A step-by-step guide on how to become a software engineer.

Step 1

Is being a software engineer for me?

Step One Photo

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do software engineers do?
Career Satisfaction
Are software engineers happy with their careers?
What are software engineers like?

Still unsure if becoming a software engineer is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer test to find out if this career is in your top matches. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a software engineer or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

To be prepared to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in software engineering, students need to earn a high school diploma. Accelerated courses in the following subjects will help to lay a foundation for undergraduate studies:

• Algebra
• Pre-Calculus and Calculus
• Trigonometry
• Computer Science
• Biology
• Chemistry
• Physics
• Language Arts
• Foreign Language

Step 3

Bachelor’s Degree

Select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation is based on criteria such as faculty, curricular content, facilities, and ongoing program improvement, and practical/industrial applications versus theoretical focus.

Software engineering Bachelor’s Degree programs comprise instruction in digital logic, algorithm design, data structures, project planning, and structured approach to programming. Curricula typically include the following classes:

Object-Oriented Software Development
Using advanced programming language to solve common computer problems and tasks
Target Skills
• Computer programming expressions
• Understanding how fields and methods work
• Programming logic

Computer Security
Overview of computer security; ethical, legal, and practical considerations
Target Skills
• Disaster and data loss recovery
• User access methods
• Fundamentals of cryptography

Project Management
Techniques and methods for designing and developing software projects on schedule and on budget
Target Skills
• Understanding project lifecycles
• Project planning
• Risk management

User Interface
Applying the concepts of human communication methods to create user-friendly software
Target Skills
• User interface design considerations
• Tailoring software to human user specifics
• Usability testing

While a Bachelor’s Degree remains the preeminent requisite to enter the field, Coding Bootcamps are a relatively new educational path for software engineers. These programs typically last between eight to twelve weeks and place students into a hands-on, immersive learning environment.

To read a September 2017 article entitled The 10 Best Coding Bootcamps, click on the link below:

Step 4


Some software engineering undergraduate programs partner with technology companies to include an internship in their curricula. Internships normally last between three and six months and allow students to work on specific projects or products. This hands-on training provides opportunities to expand skills and network with potential employers.

Step 5


The following are the most common specializations in the software engineering field:

Applications Development
Problem solving-based, non-Web-based software development that includes programming languages such as Java and C#

Systems Development
Designing and coding background software created to support application development; includes program languages like C and C++

Web Development
Designing software or applications to run in a Web browser and use languages such as HTML, JavaScript and PHP.

Embedded Systems Development
Designing computing systems and software to work in non-computing devices, such as automobiles; involves using programming languages such as C and assembly language.

Step 6


Employment options for software engineers include computer system design firms, computer services firms, software publishers, computer manufacturers, financial firms, and insurance companies. Some graduates in the field choose to work as independent contractors.

Step 7

Certification & Continuing Education

There are no licensure requirements for software engineers, but there are many voluntary certifications that engineers can pursue.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
The IEEE Computer Society offers three certifications for software engineers:
• Associate Software Developer Certification – 100-minute online exam
• Professional Software Developer Certification – 120-minute exam plus two applied coding exams (two hours each)
• Master Software Developer Certification – 180-minute exam plus two applied coding exams (three hours each)
These certifications were launched in 2013 to create PE (Professional Engineer) credentials specific to the software engineering sector.

Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (SEI)
The SEI offers a variety of certificates, authorizations, and certifications, each of which requires that applicants complete a specific curriculum and/or demonstrate specific proficiencies:
• Certificates – Complete a curriculum in a particular technical area
• Authorizations – Complete a specific training program to offer a specific SEI service
• Certifications – Demonstrate proficiency in a particular body of knowledge or skill set and ability to perform a task, service, or role

American Society for Quality (ASQ)
The ASQ defines the Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) as a professional who understands the principles of product and service quality evaluation and control.

