The role of a software engineer

The demand for better software is growing, and software engineers are becoming more highly sought after than ever before...

Software engineer was number one on Mashable’s list of “Hottest Tech Jobs for 2014.” US News also ranked software development as its number one “Best Job of 2014.”

Not surprising, considering that there are currently 4,461 employers hiring for software engineering positions in the U.S. (Mashable).

The national average salary for software engineers is around $90,374. However engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area typically make upwards of 14% more than that (Glassdoor).

“More jobs mean more competition amongst companies to hire the best and brightest, so software engineering jobs pay well and often come with great benefits. The flip side of this is that many engineers receive multiple simultaneous offers. Making the right long term career decision can be difficult when evaluating several opportunities,” says Neil Wittensleger, manager of the tech division at Robert Walters New York.

The characteristics of a great software engineer

Being a software engineer is an excellent career choice for a person who excels at both left and right-brained thinking - analytic and numerical skills in addition to conceptual problem-solving skills. Software engineers are innate problem-solvers, good at collaboration and keen to see an issue through to successful completion. 

To build and design better software, here are some key knowledge areas a software engineer should be well-versed in:

  • Coding and programming
  • Computer science fundamentals
  • Architecture and design
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Information analysis
  • Software debugging
  • Software testing

Software engineers aren’t just paid well because they have technical skills and produce when left alone in a corner. They must also have interpersonal skills, and be able to communicate with users to train, test, and debug software all the way to the finished product. Often, they’re involved from the conceptual stage of planning software through the testing, development, training, and support.

Software engineering credentials

Most software engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, or information technology, along with very strong (and proven) programming skills. But having a degree is not essential, as the Mark Zuckerbergs and Aaron Levies of the world have taught us.

"Practical experience driven by vision, talent, and a strong work ethic are fundamentally more important than credentials in this regard - although experience is key in proving one’s past successes in the field,” says Neil.

Exactly where to focus a job search

Typically employed by software companies, IT consultancies, electronics companies, telecommunication companies, and government in other words, organizations of all sizes, from start-ups to big business to the public sector - software engineers are in demand everywhere.

Software engineers, web engineers, mobile engineers, big data engineers, DevOps engineers and UX engineers are most in demand, as well as those with experience in mobile apps, big data, cloud, gaming, SaaS, e-commerce and infrastructure.

Regardless of your particular area of expertise, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22.8% rate of employee growth for software developers between 2014 and 2015 - much faster than the rate of growth for most occupations. It’s a good time to be a software engineer. 

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