What does a software engineer do?
A software engineer (also known as a software lead or software developer) is responsible for using scientific and mathematical knowledge to develop, build and maintain computer systems or applications. They may also be involved in testing systems to identify and resolve faults, make improvements and provide recommendations for future developments.
Software engineer job description
- Write and test code for operating systems and software to ensure functionality at all times
- Research, design and create new software programmes and computer systems to meet user requirements
- Develop existing programmes and provide modification suggestions to improve
- Maintain systems in order to correct faults
Types of employers
Software engineers are required to work across a variety of industries and within many different types of companies. You could look for jobs with:
- Diagnostics companies
- Manufacturing companies
- Product development organisations
- IT consultancies
- Energy companies
To find out who’s hiring right now, search software engineer jobs here.
Qualifications and experience required
You will be required to hold an undergraduate degree in order to get a job as a software engineer. Relevant subjects include computer science, maths, IT and computer engineering – and can all improve your career prospects. You won’t need to undertake a postgraduate qualification; however, it can sometimes be advantageous within very competitive companies or if your undergraduate degree is not in a related subject. Alternatively, you may be able to enter the profession by undertaking an HND qualification.
In terms of work experience, it can be extremely beneficial to have some practical experience under your belt. This can be done through university placements, summer internships or module assignments to show your interest in the field and ability to deal with technical systems.
Download CV and cover letter templates here.
How to become a software engineer
To become a software engineer, you will need to have a range of skills, including:
- Attention to detail
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- The ability to handle large amounts of information
- The ability to work within a team as well as independently
Along with these basic skills, you will need to have good working knowledge of software development packages and managing software projects. Whilst many companies will offer training, you may need to have experience with coding languages (such as Java, Python or Ruby).
Within an interview, you are likely to be asked questions that explore your familiarity with programming and project management, such as “what programming languages are you experienced with?” or “describe the software development life cycle and how you would manage each stage”. An employer may also want to know about your knowledge of different testing and tracking techniques, as well as how well you are able to solve software related problems. You should always use the STAR technique when answering questions, which you can find out more about here.
There are a variety of ways to search for software engineering positions. Job sites such as New Scientist, Just Engineers and Indeed are a great place to start, as well as professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Specialist recruitment agencies like CK Technical are one of the most effective ways to find engineering and IT roles, as they are able to offer tailored advice and support as well as speak with employers directly to provide candidate recommendations.
Sign up to CK+ to apply for roles at the click of a button and receive job alerts straight to your inbox here.
Starting salaries for software engineers can range between £18,000 and £25,000 depending on the industry, type of company and location of the role. With some experience, this can rise to upwards of £30,000, and at senior levels can reach anywhere between £45,000 and £70,000.
You may be able to earn more as a freelancer or contractor.
There are a variety of career progression possibilities, such as:
- Progression into a more senior role that takes on a higher level of responsibility and the opportunity to manage teams
- A move into a different industry using the transferrable skills gained
- A move into a different area of the business such as customer experience or quality assurance
- Becoming a freelance or contract worker
- Data Analyst – responsible for collecting, analysing and interpreting data in order to produce a set of insights that are useful to organisations. The information they produce helps businesses make important decisions through the identification of trends.
- IT Technical Support Engineer – responsible for monitoring and maintaining a company’s hardware and software systems.
- Technical Writer – responsible for using their technical knowledge to write specialist information about products and services, how they work or how to use them.