How to Become a Computer Software Engineer

Learn about software engineering careers and education.

programmer pushing enter on keyboard

A computer software engineer applies the principles and techniques of computer science, engineering and mathematical analysis to the design, development, testing and evaluation of the software and systems that enable computers to perform their many applications.

Earning a degree in computer software engineering not only makes you a more valuable applicant, but also increases your potential salary. Starting salaries for computer software engineers with a bachelor's degree can be significantly higher than salaries of bachelor's degree graduates in many other fields.

Professional Duties

A computer software engineer may be responsible for the following areas:

  • Testing and verifying ongoing designs
  • Designing and developing software
  • Project management
  • Consulting

Training for a Computer Software Engineer

Most employers prefer to hire people who have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, systems software engineering or computer information systems, in addition to a broad knowledge of, and experience with, a variety of computer systems and technologies. Graduate degrees in computer engineering are preferred for some of the more complex jobs.

As technological advances in the computer field continue, employers demand new skills. Computer software engineers must continually strive to acquire such skills if they wish to remain in this extremely dynamic field. To help them keep up with the changing technology, continuing education and professional development seminars are offered by employers and software vendors, colleges and universities, private training institutions and professional computing societies.

Computer Software Engineer Certification

Professional certification is now offered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society. To be classified as a Certified Software Development Professional, individuals need a bachelor's in computer software engineering degree and work experience that demonstrates that they have mastered a relevant body of knowledge. They must also pass a written exam.

Computer Software Engineer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for software developers is $97,990. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Career Opportunities

Entry-level computer software engineers are likely to test and verify ongoing designs. As they become more experienced with a computer engineering degree, software engineers may be involved in designing and developing software. Eventually, they may advance to become a project manager, manager of information systems, or chief information officer.

Experienced software engineers have a variety of career options available to them:

  • Software consulting
  • Software publishing
  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
  • Computer systems design
  • Architectural, engineering and related services
  • Technology management
  • Telecommunications
  • Scientific research and development