Software Engineers: What They Do and How to Become One
By loose definition, a Software Engineer is someone who employs the principles of computer science, engineering, and mathematics to design and create computer software solutions to complex problems.
But a software engineer is not someone who merely knows how to use computer languages to write software; an engineer is a well-rounded practitioner who has the skills to manage and provide the total solution. This means they may have expertise in networks, operating systems, communications, computer languages, databases, and project management principles. To be an engineer, you need to be able to master all of the competencies involved in the entire systems development lifecycle.
The Solutions Development Life Cycle encompasses the stages involved in producing computer software solutions. The six stages are:
Analysts, project managers and developers/programmers are usually only involved in only one or two of these stages while a software engineer should be able to participate in each step or manage the entire SDLC with proficiency. Experience is probably the number one virtue of an engineer. The exposure to the many different scenarios and potential pitfalls involved in the process of producing software are invaluable over the course of their career.
Software Engineer Requirements
To begin the process of becoming a software engineer, you’ll need to spend 2 to 6 years in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree from a reputable, accredited institution. Some relevant degree paths include:
- Computer Science
- Management Information Systems
- Computer Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Software Engineering,
- or some other form of computer technology
In most cases, you will then obtain a position as a programmer/analyst where you will learn the requirements and the actual technical disciplines required to build software. From there you might be involved in project management, testing management, and software deployment and support.
To be a well-rounded engineer, you will need at the very least some exposure, but more likely deep experience in each of these disciplines in the different phases of the solutions development lifecycle. Obtaining a few certifications along the way couldn’t hurt either.
Software Engineer Certifications
Getting certified is always a great idea, and this is especially true for a position in computer technology. Most of the time, professionals begin their careers dealing with a specific technology discipline such as Microsoft technologies, Unix, or Linux. A well-rounded engineer will have some experience with all of them, but most tend to specialize in one leading technology.
If you go down the Microsoft path, many different types of certifications that will let prospective employers know that you have mastered their technology. Some examples are MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert). CompTIA also offers certifications in many different computer technologies and software development. Their A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications are all resume boosters. CompTIA also offers a LINUX+ cert if you choose to go down that path.
How Long Does It Take?
Like many things in the technology world, it depends. Expect to earn a bachelor’s degree in 4 to 6 years. Then you will need at least another 4 to 6 years of good substantial work experience working under the guidance of skilled software engineers before you’re ready to take the reins of a software solution project. The underlying education is vital to give you the understanding, technology, and concepts to be able to do the job. However, the experience of actually doing the job will provide you with invaluable, hands-on experience.
No matter what path you take to becoming a software engineer, you will need vast amounts of training. The best way to get the training or certifications necessary to become a software engineer is by utilizing a training specialist like ONLC. Contact us today to find out how we can help you along your path to becoming a software engineer.