How Do I Become a Software Engineer?

Find schools


Technology-centric organizations like Google and Amazon and companies in healthcare, finance, education, and other industries employ software engineers to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology. Indeed, the software engineer’s job is vast and can vary from creating new mobile apps to designing systems-level software to pushing the envelope in multiple and highly connective ways.

Software engineers have the insight to apply their skills beyond mere programming to include the process of development from design through to testing, implementation, and long-term maintenance and product improvement. Software engineers are often proficient in several programming languages and fluent in at least one. Because of their continuous exposure to code and integrated development environments, software engineers are often able to pick up a new language, such as Java, Objective-C, Python, or C++, quickly if the job requires it.

While stories abound of famous software engineers who either never attended college or dropped out, a bachelor’s degree in software engineering accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) is preferred by many employers and is required to sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in many states. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that licensure for software engineers, also known as software developers, is not always required, but having licensure increases a job seeker’s opportunities.

While computer science (CS) degrees have been around for much longer than 30 years, software engineering degrees are still relatively new. As a result, software engineering degrees tend to be more applied and provide a tighter focus on building solid software, from design through quality assurance to release, and then again for each subsequent release or new application.

In addition, while CS majors can and do code, CS degree programs emphasize mathematical and theoretical computing and expand what’s possible or improve existing computing methods. By contrast, software engineering programs tend to emphasize proven software development methodologies and techniques.

In the end, both computer science and software engineering programs are possible entry points to a software engineering career. However, it’s worth noting that several states require prospective software engineers to earn an ABET-accredited BS in software engineering degree before certifying as a software engineer, should the software being developed put the public welfare at risk in any way.

--<-->sb1=hsd,smc,assc,bach,mrs---->Any--Else--T1==cs,se--Select `wp_oep_sb_school_data`.*, `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.* FROM `wp_oep_sb_school_data` JOIN `wp_oep_sb_program_details` ON `wp_oep_sb_school_data`.s_id = `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.s_id WHERE (`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees = 'hsd' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,hsd,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like 'hsd,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,hsd' OR`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees = 'smc' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,smc,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like 'smc,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,smc' OR`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees = 'assc' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,assc,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like 'assc,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,assc' OR`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees = 'bach' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,bach,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like 'bach,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,bach' OR`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees = 'mrs' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,mrs,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like 'mrs,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_current_degrees like '%,mrs') AND ( `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name = 'cs' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like '%,cs,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like 'cs,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like '%,cs' OR`wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name = 'se' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like '%,se,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like 'se,%' OR `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_concentration_name like '%,se' ) AND `wp_oep_sb_school_data`.s_active = 'Yes'AND `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_active = 'yes' ORDER BY CASE `wp_oep_sb_school_data`.s_id WHEN 11 THEN 1 WHEN 11 THEN 2 WHEN 20 THEN 3 WHEN 85 THEN 4 WHEN 85 THEN 5 WHEN 92 THEN 6 WHEN 89 THEN 7 WHEN 89 THEN 8 WHEN 37 THEN 9 WHEN 20 THEN 10 WHEN 83 THEN 11 WHEN 9 THEN 12 WHEN 37 THEN 13 WHEN 92 THEN 14 WHEN 9 THEN 15 WHEN 36 THEN 16 WHEN 39 THEN 17 WHEN 91 THEN 18 WHEN 39 THEN 19 WHEN 83 THEN 20 WHEN 19 THEN 21 WHEN 30 THEN 22 WHEN 30 THEN 23 WHEN 42 THEN 24 WHEN 82 THEN 25 WHEN 43 THEN 26 WHEN 44 THEN 27 WHEN 45 THEN 28 WHEN 46 THEN 29 WHEN 47 THEN 30 WHEN 48 THEN 31 WHEN 49 THEN 32 WHEN 50 THEN 33 WHEN 51 THEN 34 WHEN 52 THEN 35 WHEN 53 THEN 36 WHEN 54 THEN 37 WHEN 55 THEN 38 WHEN 56 THEN 39 WHEN 57 THEN 40 WHEN 58 THEN 41 WHEN 59 THEN 42 WHEN 60 THEN 43 WHEN 61 THEN 44 WHEN 62 THEN 45 WHEN 63 THEN 46 WHEN 64 THEN 47 WHEN 65 THEN 48 WHEN 66 THEN 49 WHEN 67 THEN 50 WHEN 68 THEN 51 WHEN 69 THEN 52 WHEN 70 THEN 53 WHEN 71 THEN 54 WHEN 72 THEN 55 WHEN 73 THEN 56 WHEN 74 THEN 57 WHEN 75 THEN 58 WHEN 76 THEN 59 WHEN 77 THEN 60 WHEN 78 THEN 61 WHEN 79 THEN 62 WHEN 80 THEN 63 WHEN 81 THEN 64 WHEN 49 THEN 65 WHEN 42 THEN 66 WHEN 43 THEN 67 WHEN 44 THEN 68 WHEN 45 THEN 69 WHEN 46 THEN 70 WHEN 47 THEN 71 WHEN 48 THEN 72 WHEN 50 THEN 73 WHEN 51 THEN 74 WHEN 52 THEN 75 WHEN 53 THEN 76 WHEN 54 THEN 77 WHEN 55 THEN 78 WHEN 56 THEN 79 WHEN 57 THEN 80 WHEN 58 THEN 81 WHEN 59 THEN 82 WHEN 60 THEN 83 WHEN 61 THEN 84 WHEN 62 THEN 85 WHEN 63 THEN 86 WHEN 64 THEN 87 WHEN 65 THEN 88 WHEN 66 THEN 89 WHEN 67 THEN 90 WHEN 68 THEN 91 WHEN 69 THEN 92 WHEN 70 THEN 93 WHEN 71 THEN 94 WHEN 72 THEN 95 WHEN 73 THEN 96 WHEN 74 THEN 97 WHEN 75 THEN 98 WHEN 76 THEN 99 WHEN 77 THEN 100 WHEN 78 THEN 101 WHEN 79 THEN 102 WHEN 80 THEN 103 WHEN 81 THEN 104 WHEN 82 THEN 105 WHEN 10 THEN 106 WHEN 87 THEN 107 WHEN 6 THEN 108 WHEN 14 THEN 109 WHEN 93 THEN 110 WHEN 7 THEN 111 WHEN 8 THEN 112 WHEN 90 THEN 113 WHEN 84 THEN 114 WHEN 88 THEN 115 WHEN 86 THEN 116 WHEN 13 THEN 117 WHEN 41 THEN 118 WHEN 40 THEN 119 WHEN 2 THEN 120 WHEN 38 THEN 121 WHEN 31 THEN 122 WHEN 32 THEN 123 WHEN 33 THEN 124 WHEN 34 THEN 125 WHEN 15 THEN 126 WHEN 26 THEN 127 WHEN 24 THEN 128 WHEN 22 THEN 129 WHEN 3 THEN 130 WHEN 5 THEN 131 WHEN 17 THEN 132 WHEN 27 THEN 133 WHEN 12 THEN 134 WHEN 16 THEN 135 WHEN 23 THEN 136 WHEN 28 THEN 137 WHEN 25 THEN 138 WHEN 29 THEN 139 WHEN 21 THEN 140 WHEN 1 THEN 141 WHEN 18 THEN 142 WHEN 4 THEN 143 WHEN 35 THEN 144 ELSE 99 END ASC, `wp_oep_sb_program_details`.p_name
Featured CS & Software Engineering Programs
Arizona State University Engineering Science (MSE) in Software EngineeringVisit Site
Arizona State University Software Engineering (BS)Visit Site
Southern New Hampshire University Online BS - Computer ScienceVisit Site
Southern New Hampshire University Online BS in CS - Information SecurityVisit Site
Southern New Hampshire University Online BS in CS - Software EngineeringVisit Site
Purdue University Global AAS IT - Programming and Software DevelopmentVisit Site
Purdue University Global BS - Cloud Computing and SolutionsVisit Site
Purdue University Global BSIT - Programming and Software DevelopmentVisit Site
Grand Canyon University BS - Software DevelopmentVisit Site
Grand Canyon University MS - Computer ScienceVisit Site
Grand Canyon University MS - Software EngineeringVisit Site

THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN Southern New Hampshire University Online MS - Construction Management

Skills and Traits of the Successful Software Engineer

Many people can succeed in the software engineering field, but an inherent interest in both technology and engineering should exist since these are so fundamental to the career. In addition, there are many different types of jobs available in the field, and specific interests and passions may help drive a person’s career direction. According to Arkhitech, a solutions provider, and O*NET OnLine, some of the skills that could be helpful to a successful software engineer include:

  • Technical knowledge: Programming languages are constantly updated, as are the processes and technologies that make specific solutions viable. Staying up-to-date on new skills, technologies, and methods can result in more creative and focused solutions.
  • Attention to detail: Software engineers often need to oversee many different parts of an application, project, or system, meaning there is a constant need to be aware of how various aspects of an engineering project are symbiotic.
  • Being a team player: More often than not, a software engineer has to work as part of a team and ensure that a specific app or project continues down the pipeline toward speedy completion and implementation.
  • Problem-solving: Although there may be more than one solution to a problem, software engineers need to decide between the various alternatives and identify the overall best case use fit.
  • Creativity: Software engineers often need to devise new solutions to achieve the desired functionality, factoring in constraints, dependencies, and established best practices.

Software Engineer Role Requirements and Responsibilities

Those entering the software engineering field will be tasked with unique engineering responsibilities on the job and foreseeably in project management or in helping guide projects through the product release cycle. Understanding the processes of testing and feedback is also essential to the career.

According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology, software engineering, or a related field helps provide the foundational education for licensure. Classes such as engineering statistics, applied linear algebra, software engineering testing lay the foundation for future careers in software engineering. Some programs require a capstone project to enable students to synthesize their learning better and be more uniquely prepared to enter the career field.

