How to Become a Software Engineer
Are you interesting in being a software engineer? If you find yourself fascinated by the way computer systems and applications are created, it could be just the thing for you. There are a number of different jobs you qualify for with a degree, but here’s where you start.
Do Your Research
Knowing what you want to do with your degree will help you decide not only how far to continue your education, but what to specialize in as you do it. There are 2 main aspects to software engineering: systems and applications. Systems software engineers generally create whole systems for companies. Application software engineers make specific programs and apps. There are so many careers available in these fields, so it’s important to do your homework and look up all the possibilities.
Get Your Degree
Most positions only require a bachelor’s degree, although some prefer a master’s. There are a lot of great software engineering programs around the country, but they’re each going have some pros and cons. Most bachelor degree programs take 4 years, including the core classes necessary for any degree. If you aren’t positive you want to be a software engineer, but do wish to begin a career in a similar field, you can sometimes get a degree in a similar field that still qualifies you to be a software engineer. Additionally, some schools offer alternative ways to get your degree, rather than the traditional 4 year college education. Holberton School offers alternative time lengths and a way to get your degree in a “project-based alternative.”
Just because you have a degree and can perform the basic skills of software engineering doesn’t mean you’re a good software engineer. Software engineers have to know a lot of different programming languages, such as Java, C, C++, and less many common coding languages. Work on these in your spare time. Do research, read books, and create your own projects. Even a degree in software engineering can’t replace practical application. You also need good math skills, as creating algorithms is part of creating systems and applications. If you can’t make algorithms, you’re going to have a hard time moving up in the ranks.
Get an Internship
Not every software engineering job is going to demand that you’ve had an internship, but it certainly helps your chances of getting hired straight out of school if you have some field experience under your belt and the references to back it up. Many positions don’t require higher education (like a master’s degree), but they do want to see that you have experience. In lieu of further education, the experience of an internship can help qualify you for higher paying positions that you would otherwise have to work up to. Many internships don’t pay, but some will—and you can complete them while you’re still in school for a few credit hours. An internship is also a great way to meet people in your field and get your foot in the door for after college.