software engineer job descriptionA software engineer designs, develops, and installs software to be used in computer information systems.  They are often called upon for maintenance and to help people with operational problems as well.

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A software engineer is capable of working for a wide variety of companies, such as IT providers and consultancies, electronics companies, and software firms.  They can be found in practically any organization using computer systems.  In general, they can be split into two types: engineers of applications and engineers of systems software.

In the United States, a software engineer can expect to make around $73,000 per year, with those at the top companies like Google, Yahoo, and Cisco making over $100,000.

How Can a Software Engineer Prepare for a Career?

Prospective software engineers must have some experience with the type of programming used for the job, as well as in the relevant programming languages.  The languages that tend to open the most doors for career-minded people are Java and JavaScript, SQL, HTML, XML, C++, Oracle, and Linux.

Software engineers need to be good at working with teams and communicating thoroughly.  Obviously, good analytical and mathematical skills and a constant attention to detail are necessary, but they also must be aware of potential commercial applications.

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A degree in computer science or software engineering is always a plus, but certifications from professional, highly regarded organizations are also very valuable.  Self-taught engineers are not as likely to be hired, but they might find a company willing to give them a try.

Typical Software Engineer Job Duties

According to, a software engineer can expect to find some or all of the following duties waiting for them at their new job:

  1. Development of software for every aspect of the computer system.
  2. Conducting a thorough analysis of the system to improve operations and recommend possible changes.
  3. Determining the feasibility of certain operations by evaluating the benefits, problems, and requirements of the software.
  4. Solving software problems by designing system specifications and creating software.
  5. Creating applications whenever they are needed.
  6. Documenting software and solutions with comments, diagrams, flowcharts, etc.
  7. Purchasing or recommending software, getting it licensed, and testing it.
  8. Communicating with software vendors.
  9. Staying up to date on new software developments, equipment, and programming techniques. This might include reading publications and participating in professional organizations.
  10. Providing information by collecting and summarizing data.
  11. Protecting company privacy by ensuring that security is tight and confidential information remains confidential.

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Today, a software engineer may in some cases be able to complete some of his or her tasks from home.  Freelance engineers can sometimes make their living entirely from home.

What Are Some Respected Institutions that Certify Software Engineers?

A software engineer looking to bolster their resume should consider becoming certified by one or several different sources.  Here are a few of the most important and highly-regarded certificates that IT professionals should be interested in, collected by Erik Eckel of Tech Republic:

  1. Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Administrator – this certificate demonstrates that the holder has a thorough knowledge of the Microsoft Active Directory, and is proficient in configuring enterprise networks and environments.
  2. VMware Certified Professionals – this guarantees that the recipient is an expert in creating and maintaining virtual environments powered by VMware technology.
  3. Cisco Certified Network Associate – Cisco systems are the foundation of many business computer systems, and this certificate shows a comprehension of the fundamentals of Cisco technology.

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IT certificates like these are often quite comprehensive and take some time.  They prove to employers that the software engineer is hardworking, dedicated to learning their craft, and can perform with a high level of proficiency.

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