How to Become a Software Engineer: Skills, Roles and Responsibilities

Today’s digital world has opened up a vast selection of tech careers, an embarrassment of riches. The key challenge in today’s job landscape is to choose the right career path, then take the steps necessary to get the skills needed to land that job.

In order to provide you a little help in making that choice, we shine our spotlight today on the position of software engineer. When you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know everything you need to know in order to make an informed choice about whether or not the career of a software engineer is right for you! Additionally, you’ll learn how to become a software engineer as well as what a software engineer's salary looks like.

Also, you may already be working in some aspect of the IT industry and are considering upskilling. This article’s for you too!

So before learning how to become a software engineer, let’s get started with the basics, then move into the more involved details.

What is Software Engineering?

So what exactly is software engineering anyway? The definition from Techopedia is "the process of analyzing user needs and designing, constructing, and testing end-user applications that will satisfy these needs through the use of software programming languages". It is the application of engineering principles to software development. In contrast to simple programming, software engineering is used for larger and more complex software systems, which are used as critical systems for businesses and organizations.”

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Who is a Software Engineer?

From that definition, we can infer that a software engineer analyzes the needs of users, then designs, builds, and tests applications that meet those needs. Simple and straightforward, right? It may seem so at first, until you take into account everything that a software engineer does, and believe us, it’s a lot!

Software Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

Software engineers have a lot on their plates. Let's see what does a software engineer do:

  • Collaborate with systems analysts, engineers, programmers, and others to design systems and gather information on project limitations, capabilities, performance requirements, and interfaces.
  • Alter existing software to resolve mistakes and errors, facilitate its adaption to new hardware, and improve its overall performance.
  • Analyze user needs and software requirements to determine design feasibility within time and cost limitations.
  • Meet with customers to discuss software system design and maintenance.
  • Coordinate the installation of software systems and monitor related equipment to ensure specifications are met.
  • Design, develop, and modify software systems, incorporating scientific analysis and mathematical models to predict and measure the outcome and consequences of those designs.
  • Develop and direct software system testing, validation procedures, programming, and documentation.
  • Analyze information to determine, recommend, and plan computer specifications and layouts, as well as peripheral equipment modifications.
  • Supervise the work of teams of programmers, technologists, and technicians, in addition to any appropriate engineering and scientific personnel.
  • Obtain and evaluate information on factors such as required reporting formats, related costs, and security needs to determine hardware configuration.
  • Determine system performance standards.
  • Train newbies to use new or modified equipment.
  • Store, retrieve, and manipulate data to analyze system capabilities and requirements.
  • Specify necessary power supply requirements and configurations.
  • Recommend the purchase of environmental control equipment, including dust control, temperature, and humidity levels in the area of system installation.

Before looking into how to become a software engineer let us understand the skills required.

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Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer

As you can see by the above list of responsibilities, it takes a special kind of person with a particular set of skills to properly do the job of a software engineer. So in your continuing quest to learn how to become a software engineer, here’s a list of skills and abilities that you need to cultivate to do your best at this challenging but very rewarding career.

  • The ability to analyze complex technical information
  • The ability to analyze business requirements and assess impact within the existing database architecture.
  • Good research skills
  • Being an excellent problem solver
  • Having experience in building software applications
  • Acquiring experience, or at least a working familiarity, with JavaScript, Linux/Unix, Perl, Shell, Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, Hands-On SQL, Microsoft ASP.NET MVC, Web API, Node.js
  • Experience working with source code and version repository
  • Possessing familiarity with UI Toolkits and frameworks
  • The ability to lead and deliver complex software systems
  • The ability to manage multiple projects while respecting and following deadlines
  • Having a passion for developing engaging consumer experiences
  • Providing other engineers with development and testing support
  • Having experience with Ruby on Rails
  • Possessing a solid knowledge of Java
  • Having strong problem-solving skills, as well as oral and written communication skills
  • Possessing a thorough understanding of computer architecture, operating systems, and data structures
  • The ability to thrive in a fast-paced, dynamic environment and not be overwhelmed
  • The ability to transform requirements into design concepts and ERDs
  • The ability to troubleshoot and debug
  • An understanding of software engineering best practices
  • Working well either independently or with a team, including Agile scrum teams.
  • Working knowledge of C, C++, and C#
  • The ability to write clear, detailed technical specs and documentation

We will next learn how to become a software engineer.

