Skip to content Skip to Live Chat
Close Nav

Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

Software Engineer Career Guide

How To Become a Software Engineer

Ready to pursue a meaningful and challenging career? 

Between evolving technologies and shifting business needs, software engineers are ready to jump headfirst into solving problems. No two days are the same in this profession. One day you’re coordinating with teams across the world, the next you’re building an application for the sales department.

Want to be at the forefront of tech? Consider becoming a software engineer.

Woman in front of large system | software development degree

What Is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers stimulate technological transformation and create scalable software solutions. They may ensure applications and programs are running smoothly and effectively, while also driving digital improvements. They create, test, and maintain networking control systems, computer programs, and business-wide operating systems

In 2019, there were 1,469,200 software engineer jobs and demand is expected to continue increasing. Software engineer roles are highly valued and generally well-paying; a lucrative career option for those who enjoy solving problems and using technology to drive innovation.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

With a blend of creative and technical skills, software engineers develop and maintain computer programs, applications, and systems. From cloud engineering to app development, software engineers are adept problem-solvers with a deep level of technical expertise. Launching and collaborating on new projects, assessing system problems, and making informed suggestions are just a few of the responsibilities of a software engineer

If you enjoy the technical side of things and are comfortable working both on a team and individually, consider software engineering. Here’s what software engineers are typically responsible for:  

  • Assess software needs. Software engineers must understand the needs of an organization and help provide software solutions. 
  • Design and build new systems. With a focus on cybersecurity and efficiency, software engineers design and develop systems to meet organization needs. In collaboration with other engineers and developers, you’ll create, upgrade, or fix software systems. 
  • Lead web development. Some software engineers are focused on front-end and back-end web development. Whether upgrading a small section of the website or doing a complete website overhaul, software engineers work with other developers and designers to make adjustments and meet an organization’s goals. 
  • Iterate and test new systems and applications. Software engineers need to be able to troubleshoot, test, and debug software. Your organization counts on you to keep systems running smoothly and efficiently.  
  • Provide documentation for future software engineers. Software engineers are sure to create and maintain accurate records and documents to pass down and sustain software maintenance among future software engineers. 

How Do I Become a Software Engineer?

Employers need software engineers who have a working knowledge of and experience with relevant technologies. While some software engineers are self-taught, most gain their core IT skills by pursuing an education.  

Step 1: Get your bachelor’s degree. 

Combining technical skills and practical knowledge, getting a bachelor’s degree is an ideal first step for your software engineering career. A bachelor’s degree in information technology or in software development will help you understand data structures and artificial intelligence while gaining skills in logic and computer theory.

Step 2: Boost your resume with industry certifications.

Industry certifications not only prepare you with the skills you need for the field, but they also give you extra credentials to stand out to employers. Two common certifications are the ITIL® Foundation Certification and CompTIA Project certifications. 

Step 3: Practice coding and create your portfolio. 

Through an internship, full-time job, or on your own, practice coding and create your portfolio of work. One option is to build your own website to showcase your past projects and abilities. Or, list these experiences to build your resume and boost your career outlook. 

Step 4: Consider specializing. 

There are many different specializations to choose from as a software engineer. For example, web developers are software engineers focused only on the web and apps. Front-end web developers work with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, while back-end developers work with programming languages like Java, Ruby, and Python. Or, you could do front and back end development as a full stack developer.

Information Technology – B.S.

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this...

Award-winning coursework and value-add...

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this online program a top choice.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 48 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,920 per 6-month term.
  • Certifications: Includes CIW, ITIL, LPI and CompTIA.

The CIW User Interface DesignerLPI Linux Essentials and ITIL® Foundation Certification are central to this program. Included CompTIA certifications are A+, Network+, Security+, and Project+.

Software Development – B.S.

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger...

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the...

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger opportunities.

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 30 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,920 per 6-month term.
  • Certifications: several CompTIA included in this program.

CompTIA certifications included:

  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Project +

Software development is the second-highest rated specialty within IT. Secure your future with a degree and additional certifications.

Next Start Date

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

Apply Today

Our online university degree programs start on the first of every month, all year long.

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about online college admissions at WGU.

An IT professional runs a server diagnostics check.

What Skills Does a Software Engineer Need?

Software engineers can analyze, design, and manage various technologies. More often than not, software engineers collaborate in a team of other developers and technology specialists. Because you’ll often work across departments, it’s important to be a strong communicator. 

Each role will require a different set of hard technical skills, such as programming languages or specific software. Here are some of the software engineering skills you’ll need: 

  • Comfortable providing technological support and maintenance across systems 
  • Strong analytical skills and affinity for solving problems 
  • Ability to collaborate across teams and functions, including project managers, designers, and data scientists  
  • Knowledge of agile working environments and willingness to solve complex problems
  • Deep understanding of coding and program languages like Java, SQL, and Python  
  • Strong communication skills to coordinate with team members and supervisors 
  • Comfortable switching between tasks and prioritizing deadlines 
  • Ability to interpret key elements from technical specifications and documents

How Much Does a Software Engineer Make?


Software engineering is a lucrative industry. Because of the very specific skills you need for this profession, organizations are willing to pay well for these employees. Median income falls around $110,140, according to the BLS.

What is the Projected Job Growth?


The BLS estimates the demand for software engineers to grow by 22%. Part of the reason for this growth is because almost all industries require software engineers. Because of the high demand, the BLS projects over 530,000 new jobs in the field. 

Do I Need Certification for this Position?


While usually not required, certifications are a great way to stand out among other job applicants. In the IT field, certifications and a degree work together to show that you have the specific skills you need to be successful. Certifications in CompTIA, CIW, and ITIL are valuable for software engineers.

Interested in Becoming a Software Engineer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this lucrative career.

View degree programs