Licensing for Software Engineers

Should software engineers be licensed? Many arguments exist about whether licensing is necessary for the field, mainly since software engineering is still relatively new.

In 1998, Texas was one of the states to make PE licensing of software engineers a priority. It began licensing through the use of a portfolio review. Completing a college degree, gaining work experience, and passing the appropriate engineering exams typically are the steps that software engineers need to take to become licensed.

In 2008, support for a licensing exam for software engineering began at the behest of the IEEE Computer Society and multiple additional organizations. That licensing exam – Principles and Practices of Software Engineering — became available in 2013 and is offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), which also provides other engineering licensing exams. In addition, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has a committee dedicated to monitoring and recommending changes in state law resulting in 30 states requiring licensure. However, NCEES discontinued this exam in 2019 due to a lack of participation and adaptation.

In 2022, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) offers the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) for college graduates and the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) Software exam for those with four years of experience. The PE Software exam is rigorous and lasts for eight hours, featuring a total of 80 multiple-choice questions. Results are usually available within eight to ten weeks following the examination.

In short, a candidate must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam upon graduating from an ABET-accredited BS in software engineering program (some states still allow candidates with other degrees or even no degree to sit for the exam). Then, after four years of relevant work experience, candidates can take and pass the Principles and Practices Exam of Software Engineering. Please note that the specific experience requirement varies by state.

As of January 2022, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits 27 online engineering programs, including software engineering and information technology.

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Software Engineer

Becoming a software engineer is somewhat straightforward, but there are variations in degrees pursued at the college level. Below is a list of common steps:

Step One: Graduate from high school (four years). Students are encouraged to prepare in high school by taking as many math, science, and programming classes as possible, including advanced or AP courses.

Step Two: Earn a bachelor’s degree (four years). Students can apply to several colleges offering software or computing engineering degrees.

For example, Middle Georgia State University offers a 120-credit online bachelor of science in information technology specializing in software engineering. Students in this program must earn a grade of C or higher in all courses. The core curriculum includes 42 credits in precalculus mathematics, lab science, public speaking, and human-computer interaction. In addition, students can choose from nine concentrations, including software engineering, web applications development, and networking technologies and administration.

  • Location: Macon, GA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: ABET
  • Tuition: $114 per credit (in-state); $307 per credit (out-of-state)

Step Three: Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam (timeline varies). The FE Exam offered by NCEES is the preliminary exam all engineering licensure candidates must take. In addition, some undergraduate programs include preparation courses for the FE exam, which students can take before or after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering.

Step Four: Earn work experience (four years). To qualify for the PE credential, applicants must earn four years of professional engineering experience under the supervision of a licensed PE. Study guides and courses are available to prepare for this exam.

Step Five: Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Software exam (timeline varies). Those seeking the PE Software credential need to graduate from an ABET-accredited program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, gain at least four years of experience (varies by state) in the field working under a PE, then pass the PE exam in their specific engineering discipline – in this case, software engineering. Professionals are encouraged to contact their state’s board of engineering to learn more about state-specific licensing requirements for software engineers in the state where they plan to work.

Step Six: Earn a master’s degree (optional; two years). If your undergraduate degree is in a different field from software engineering, or if you wish to deepen your software engineering knowledge and hone your skills away from the workplace, consider a master’s degree in software engineering.

For example, Arizona State University offers a 30-credit online master of science in engineering in software engineering (MSE). This program requires ten courses offered over 7.5 or 15-week classes. This degree program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, software engineering, or a related field.

Core courses include software verification and validation and testing; software project, process and quality management; software engineering principles and concepts; and a portfolio capstone course. Graduates from this program pursue careers in senior managerial and executive roles and optimize and streamline software processes.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $1,022 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Software Engineer?

As illustrated above, the length of time it takes to become a software engineer depends on a student’s background knowledge and commitment to completing their coursework. However, a focused student on a direct path to a software engineering career can become a licensed software engineer approximately eight to 10 years after graduating from high school.

To learn more about online software engineering degree programs, please visit our page, which outlines a complete list of different types of online degree programs.

Related Articles

Cybersecurity Engineering Certifications (Cyber)

Traditional forms of education are still important, but they can’t keep up with the rapid pace of cybersecurity. As soon as one form of threat is neutralized, innumerable others are developed. That’s why employers and employees are both increasingly turning to the more nimble world of professional certifications.

Data Science Professors to Know

Data science, as described by University of California, Berkeley, involves the analysis and management of large quantities of data. The discipline requires professionals who can ask the right questions, chart out what information is needed, collect the data, and analyze it effectively.

Innovative Computer Science Professors

Meet several leading professors of computer science, and learn more about what makes them standout educators and innovators.

Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Software Engineering

Software powers a large part of today’s world. From hailing taxi cabs to ordering food, there is an app for everything. As a result, there is a growing demand for software engineers to develop new applications and websites.

Online Bachelor's in Business Data Analytics

An online bachelor's degree in business data analytics provides students with a strong foundation in data analytics and prepares them for a promising career in this burgeoning field. Students become well-equipped in data mining, data storage, and data analytics.