Steps to Become a Software Engineer

That’s quite a skill list. Granted, you don’t have to be an absolute master at each and every one of them in order to become a software engineer, but a good command of most of them will tip the odds in your favor. The more of them you have in your toolbox, the better.

So what steps can you take to become a software engineer?

  • Education

    First off, a solid educational foundation is an enormous help, and a potential employer will want to see this in your background somewhere. Although most companies prefer a four-year degree, you can probably get by with a two-year associate's degree. Naturally, that degree should be in a major that is relevant to the IT world, such as software systems engineering, computer science, or software engineering technology. A major in journalism or botany won’t get you too far in the world of programming.
  • Gain Related Skills Independently

    Prospective employers like seeing experience in their candidates’ history, or at the very least, possessing a verifiable set of skills in the areas they are looking for. You can do independent study and research into the field, pursue continuing education, or, and this is the most effective option, earning certification. The latter shows an employer verifiable, measurable proof that you possess the needed skills and abilities to do the job. 
  • Consider an Internship

    Mostly for students still attending college, an internship gives you valuable hands-on knowledge and experience while beefing up your skillset. Plus, internships help you build up contacts that can be useful in future career endeavors.
  • Practice Programming 

    Practice makes perfect, so they say. Learn a couple of languages such as Python, Ruby, JavaScript, C#, Java, or C++ and teach yourself how to program. 
  • Look for Entry-Level Positions

    Sometimes, the best way to start is on the ground floor. According to Forbes Magazine, software engineering is one of the best entry-level careers around.
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Software Engineer Salary

Are you curious about what a software engineer's salary looks like? A software engineer in the United States earns an average of $76,192 annually, according to Payscale, a range between $52K and $114K. According to, the median salary is $101,790. Clearly, there’s a wide range out there, depending on factors such as location, demand, and skill level.

In India, the annual average is Rs 482,239, according to Payscale. The same site tells us that a software engineer in China earns average CNY 189,000 annually, C$ 71,000 in Canada, and 4.6 million yen in Japan.

What Companies are Hiring Software Engineers?

The next important thing you should know in your pursuit of a software engineer career is which companies are hiring software engineers these days. If you’re looking at Silicon Valley, heavy-hitters such as Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook, Intel, Google, IBM, Apple, and Oracle are looking for software engineers, according to this article in Forbes.

Monster helpfully adds to this list, citing Verizon, DELL, General Dynamics, Anthem, and Ciber Inc.

The one conclusion you can draw from all of this is that software engineers are always in demand in a wide number of different industries. The big decision that you will need to make once you get your skills squared away is choosing which of the vast number of companies you want to go for!


Earlier, we mentioned certification as one of the best steps you could take on the path to becoming a software engineer. That’s where Simplilearn comes in. The Software Engineer Master’s Program can give you the tools you need to become a software engineer. Whether you’re looking to upskill your skillset or want to launch into a new career, this program will give you the essential skills that can make your software engineer dreams come true!

The program’s courses include C Programming, Java Certification Training, MongoDB Developer and Administrator, Node.js Training, and Angular Training. Sharp-eyed readers will note the mention of many of these subjects earlier in this article. Furthermore, you get training as an AWS Solutions Architect, meaning that you can master the most popular cloud platform out there today. Finally, you round out your education with DevOps certification training. DevOps is being increasingly used by engineers to create better software applications, so becoming familiar with it is another point in your favor.

Once you finish the seven courses and get your certification, you’ll be ready to tackle the rewarding and exciting world of software engineering. It’s an excellent career path, as the demand for software engineers will always stay high.

No other method can get you the skills you need at the price that you can afford. Dollar for dollar, it’s the best investment in your data engineering future. Start now!

About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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