Software engineering is a dynamic profession that requires technical expertise, and there are several ways to get started, depending on where you are in your professional trajectory. If you’re a working professional looking to get started in software engineering, you can educate yourself through bootcamps and online courses. If you’re a student, getting an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in computer science or a related discipline might be a good option for you.
There is no fixed path to become a software engineer—the profession has various entry points. Below is a general outline of the steps you can take to get your career started in software engineering.
How to get a job as a software engineer
Software Engineering Education
Software engineering is a highly technical field and requires special training and education. A formal education will lay the foundation for the knowledge and skills required to pursue a successful professional career. You can choose between traditional and non-traditional paths based on your requirements. These could include:
- Bachelor’s Degree
Duration: 4 years
When it comes to a traditional education, software engineering employers will look favorably on a bachelor’s degree in computer science or related disciplines. A bachelor’s degree will expose you to a broad curriculum that lays a solid foundation in subjects like math and computer science. In this mode of education, you’ll learn programming, software architecture, software testing, and application areas like networking and embedded systems.
- Associate Degree
Duration: 2 years
Although a four-year degree is given more preference, an associate degree can also be helpful in finding entry-level jobs. Later, you can pursue majors in areas like software engineering technology or software systems engineering. After earning an associate degree, you’ll be confident in your knowledge of software engineering principles, programming languages, and modern approaches to software development.
- Online courses and bootcamps
Duration: 8 to 12 weeks
Online courses and bootcamps place you in a learning environment where you’ll get hands-on experience. Once you graduate from the course, you’ll be ready to apply for entry-level positions in software engineering companies.
Internships provide real-world experience and insights about the professional environment. Undertaking a software engineering internship will help to calibrate your skillset so that you can build efficient and scalable software products. After completing your formal education, you can apply for internships at various tech companies. They usually span three to six months and allow you to hone your skills in specific areas like Java, XML, and SQL.
Software Engineering certifications are a sure-shot way to validate your skills and gain an edge in a competitive job market. Certification courses for beginners and experienced professionals are provided by many reputable universities, organizations like The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and tech vendors like Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle. Popular software engineering certifications include:
- Software Applications Specialist Certificate – North Iowa Area Community College
- Software Engineering and Quality Certificate Program – UCSC Silicon Valley Extension
- CIW Web Foundations Associate – Certified Internet Web Professional
- Oracle Certified Associate (OCA): Java SE 8 Programmer – Oracle
- CIW Web Development Professional – Certified Internet Web Professional
Build up Practical Experience in Software Engineering
After gaining knowledge, skills, and expertise, you’ll be able to build projects on your own. Working on your own project is a great way to put into practice everything you’ve learned so far on in your studies. Choose an area that interests you, and use online and offline resources if you get stuck. This will add value to your portfolio.
Create an Outstanding Software Engineering Portfolio
Create a portfolio that includes your best work and substantiates your core skills and qualities. Your portfolio should show your ability to test and debug web applications as well as your proficiency in designing databases and creating web applications.
A resume will tell recruiters about your educational background, skills, and certifications, whereas a portfolio will give them a deeper understanding of your work and how you implement your knowledge and skills. A portfolio for a software engineer should consist of:
An ‘About Me’ page – This is where you tell recruiters who you are and provide a summary of what you’ve done so far and where you want to go in your career.
Projects – This is the body of the portfolio—the most important part. Include samples of your best work, making sure you include current and original content. Some points to keep in mind are:
- Align your samples with the target of the job. For example, include some extra coding samples in your portfolio if you are applying for a coding job.
- Include any extracurricular work that you’ve done to highlight specific skills.
- Make sure the design of your website is responsive.
- Your work should have an appealing layout and visual design.
- Since your programming portfolio reflects on your personal brand, make sure that you use a suitable URL. It’s always a safe bet to purchase your own domain.
- Make sure the interface is easy to navigate and straightforward.
- Include positive testimonials from clients.
Contact information – Add your email address and links to your profiles on LinkedIn and GitHub. You can also include the links to other social media channels.
Apply for Software Engineering Jobs
Before you start applying for jobs, narrow down your priorities. Ask yourself:
- What kind of company and frameworks do I want to work with?
- How important is work-life balance for my situation?
- What problem-solving opportunities do I find most interesting?
Prepare for Your Software Engineering Interviews
Preparing for your face-to-face interview is an important step in the process of getting hired.
During an interview, recruiters will assess your technical knowledge along with your interpersonal skills, and your problem-solving abilities. Unlike other types of interviews, a tech interview may include whiteboard challenges or remote coding challenges. Make sure that you:
- Ask the recruiter beforehand about the interview format
- Revise the basics, especially the theoretical and technical parts
- Clarify any uncertainty you have about the questions
- Engage with your interviewer to demonstrate your communication skills
This article was published on Thinkful
If you want to apply for a software engineering sprinters course, apply here »