Science and technology is one of the most rapidly expanding fields in the world. Millions of people in the United States study topics related to this field, with the intention of acquiring a lucrative job. These people study all different kinds of work, like chemistry, biology, electrical engineering, and so on. However, one of the most highly paid jobs in the country is software engineering, also known as software development. Computer science has been seen as one of the more promising fields of study for years now, and the country is just now beginning to see that as true. Multi-billion dollar companies across the globe are constantly searching for computer scientists, and the technical nature of the training required to become a software engineer makes it an even more in-demand position.
What exactly is it that a software engineer does? Well, as the job title implies, a software engineer is someone who works with software. A software engineer will aid the design, development, and maintenance of various software and systems. Of course, this is a very broad term. A software engineer can also be known as an analyst, an architect, a developer, or a tester. In fact, many people who specialize in technical support will sometimes call themselves software engineers. Generally, however, the term “software engineer” is used to describe someone who helps to develop computer programs in some way. Since everyone needs to use computer programs in some way, a software engineer is capable of working in a variety of different companies. Whether you’re looking to work for NASA, Google, or a video game developer, software engineers always walk away with a large paycheck.
2017 Average Salary for Software Engineers – $98,260
The average software engineer is paid nearly six figures per year. That kind of wage is kind of incredible, but is it affected at all by factors like geography and experience? Due to the widespread usage of computers and computer programs, software engineers are sought out just about everywhere. Although metropolitan areas obviously have a larger concentration of companies and businesses, software development is actually a kind of work that could easily be done at home. Many software engineers telecommute, which means they conduct the majority of their business and work over the Internet. Even if you live in a very rural area, your services could still be commissioned long-distance by a company that works out of a major city. If you’re thinking about getting into this field, don’t let your location discourage you. However, people living on the West Coast (especially near development epicenters like San Francisco or Mountain View) will typically have better luck than someone living on the East Coast. Additionally some companies that are looking to keep labor close but lower the required salaries have begun to start nearshoring programmers, aka hiring programmers from close geographical countries with lower labor rates (instead of outsourcing half way across the world.)
Just like with any other profession, experience is always a factor in terms of how much you get paid. Software development is a field that’s always changing. If you ask anyone who used to work in the business a couple of decades ago, I’m sure that they’ll vouch for that fact. As technology changes, so does software. However, experience is always valued by employers. Experience indicates that, regardless of specific technical knowledge, a potential employee possesses the critical thinking skills and creativity required to thrive in a development-based environment. Entry-level software engineers are still very highly paid, with the average pay there sitting at about $75,000. This pay scale has a really high ceiling, too. Someone with over twenty years in software development could make closer to $110,000 per year. When employers are valuing this experience, they’re usually valuing non-tangible factors over tangible factors.
Finally, education is a factor that can contribute to a software engineer’s pay. Software development is highly technical, and so employers are obviously very mindful of how their potential employees were trained. Unless you’re applying to a highly exclusive or well-regarded company like Google or Twitter, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about being discriminated against for your level or place of study. (In fact, there are some software engineers who are exclusively self-taught.) However, as with any other field, it’s worth noting that having meeting certain technical or educational requirements will allow you to see much more upward mobility than you would see without meeting those requirements. Whether you’re having to take a certification test or go to graduate school, you can be sure that you’ll make more money once you come out of it.
How to become a software engineer – Do you need to go to school?
Now that you’re familiar with what being a software engineer entails, you might be wondering how you can actually become a part of this exciting profession. First, you need to acquire the training and understanding required to appropriately function in this field. With any kind of engineering, you can’t just walk in and “wing it”. There are a few routes that you can take with your education. The most obvious route is to go to college and study software engineering or software development specifically. You could also go to college and study a more broad field, like computer science. (The primary difference between the two is that software engineering is more focused on the technical aspect of the work, whereas computer science is much more theoretical in nature.)
I mentioned before that many software engineers are self-taught, and that’s true. If you’re up for the challenge, you could try to teach yourself the languages and principles required to be a successful software engineer. Due to the demand of the position, there are many companies and businesses that wouldn’t have much of an issue hiring someone who is self-taught. However, keep in mind that someone who is self-taught obviously isn’t going to have an income as high as someone who studied software engineering in school. Even if you have the exact same level of knowledge, having that objective outside validation from an academic institution is invaluable. If you want to go the self-taught route, there are many different programming languages that you can try to learn.
When you begin to look for an actual job in software engineering, networking can be a big help. If you studied this field in college, then it may be worth reaching out to your professors or academic advisers and seeing if the school offers any kind of career assistance. Some universities are specifically dedicated to helping alumni find high paying jobs in a field related to their studies. Maybe you were already in a different line of work prior to pursuing a career in software development. That could really help you out, too. If you already had connections with people who work for companies, you could try and see if they are looking for anyone with experience in software development. Finding a job is always kind of hard, but I think that you’ll find it’s much easier to find steady employment in this in-demand field.