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How to Become a Software Engineer

By DeVry University

March 6, 2024

5 min read


Software engineering is a discipline information technology that plays a major role in the continuing digital transformation of the way we learn, shop, entertain ourselves and communicate with one another. If you enjoy working with computers and learning and experimenting with computer applications, you may have considered finding out how to become a software engineer.


In this article, we’ll explain what software engineering is and what professionals who work in this space do. Then we’ll get down to the basics of how to become a software engineer, including the technical and workplace skills needed for the occupation and a potential pathway toward an entry-level job in this role.

What Is Software Engineering?

Software has come a long way. Over the last 50 years, it’s gone from something that was installed on mainframe computers and somewhat isolated from our everyday activities to being integrated with many of the world’s technical and social activities. Today, the use of software is so widespread that nearly everything we do and many of the devices we use every day (like our cars, appliances and communication devices) are facilitated by some type of software.

Software generally refers to the programs used by computers. It’s the collection of codes, documents and triggers that do a specific job and fulfill a specific set of requirements. Software engineering is the application of engineering practices and principles to the field of software development. But what do software engineers do? We’ll answer that question in the next section.

What do Software Engineers Do?

What do software engineers do? They design, develop and build various kinds of software and systems, including the programs and applications that run on our computers and smartphones. They also work closely with software developers and other engineers to test, improve and maintain these systems and applications in the long term. 

Important Software Engineering Skills

Experienced software engineers need to know how to use the appropriate programming languages, platforms and architectures to develop a broad range of applications that run everything from computer games to network control systems.

Some technical skills software engineers should have in their back pocket include:

  • Coding languages like Python, Java, C, C++ and others

  • Database architecture

  • Operating systems

  • Agile and Scrum project management methodologies

  • Object-oriented programming

  • Version control

Software engineers typically work in a collaborative capacity, which means that they may also be responsible for consulting with various clients, other engineers or developers, specialists or stakeholders who are involved in the process. That’s why it’s important to develop people skills alongside the technical ones. 


Some interpersonal skills, sometimes called soft skills or workplace skills, that software engineers should develop include:


  • Attention to detail

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem solving

  • Communication in both written and verbal formats

How to Prepare to Pursue a Software Engineering Career

If you choose to prepare to pursue a software engineering career, the journey will take you through several phases, some including foundational, one-time milestones and others requiring career-long commitments to improvement and continuing education.


The first step along this career path is education. According to occupational outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the education required for entry-level employment as a software developer, quality assurance analyst or tester is a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field.

At DeVry, we offer an array of online technology degree and certificate programs in various aspects of computer science that may help you prepare to pursue this career. For example, our online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development is designed to help you learn several techniques and tools used to create software applications and build a foundation of skills needed for today’s tech-infused world. You will immerse yourself in the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape and obtain hands-on experience with IoT, cloud, software and security technologies and systems. Our experienced faculty help you gain a firm understanding of operating systems, programming, hardware and connectivity. The built-in versatility of this degree program allows you to align your education with your career goals, allowing you to add on a specialization in Software Design and Programming, Big Data and Analytics, or Web and Mobile Application Development.

Work experience

Real-world work experience can be gained by working through an internship or apprenticeship program while you’re in school. But internships can help you gain more than just experience, they allow you to begin developing your professional network by making connections that could be useful now or potentially sometime later in your career. In some instances, internships may lead to regular full-time employment and are also a great resume addition.

Skill development

Alongside internship opportunities, there are other ways to build your skills in software engineering or software development. Coding bootcamps can help newcomers to build a strong knowledge base and prepare to enter the workforce quickly. Most bootcamps, however, focus mainly on coding rather than software engineering as whole, but they can still be beneficial in terms of expanding what coding languages you know or sharpening your current abilities.  

As an aspiring software engineer, you should look for opportunities to do volunteer work or projects outside of the classroom, which can help you build a portfolio. Building a coding portfolio that demonstrates the skills you’ve acquired and shows off the projects you’ve worked on can help you make a strong first impression on job recruiters and may help you stand out among other job candidates. When summarizing projects, be sure to include detailed descriptions of the technology you used, the role you played on the projects and any information about your process and ideology that may be relevant.


Industry-recognized certifications are useful resume builders for entry-level job seekers and experienced professionals alike who looking to advance in their careers. Certifications set the stage for career-long commitment to professional education, help keep skills up to date through periodic recertification and may help you meet the requirements of potential employers.

Certifications that could be beneficial to an entry-level software engineer include:

Job hunting

You’ve earned the required education, built your resume and gained some experience, and perhaps completed an internship program and earned a certification or two. Now you’re ready to apply for entry-level software engineering jobs. If you map out your career goals and align your job search with the education and training you’ve received up to this point, you’ll be better able to target your opportunities as you scroll through online job listings.

As you submit applications, keep in mind that applicant tracking software (ATS) might be used by recruiters, but it can be your friend if you tailor your resume to include keywords from employers’ job descriptions.

Explore Tech-Focused Programs at DeVry

DeVry is here to help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to prepare to pursue a career in today’s ever-evolving world. Our online Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Software Design and Programming, earned as part of Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development, is anchored with Tech Core, a curriculum we designed to teach you relevant skills in operating systems, programming, hardware, connectivity and security.

This bachelor’s degree specialization covers skills like applications and algorithms, advanced strategies for software development, mobile device programming, advanced programming techniques for app development and more. 

DeVry is a CompTIA Authorized Academic Partner. Our tech programs are designed with industry-recognized certifications in mind. 

Online learning with DeVry can help you balance your commitment to education with work, family and other aspects of your busy life. Classes start soon. Let’s talk about getting you enrolled in the program that fits your personal and professional goals.

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