CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a software engineer.

Step 1

Is becoming a software engineer right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing 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? to find out if this career is right for you. 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

If you're interested in becoming a software engineer, there are several classes you can take in high school to help prepare you for this career path. Here are some subjects that can be useful:

  • Mathematics: Software engineering involves a lot of math, particularly algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Strong math skills can be very beneficial for understanding programming concepts and algorithms.
  • Computer Science: If your high school offers computer science classes, take as many as you can. These classes will teach you programming languages, data structures, and algorithms, which are essential concepts for software engineering.
  • Science: Science courses such as physics and chemistry can help you develop problem-solving skills and an understanding of how systems work. This can be particularly helpful when working on software engineering projects.
  • English: Writing and communication skills are important in any field, including software engineering. English classes can help you develop these skills, which are important for writing code documentation, communicating with team members, and presenting your work.
  • Electives: If your high school offers electives related to technology, such as web design or robotics, consider taking these classes. They can help you develop practical skills that can be useful in software engineering.

Overall, it's important to focus on developing strong problem-solving skills, as well as an understanding of computer programming concepts and algorithms. Pursuing extracurricular activities related to technology, such as coding clubs or hackathons, can also be helpful in preparing for a career in software engineering.

Step 3

Formal Education Steps

To become a software engineer, there are several formal education steps that one can take. These steps typically include the following:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: The majority of software engineers have a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or a related field, such as computer software engineering or information technology. This typically takes four years to complete, and coursework may include programming languages, algorithms, data structures, computer architecture, and software design.
  • Gain Practical Experience: While formal education is important, it's also crucial to gain practical experience in software engineering. This can be achieved through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions. This experience allows individuals to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting and develop important skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and communication.
  • Consider Additional Education: Depending on career goals and interests, some software engineers may choose to pursue a Master's Degree in Computer Science or a related field. This can provide a deeper understanding of specific topics and may lead to more advanced career opportunities.
  • Obtain Relevant Certifications: There are several certifications available for software engineers, such as those offered by the IEEE Computer Society, Microsoft, and Oracle. These certifications can demonstrate proficiency in specific areas of software engineering and may be beneficial for career advancement.

Formal education is not the only path to becoming a software engineer. Some individuals may gain the necessary skills through self-study, coding bootcamps, or online courses. Ultimately, what's most important is developing a strong foundation in programming and gaining practical experience in software engineering.

Step 4


Internships are valuable opportunities for software engineers to gain practical experience, apply their skills in real-world scenarios, and build a network within the industry. Here are some avenues where software engineers can explore internships:

  • Tech Companies: Large technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook offer comprehensive internship programs for software engineering students. These internships often provide exposure to cutting-edge technologies and mentorship from industry experts.
  • Startups: Many startups, especially those in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, offer internships for software engineers. Working at a startup allows interns to have a hands-on role in product development and gain a broader understanding of the business.
  • Software Development Companies: Companies specializing in software development and consulting often provide internship opportunities for aspiring software engineers. These internships can involve working on client projects and various technology stacks.
  • Financial Institutions: Financial firms, including banks and investment companies, increasingly rely on technology for their operations. Internships with financial institutions can offer exposure to fintech and software development in a financial context.
  • Healthcare Industry: Healthcare organizations are investing in software solutions, making them a potential source for software engineering internships. This can involve working on healthcare-related applications and systems.
  • Automotive Industry: Companies in the automotive sector, especially those involved in autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles, offer internships for software engineers. This provides an opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies shaping the future of transportation.
  • E-commerce Platforms: Major e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Shopify, and others offer internships in software engineering. Interns may work on optimizing web applications, improving user experiences, and enhancing backend systems.
  • Social Media Platforms: Social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide internship opportunities for software engineers. Interns may contribute to the development of features and algorithms used on these platforms.
  • Government and Defense Contractors: Government agencies and defense contractors often seek software engineering interns to work on projects related to national security, cybersecurity, and infrastructure.
  • Research Institutions and Labs: Research institutions and labs affiliated with universities may have internship programs for software engineers. These opportunities can involve contributing to research projects and gaining exposure to academia.
  • Technology Consulting Firms: Consulting firms that specialize in technology and IT services often provide internships for software engineers. Interns may work on client projects, gaining diverse experience in different industries.
  • Open Source Projects: Contributing to open source projects can be a form of virtual internship. Many open source initiatives welcome contributions, and actively participating in such projects can enhance a software engineer's skills and visibility.

To find internships, students can utilize university career services, online job boards, company websites, and professional networking platforms. Additionally, attending career fairs, industry conferences, and networking events can help in discovering internship opportunities and making connections in the field.

Step 5


Bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs designed to equip individuals with practical skills for specific career paths. Many coding bootcamps cater to aspiring software engineers, providing hands-on experience and practical knowledge. Here are some well-known coding bootcamps for software engineers:

