What is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the development of software. Software generally refers to the programs used by computers; technically, it is the collection of codes, documents and triggers that do a specific job and fulfill a specific set of requirements. The development of software employs the best practices, principles and methods of engineering and computer programming.

If you are curious about what is software engineering, put simply, software engineering is the application of engineering practices and principles to the field of software development.

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What is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are computer science professionals who use engineering principles and programming languages to build software and run network control systems. Software engineers play an important role in making sure computers and mobile devices operate correctly. They bring a considerable amount of knowledge to roles in the areas of programming languages, software development and computer operating systems. They must also understand engineering principles as they relate to the creation of software applications and systems.

Software engineers are strategically minded individuals who tend to excel in left- and right-brained thinking (analytical as well as creative skills). They are usually instinctive problem solvers, able to use tools such as the principles of applied mathematics and computer science to design, develop and troubleshoot computer software. Ideally, software engineers should also be people that work well with others and are motivated to see a project through to the end.

All software engineers have the shared mission of solving digital problems with quality (debugged) software.

What Do Software Engineers Do?

Software engineers develop and build computer software.  Most software engineers focus on either software applications or systems. Computer systems software includes operating systems and applications such as web browsers and database programs.

Software engineers can further specialize in front-end, back-end or full-stack development:

  • Front-end developers deal with the aesthetics of software and what the users see and experience (aka the user interface or UI). The focus of front-end development is to design user-friendly software that engages people.
  • Back-end developers focus on the server-side of software development, writing and maintaining essential source code so that the server and application or system continue to communicate.
  • Full-stack developers are skilled in both front- and back-end development.

Software engineers apply the principles of engineering to every stage of the software development process. Just as a civil engineer is responsible for the safety and security of a bridge for example, a software engineer must be accountable for delivering sound, functioning software.

What Types of Software Engineering Fields Are There?

Software engineers can typically be divided into two categories:

  1. Applications engineers – This type of engineer creates or adapts applications or programs for businesses and organizations. They analyze the end user’s need then design, build, install and maintain the application as appropriate.
  2. Systems engineers – This type of engineer coordinates the creation, maintenance and growth of computer systems made for businesses. They collaborate with each department to identify its needs, provide technical recommendations and direction and set up networks that connect computers to the company.

There are a few different levels of software engineering:

  • Operational software engineering – Operational engineering focuses on how software interacts with the system in terms of its usability, functionality, dependability and security.
  • Transitional software engineering – This type of software engineering focuses on how changes in environment impact a system or developed application. This is usually done with scalability and/or flexibility in mind.
  • Software engineering maintenance – This type of software engineering is recurrent and focuses on how changes to the software or application function in concert with its existing environment.

There are many types of software that software engineers could end up developing in their careers, with more being added all the time.

Here are a just a few examples of the types of software being developed today:

  • Operating systems
  • Computer games
  • Middleware
  • Business applications
  • Network control systems

How Do You Become a Software Engineer?

Software engineers may have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or information technology. They are also well-versed in software development and have experience working with a variety of programming languages.

The most common route to becoming a software engineer is as follows:

  1. Choose a career in the software engineering field and a specialization.
  2. Learn about software engineering by attending boot camps, studying independently or enrolling in college courses to earn a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree.
  3. Practice, practice, practice! Develop and refine your skills and begin to build a portfolio.
  4. Prepare for and begin your job search!

Education is essential for this field, and a program such as our Undergraduate Certificate in Software Design and Solutions can help quickly lay the foundation you need. In the future, if you choose to continue your studies at DeVry, the courses you take as part of this certificate program can be applied toward the requirements of a degree program such as our Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development, which can help you pursue your goals.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Software Engineering?

Many people who pursue software engineering begin learning computer programming on their own, either as a personal pursuit or on the job. While self-study can take you part of the way, a certificate or degree program from an accredited institution like DeVry University gives you the structured education that can help you pursue your career goals.

The Undergraduate Certificate in Software Design and Solutions can be completed in as little as one year and four months1, or even sooner with qualifying transfer credits. Since this program is completely online, you can take courses around your schedule.

What Jobs are there in Software Engineering?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the computer and information technology field are projected to grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Students completing a program such as our software design and solutions certificate program can consider job opportunities in the following roles:

  • Software application developer
  • Mobile device programmer
  • Software programmer and analyst
  • Mobile app developer

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1Not including breaks. Assumes year-round, full-time enrollment.