily on the code that is able to execute every action you take when using an application. Back-end engineers rely on different databases, caches, programming languages and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to make sure the back-end is free of bugs and running smoothly.
Full Stack Engineer
Full stack engineers are highly sought after because they have the knowledge and skills to handle both front- and back-end engineering tasks. Not only can these engineers create clean, working code on the backend, they also can implement design elements that help to create the best possible user experience.
Security engineers are becoming highly sought after because of their importance in maintaining the health of an entity’s cyber infrastructure during disruptions such as natural disasters or cyber attacks. Security engineers use varying forms of cybersecurity tools to make sure their databases, systems and infrastructure are always safe from harm. The need for security engineers will grow even larger as cyber threats grow larger and more advanced than ever before.
DevOps is a portmanteau of the phrases “software (dev)elopment” and “information-technology (op)erations.” DevOps engineers are in high demand because they are familiar with the DevOps practices that help reduce the time it takes to take an application from inception to launch, without reducing the overall quality of the work. In other words, DevOps engineers are highly skilled at improving the efficiency of software development.
Software Engineering Job Outlook
If you’re a software engineer or looking to become one, you’re in luck. Software engineers have one of the healthiest job outlooks of any occupation in the world. Software engineers will always be in demand as technology keeps evolving and innovation keeps growing at high rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (which makes no distinction between software engineers and software developers):
- Software employment will grow by 25 percent from 2021 to 2031.
- Hiring of software engineers specifically will grow at 26 percent from 2021 to 2031.
- California, Texas, Washington, New York and Virginia have the highest employment levels of software engineers.
Some of the sectors with the most need for software engineers are transportation, retail, e-commerce, media/entertainment and finance. Additionally, emerging technologies, like AI and machine learning, have made it to the forefront of the most in-demand technologies engineers should know.
Software Engineer Salary
All those employment statistics are great, but the real question everybody wants answered is how much money does a software engineer make? Engineers have one of the healthiest salaries in the country:
- The average software engineer salary in the U.S. is around $127,977 (far surpassing the median personal income in the U.S., which is around $63,214).
- Machine learning engineers and DevOps engineers are two of the highest-paid professions within the software engineering field.
How to Become a Software Engineer
There isn’t one exact formula to becoming a software engineer. A degree in computer science helps you understand the basics of software engineering, but that isn’t the only way to get your foot in the door. Software engineers come from all walks of life, but are often united by one major characteristic: passion. Whether it’s passion for the tech industry, the technologies you work on, the code you write or the product you’re building.
Software engineers typically possess the ability to communicate and act as team players. Everything needs to be communicated precisely so a line of code isn’t written wrong or a design isn’t installed incorrectly. One small miscommunication could result in the breakdown of an entire project. Successful software engineers constantly work on sharpening their written and verbal communication skills to be the best asset possible to their team.
What are some tangible things aspiring engineers can do to boost their skill sets? There are hundreds of bootcamps, hackathons, conferences and networking events that can help you learn valuable skills and meet industry professionals who can help you along your journey to becoming a software engineer. These could help you to get a good grasp on what languages you would like to use (Golang, Python, etc.), what type of engineer you want to become (front-end, back-end, etc.) or even what sector you would like to work in. Gaining as much knowledge as possible about the industry and about its varying career paths will help you become a confident software engineer.
What are some other ways to get noticed in the industry? According to industry veterans, one of the best ways to get your name out there is to maintain an active portfolio on open source repositories like Github, Bitbucket and CodePen. This way, you can show off your skills, get inspired by other engineer’s work and find code for your next project. The open source aspect to these sites allows important industry professionals, from engineers to hiring managers, to check your work to make sure you’re the right fit for any project or company.
Software engineers are highly sought-after for a reason. They’re analytical, focused, communicative, knowledgeable and passionate. They’re willing to go above and beyond to do their part in creating the future of technology.