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How to Become a Software Engineer

Software Engineer

A software engineer’s role is to design, create, and maintain software, whether that’s communication tools or a web page. It’s a role that is required by a large number of companies; even those who don’t specialize in tech need a software engineer to ensure their software functions well. With excellent skills required combined with a high demand for software engineers, it’s a sensible career path to choose. The question is, how do you get started?

Becoming a software engineer isn’t an easy path, but as long as you have the determination, skills, and time, you will be sought after by employers in no time. Whether you are completely new to computer science or you’ve worked in tech for years but want a fresh direction, here’s how to become a software engineer.

Pursue a Computer Science Degree 

One of the best ways to secure a software engineering career is to pursue a formal education. A computer science degree makes sense here, as it will give you all the background knowledge you need to work with a company’s software systems. Within your degree, you can then specialize in software engineering, as long as it has that on offer.

For those who would struggle to spend working hours in a university, why not apply for a master of computer science online? That way, you can receive an education that’ll help you become a software engineer while working around your other responsibilities. To make it work without falling behind, make sure you meet deadlines, follow a strict study schedule, and stay in touch with your professors and classmates over the web.

Develop Your Soft Skills

It’s not just the tech knowledge you’ll need to become a great software engineer; there are also some soft skills you’ll need to develop during your time in education. Without them, you won’t be as appealing to employees. These skills include:

Communication

Software engineers don’t just figure out a company’s software systems and leave it at that; they also have to communicate how to use it. For this reason, great communication skills go a long way. You need to be able to communicate your software knowledge in a succinct, understandable way.

Teamwork 

The chances are you will often work as part of a team when building new software systems, which means teamwork is a must. You can’t just run off with an idea without consulting your team first, as it could end in a mess of a system.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving comes naturally to some, but it is a skill you can develop over time. If you want to become a software engineer, it’s one you’ll need to learn quickly, as the career is all about solving technical problems.

Creativity 

Software development combines the two sides of your brain – you use logic when working with coding and numbers, but you also use creativity when creating the software itself. For this reason, you’ll need a decent amount of creativity to shine in this role.

Attention to Detail 

Attention to detail is critical when programming; one mistake can cause an entire software system to collapse. On your journey to becoming a software engineer, then, you must get used to looking at the finer details and letting no mistake slip through.

These soft skills are just as important to learn as what you will on any software development course. Luckily, they will naturally develop the more you learn.

Earn a Software Engineer Certification 

A software engineer certification isn’t a must to kickstart your career, but it can be helpful, especially if you don’t have any formal qualifications due to learning all your skills yourself.

Pursue Self Study

As a software engineer, your education doesn’t end with graduation; you must be willing to commit to a lifelong learning journey. You might need to learn a new programming language, such as JavaScript or Python, or you might learn of a new type of software you want to develop. A great habit to get into is reading – the more you read, the more knowledge you attain.

Here are some excellent books in software engineering to get you started:

  • Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin
  • Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman, Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, and Elisabeth Robson
  • Enterprise Integration Patterns by Gregor Hohpe and Bobby Woolf
  • The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers by Robert C. Martin

Build a Portfolio 

A portfolio shows employers exactly what you are capable of. While a degree is good – even necessary for some employers – when you’re up against a bunch of other software developers, you need other ways to stand out. Make sure you include some of the best work in your portfolio to showcase what you’re capable of. Include variety, too, so that employers know you can handle different types of jobs. Most importantly, ensure the portfolio itself is visually attractive and easy to navigate, as that will showcase your skills just as much as any work shown on there.

Decide Who You Want to Work for 

Software engineers have the advantage of being able to work for multiple companies, so part of your journey to becoming a software engineer includes deciding where you want to work. Is there a particular sector you want to work for, such as healthcare? Maybe you’d prefer a company that provides excellent benefits?

It’s not just who you want to work for that you need to decide, though; you should also figure out where you want to live. Software engineers even have the advantage of being able to work anywhere in the world by freelancing.

Network, Network, Network 

“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness, what you stand for.”

Christine Comaford-Lynch

Sometimes, it’s not enough to have a great education and a long list of skills – you must also know the right people. In order to do this, you should network along the way. That includes when you’re doing your computer science degree, in online communities, and generally when you are out and about. The more people know about what you can do, the more likely you’ll be given an excellent software engineering career opportunity.

Becoming a software engineer takes a variety of skills. Once you make it, though, you won’t look back.

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