Certifications from Technology Vendors
Various certifications in specific areas of practice are available from technology vendors such as:

International Conference on Software Engineering

International Conference on Automated Software Engineering

Step 8

Master’s Degree (optional)

Master’s Degree programs in software engineering provide further training in the use of systematic, quantifiable, and cost-effective approaches to software development. They expose students to wider experience devising solutions that work across multiple hardware platforms and typically allow them to develop expertise in at least one programming language. Curricula typically include the following classes:

Mathematical Modeling
Introduction to mathematical models, which have applications in understanding and predicting natural phenomena and human nature
Target Skills
• Applying models to real world problems
• Identification of a particular mathematical model for a given situation
• Quantification of variables and intended results

Software Design
Examination of different programming languages and how their particular characteristics can be applied to software creation
Target Skills
• Reinforcement of object-oriented programming principles
• Critical analysis of existing computer code
• Techniques to effectively and efficiently design programs

Software Testing
Tools and techniques for practical testing of software and analyzing theoretical testing models
Target Skills
• Troubleshooting
• Methods of debugging
• Analysis and interpretation of test results

Software System Architecture
The fundamentals of software architecture and their application to the software development process
Target Skills
• Identifying software architectural techniques
• Analysis of software design
• Tools used for software architecture design

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I become a Software Engineer?

‘Building software solutions that power virtually every organization, it’s a cool job.’ That is often the comment heard about working as a software engineer. And while it is true, it is also a demanding job, one that typically requires employees to work long hours to often short deadlines in an environment where a single mistake can result in a massive bug.

So, what type of a person does it take to be an effective software engineer? Here are some qualities that are essential in the role:

A dedication to learning There are some jobs that you have to learn once and never again. Software engineering is the exact opposite to this. More than in almost any other function, software engineers need to continually be learning. There are always new software languages to master and new technologies and techniques to learn. If you are not committed to learning, your skills will quickly become antiquated.

A passion for improving what’s around you The best software engineers are constantly thinking about how to improve the world around them. They are always tinkering, listening to user feedback, and following their intuition to produce and continually improve software solutions.

A logical, analytical mindset Writing code is much like writing in general. It’s about using the fewest number of characters possible to make your point. It’s about taking a complex set of instructions and boiling it down to its most integral parts. It’s about making decisions based on data and research. If you have a penchant for logic games and puzzles, software engineering may be a career fit for you.

A sharp attention to detail Mistakes while coding lead to bugs, which lead to customer frustration and complaints and lost revenues. An eye for detail and a willingness to thoroughly – almost feverishly – test and revise your work are key qualities of successful software engineers.

Perseverance When developing a piece of software, there is no magic formula that dictates how the solution will be achieved. Software engineers need a certain doggedness to find the right path to building a specific application or system.

The ability to work with others In field of software engineering, this is an underrated but critically important skill. Yes, coding itself is often solitary work. But it is almost always done in the framework of a larger team. Collaboration, therefore, is indispensable, to leverage and maximize the abilities, talents, and input of everyone to devise solutions.

Steps to becoming a Software Engineer

The software industry is always changing. This means that a career in the field demands a commitment to learning that starts in high school, is solidified in university, and continues with career-long professional certifications and training.

What are Software Engineers like?

Based on our pool of users, software engineers tend to be predominately investigative people. This finding is reflective of all of the work that these engineers do. Whether they are learning technologies, writing software, or debugging issues, the capacity to investigate – to carry out a systematic inquiry to discover the facts – is fundamental.

How long does it take to become a Software Engineer?

Becoming a professional engineer takes a minimum of eight years.

A four- or five- year Bachelor’s Degree program is the typical education track required for entry into the engineering profession. After earning their Bachelor’s, graduates may sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. With four years of industry experience after that, they may sit for the second part of the exam to become a Professional Engineer.

Many in the field go on to pursue a Master’s Degree, which typically takes another two years to complete.

How to become a Software Engineer

A Bachelor’s Degree program is the traditional educational track taken by aspiring software engineers. While advanced positions often require a Master’s Degree, a four-year Bachelor’s in software engineering is the prerequisite for most entry-level positions in the field. A typical undergraduate curricula includes courses in software development, computer security, project management, and user interface.

After earning a Bachelor’s, prospective software engineers may spend some time working as computer programmers before moving into engineering. This kind of experience can prove to be invaluable, considering that programming languages, development platforms, and computer hardware are constantly evolving.

Many software engineering Master’s programs are designed for students who are working full-time. In addition to providing management and leadership training, which prepares graduates to take on more complex projects, these programs instruct students in mathematical modeling, software design, software testing, and software system architecture.

While Ph.D. programs in software engineering do exist, they are far less common than Bachelor’s and Master’s programs. They are generally designed for individuals pursuing a career in research or academia. Ph.D. curricula tend to concentrate on advanced areas, such as software modeling, design, and robotics; the economics of software engineering; software engineering for the internet; and application of the scientific process to the field.