  • General Assembly: General Assembly offers full-time and part-time software engineering bootcamps. These programs cover web development, software engineering, and other tech-related skills. General Assembly has campuses in various cities and also provides remote options.
  • Flatiron School: Known for its coding and data science bootcamps, Flatiron School offers immersive software engineering programs. Students learn through hands-on projects and gain experience in web development.
  • Hack Reactor: Hack Reactor is a coding bootcamp that focuses on JavaScript-based technologies. Its software engineering immersive program covers full-stack development and emphasizes problem-solving and collaboration.
  • Fullstack Academy: Fullstack Academy provides immersive software engineering bootcamps covering full-stack JavaScript development. They offer both in-person and remote options, with an emphasis on project-based learning.
  • App Academy: App Academy is a coding bootcamp with a focus on full-stack web development. It offers immersive programs and provides a deferred tuition model where students pay tuition after securing a job.
  • Lambda School: Lambda School is unique in that it offers income share agreements, allowing students to pay tuition after getting a job. Their full-stack web development program covers JavaScript, React, and Node.js.
  • Tech Elevator: Tech Elevator offers coding bootcamps in various cities, focusing on Java and .NET development. The curriculum includes hands-on projects and prepares students for entry-level software engineering roles.
  • Coding Dojo: Coding Dojo's bootcamps cover a range of technologies, including Python, Java, and MERN stack. They offer full-stack development programs with a flexible schedule.
  • Ironhack: Ironhack provides bootcamps in web development, UX/UI design, and data analytics. Their software engineering bootcamp covers front-end and back-end technologies.
  • Bloc: Bloc offers online coding bootcamps, including a software engineering track. Students work with mentors on real-world projects, gaining practical experience in web development.
  • Thinkful: Thinkful provides online bootcamps in software engineering, data science, and other tech-related fields. Their flexible, mentor-guided programs cater to students with varying schedules.
  • Le Wagon: Le Wagon offers coding bootcamps with a global presence. Their full-stack web development program covers Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and other relevant technologies.

Before enrolling in a coding bootcamp, research the curriculum, reviews, job placement rates, and the technologies covered to ensure alignment with personal career goals. Additionally, consider whether the bootcamp offers job placement assistance and support after completion.

Step 6

Employment Opportunities

The demand for skilled software engineers continues to grow across various industries, driven by the increasing reliance on technology, digital transformation initiatives, and the development of new software applications. Here are some factors contributing to the employment opportunities for software engineers in the US:

  • Technology Industry Growth: The technology sector, including software development, remains a key driver of economic growth. Major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley in California, Seattle in Washington, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina continue to attract tech companies and startups.
  • Digital Transformation: Many industries, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and retail, are undergoing digital transformation. This transformation involves the development of new software solutions, creating a high demand for software engineering expertise.
  • Remote Work Opportunities: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote work, providing software engineers with opportunities to work for companies located anywhere in the country. This has expanded job opportunities beyond traditional tech hubs.
  • Emerging Technologies: The growth of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) has created specialized roles and increased demand for engineers with expertise in these areas.
  • E-commerce and Online Services: The surge in e-commerce and the demand for online services have led to increased hiring for software engineers to develop and maintain e-commerce platforms, mobile apps, and digital services.
  • Cybersecurity: With the increasing frequency of cyber threats, there is a growing demand for software engineers with expertise in cybersecurity to develop secure software solutions and protect against cyber attacks.
  • Healthcare IT: The healthcare industry is investing in IT solutions, electronic health records, telemedicine, and health informatics, creating opportunities for software engineers to contribute to the modernization of healthcare systems.
  • Financial Technology (Fintech): The fintech sector continues to innovate, leading to a demand for software engineers to work on financial applications, payment systems, and blockchain technologies.
  • Autonomous Vehicles and Robotics: The development of autonomous vehicles and robotic systems has created opportunities for software engineers with expertise in robotics, computer vision, and control systems.
  • Gaming Industry: The gaming industry remains a significant employer of software engineers, with opportunities in game development, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

It's important to note that the job market is dynamic, and factors such as economic conditions, industry trends, and technological advancements can influence employment opportunities. Prospective software engineers should stay updated on industry developments, continuously enhance their skills, and explore opportunities in various sectors based on their interests and expertise.

Step 7


Certifications can enhance a software engineer's skills, credibility, and marketability in the job market. However, it is important to choose certifications based on individual career goals, the specific technologies used, and industry demands. Here are some widely recognized certifications for software engineers:

  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate: Offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this certification validates a developer's proficiency in designing, deploying, and maintaining applications on the AWS platform.
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate: This certification, offered by Microsoft, focuses on Azure-specific development skills, including designing, building, testing, and maintaining cloud solutions.
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): Issued by the Scrum Alliance, the CSM certification is for professionals practicing Scrum. It's beneficial for software engineers working in Agile environments.
  • Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD): This certification, offered by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), demonstrates a developer's expertise in designing, building, configuring, and exposing cloud-native applications using Kubernetes.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): EC-Council's CEH certification is ideal for software engineers interested in cybersecurity. It validates skills in identifying and fixing vulnerabilities, making it valuable for those involved in secure software development.
  • CompTIA Security+: Widely recognized in the IT industry, this certification covers foundational security skills and is beneficial for software engineers involved in creating secure applications.
  • Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE Programmer (OCPJP): This certification is for Java developers and demonstrates proficiency in Java programming. It's particularly valuable for those working with Java-based applications.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): Offered by (ISC)², CISSP is a high-level certification for cybersecurity professionals. It's suitable for software engineers with a focus on building secure applications.
  • Google Cloud Certified - Professional Cloud Developer: This certification, provided by Google Cloud, validates a developer's ability to design, build, test, and deploy scalable and reliable applications on the Google Cloud Platform.
  • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE): Red Hat's certification program includes the RHCE, which demonstrates expertise in Linux system administration and engineering. It's relevant for software engineers working in Linux environments.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), this certification is suitable for software engineers working in Agile development environments, demonstrating proficiency in Agile principles and practices.
  • Cisco Certified DevNet Associate: Cisco's DevNet certifications validate a software developer's skills in designing and implementing applications on Cisco platforms and APIs.