Software Developer: Educational Requirements for a Computer Software Engineer

It used to be that computer software programming was a rough-and-tumble job: a group of programmers would get together and write code, run it, adjust it, and run it again, using whatever techniques or skills they thought might work. Nowadays, software engineering and software development are changing all that, as industry-wide standards are adopted and software engineers use the best practices for the right jobs. Learn more about computer software engineering here.

What Is a Software Engineer?

Because it is a new discipline, not everybody agrees on the definition of software engineering. However, according to the business-improvement organization Practical Process,, software engineering is the application of strong practices to ensure quality in the creation and maintenance of computer software. Often, software engineers are distinguished from computer programmers in that they handle and direct large-scale projects, while programmers primarily work with more contained jobs.
Skills Needed for Software Engineering

To effectively develop software, engineers need to know about computers, applications and programming. Skill and experience are necessary for writing code in common programming languages such as C, C++ and Java, and an understanding of how large-scale computer applications are built and maintained is also requisite. Additionally, a basic understanding of good business and management practices, such as budgeting, human resource management and scheduling, is needed for the administrative aspects of software development.
Education for Software Engineers

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,, most software engineers hold a Bachelor's degree in a field such as computer science or mathematics. Many universities have also begun directly offering 4-year degrees in software engineering, allowing students to obtain hands-on experience working with large-system software architecture and multi-level programming projects. Other educational options for software developers include:

Independent Study and Certification

This method of learning about software creation is becoming less common, as more employers expect common educational standards from their employees. However, some employers will still hire workers who lack Bachelor's degrees but have experience and industry certification from organizations such as the American Society for Quality or the IEEE's Certified Software Development Professional program.

Master's and Ph.D. Degrees

Some management-level software development jobs might require an advanced degree in software engineering or a related discipline. Additionally, university teaching or research positions often require a Ph.D. or other terminal degree.
Career Information
Salaries for Software Engineers

According to,, entry-level software engineers can expect to earn between $47,746 and $59,987 annually, while higher-level management workers average between $90,069 and $105,862.
Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, expects software engineering to grow faster than most other occupations through 2014. In particular, increased emphasis on computer network security will lead to very strong employment for qualified software developers and engineers.

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