What is software engineering?
Software engineering is a specialised field of computer science used to develop, test, deploy, and maintain computer applications by utilising engineering principles. Software engineers use programming languages, frameworks, and tools to create software that meets specific requirements and solves real-world problems.
This may sound very similar to software development. But while many companies use the terms interchangeably, it is important to know that generally, software engineers are required to have a higher level of technical skill than developers because they commonly focus on the big picture rather than individual apps. It is often easier for an engineer to work as a developer than the other way around.
From developing mobile apps and web applications to building complex software solutions for industries like finance, healthcare, and e-commerce, software engineers play a critical role in shaping the digital landscape we live in today.
Why start a career in software engineering?
There are numerous reasons why software engineering can be an exciting and rewarding career choice:
- High demand: In today's technology-driven world, the demand for skilled software engineers is skyrocketing. Companies across various industries are constantly seeking software engineers to develop innovative solutions and create new ways for consumers to interact with their digital brands, making software engineering a stable and lucrative career path.
- Salary: As we all know, salary is a key element of consideration when exploring a career path. Software Engineers are among some of the highest-paid roles in the tech industry across countries. In the UK, the average entry-level salary is £50,000 and can go as high as £115,000 for more experienced candidates.
- Continuous learning: Software engineering is a field that is constantly evolving. With the introduction of AI technologies into many avenues and new tools, technologies, and frameworks emerging regularly, software engineers are offered endless opportunities for learning and professional growth. As a software engineer, you'll have the chance to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and continuously enhance your skills.
- Creative problem-solving: Software engineering is a field that requires creativity and critical thinking. As a software engineer, you'll face challenges and problems that require unique solutions. The process of designing and building software solutions can be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling.
- Flexibility and versatility: Software engineers have the flexibility to work in various industries, such as finance, healthcare, gaming, and more. You can also choose to work as a freelancer, start your own software development company, or work remotely, offering a high level of versatility in your career.
Software engineering qualifications
Whilst having a bachelor's degree in computer science may seem like the obvious way to begin a career in software engineering, that is far from the only option. Recent graduates are actually finding there is a steep learning curve in the transition between the academic environment and the commercial development one, often leaving graduates in a position of stress trying to acclimate quickly and maintain the same level of expertise they had during their degree program. In fact, this also leads to companies often placing a higher value on hands-on experience rather than university credentials.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise you to know when a job is a challenge to fill, many companies will often overlook education requirements in favour of real-world experience.
The only qualification that matters is that you can do the job and do it well. Where you got your knowledge matters a lot less than how you use it.
What about software certifications?
There are no official license requirements for software engineering, but many choose to pursue a handful of certifications to bolster their skill base. There are many to choose from depending on your interests. To name a few industry-recognised certifications:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Microsoft Azure Developer
- MySQL Oracle certification
- ScrumAlliance (Agile)
- Google Cloud certification
- Professional Software Developer Certification (though this one does require two or more years of university-level education?
Software engineering skills
Credentials aside, the real key to success in software engineering is your practical skill base. Here are some key ones you'll need to acquire to excel in the field of software engineering:
- Data structures and algorithms: Understanding data structures and algorithms is crucial for developing efficient and optimised code. Familiarise yourself with commonly used data structures and algorithms and practice implementing them in real-world scenarios.
- Software development methodologies: Familiarity with software development frameworks and methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, and DevOps is essential. Project management skills aren’t just for project managers, everyone can benefit from knowing how the systems work. These methodologies govern how software projects are planned, executed, and delivered, and are widely used in the industry.
- Version control systems: Version control systems such as Git are fundamental tools used in software engineering to manage changes to source code. The most popular one by far is Git, but there are several others like CVS and SVN. You should familiarise yourself with version control concepts and learn how to use Git or other popular version control systems effectively.
- Testing and debugging: Software engineers need to be skilled in testing and debugging techniques to ensure that the software they develop is robust and free of errors. Practice using different testing methodologies and tools to ensure your software is of high quality.
- Soft Skills: Long gone are the days of stereotypical lone-wolf developers, sitting in the dark typing away on their computers in the dead of night. Building software is a team sport like any other business department. So, soft skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and time management are also essential for a successful career in software engineering. Being able to collaborate with team members, communicate effectively with stakeholders, manage deadlines, and adapt to changing requirements are crucial skills that are not only valued by employers but are also useful in day-to-day work.
Why businesses need software engineers
In today's digital age, businesses of all sizes and industries rely heavily on software solutions to streamline their operations, enhance their customer experiences, and gain a competitive edge. Some key reasons that businesses need software engineers are:
- Innovation: Software engineers are at the forefront of innovation. They are responsible for developing new software applications, features, and functionalities that can help businesses stay ahead of the competition. Innovative software solutions can lead to increased productivity, cost savings, and revenue growth for businesses.
- Customisation: Off-the-shelf software may not always meet the unique requirements of a business, and some out-of-box options come with many customisation options that can fall by the wayside, underutilised without proper support. Software engineers can develop custom solutions tailored to a business's specific needs, allowing them to automate processes, improve efficiency, and deliver personalised experiences to their customers.
- Scalability: Businesses grow and evolve over time and their software needs to keep up with these changes. Software engineers can design and develop scalable solutions that can handle increased workloads, accommodate changing business needs, and support business growth.
- Security: With the increasing threat of cybersecurity breaches, businesses need software engineers to develop secure software solutions. Software engineers can implement robust security measures, such as encryption, authentication, and authorisation, to protect sensitive data and prevent security breaches.
- Integration: Businesses use multiple software applications and systems to manage various aspects of their operations. Software engineers can develop integrations between different software applications, enabling seamless data exchange and communication between systems, and improving overall operational efficiency.
- Maintenance and Support: Once software applications are developed and deployed, they require regular maintenance and support. Software engineers can provide ongoing support, troubleshoot and fix issues, and ensure that software applications are up-to-date and functioning smoothly.
Software engineering training
There is a large array of training options available for prospective software engineers and that can get overwhelming to someone without knowledge of what to look for. Some things to look at when choosing a training program are
- Modelling and wireframes: Wireframes are the structure of the build, the skeleton. Without the bones, you can't build much. It is important to find a course that teaches at least one way to create and use them effectively.
- Version control systems: Every programme with an ounce of reliability will teach version control systems. It will likely be Git, but it is good to make sure.
- Best practices: All of the coding knowledge in the world isn’t going to do much good if you don’t understand some best practices. Efficiency and replicability are the names of the game when it comes to software engineering and a course that teaches best practices will be your best friend.
- Practical projects: As mentioned earlier, hands-on practical learning is what is going to give you that footing you need. You want to find a programme that utilises a culminating project or portfolio, something that will test your skills and show that you can put what you learned to use.
QA offers a range of software engineering training products that put practical project delivery at the heart of our learning. By combining practical, project-focused learning with bursts of theory, engineers can build real-world solutions to solve modern business problems.
Our QA Talent Academy has operated in the software industry for a number of years, offering bootcamp-style training lasting up to 14 weeks in a range of different technologies, tools, and practices. This approach equips our software engineers with all the skills required to develop scalable, enterprise, end-to-end applications, while also appreciating and interacting with all other aspects of the software development lifecycle.
Alongside our Academy, we also offer Level 3 Software Development Technician and Level 4 Software Developer apprenticeship programmes.