Software Engineer: Career Definition, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for software engineers. Get the facts about salary, job outlook, job duties and education to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Software Development & Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

A software engineer creates computer programs and keeps them running. Read the table below to find out what you might need to know about becoming a software engineer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Software engineering
Key Skills Design, build and maintain software and applications
Job Growth (2012-2022) 22% for all software engineers*
Average Salary (2013) $104,480 for systems software engineers;
$96,260 for applications software engineers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Tasks Will I Perform as a Software Engineer?

Games and software aren't the only things you'll create as a software engineer; operating systems, network systems and applications also need to be built. Once you've created these programs, you'll test them, troubleshooting and fixing errors that may occur. As technological needs and trends change, you'll make patches, upgrades and new software to replace the old. You may also modify existing software and systems to improve performance.

Using algorithms and computer languages, you'll build software while providing detailed instructions on how they work. You'll work under the direction of companies and provide status reports on the software development. You may also consult with other departments to meet the client's needs.

What Is the Future of This Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of computer software engineers was anticipated to grow at a rate of 22% from 2012-2022, which is faster than average growth ( This number reflected two types of software engineers. Those who develop applications were expected to see an increase of about 23%, and those who specialize in systems software could experience an increase of around 20%. The reason behind this projected job growth was based on the expected need for newer software and applications as mobile technology advances.

In 2013, the BLS reported an average annual salary of $104,480 for developers of software systems. Software developers who produced applications made an average of $96,260 per year.

What Educational Requirements Do I Need to Fulfill?

While no set educational requirements are in place, a bachelor's degree is recommended. After graduating from high school, you could earn a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, or you may major in computer science. You'll learn about different programming languages and design while gaining technical experience through internships or hands-on projects. As technology improves and evolves, you may want to consider furthering your education with an advanced degree or with seminars and courses. If you'd like to work in computer security, a higher degree may also be beneficial.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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