A Development Software Engineering Career: Pros and Cons
Development software engineers are responsible for designing and testing software applications and systems. The following lists can offer you some considerations regarding the positive and potentially negative aspects of this career.
|PROS of a Career in Development Software Engineering|
|Field with high job growth (22% increase from 2012-2022 for all software developers)*|
|Flexibility: You can create video games, business applications and operating systems*|
|High salaries (up to $106,050 a year, on average for developers of systems software)*|
|Telecommuting and consulting could be an option*|
|Versatility: Software engineers can work in nearly any industry*|
|CONS of a Career in Development Software Engineering|
|Some travel might be necessary*|
|Job experience is preferred by most employers*|
|Outsourcing can affect employment opportunities*|
|Job injury risks associated with long periods in front of a computer (such as back problems, eye fatigue and carpal tunnel syndrome)*|
|Constantly changing industry requires staying abreast of new technologies*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Salary Info
Development software engineers use their knowledge of programming languages to design applications software, such as computer games and databases. They can also develop systems software for networking, security or database systems. If you pursue a job in this field, you might take part in all phases of the software development process. This might include assessing users' needs and product specifications as well as writing algorithms and selecting compatible hardware components. You could also test or debug new software. Additionally, you could be responsible for making sure that products are developed on time and under budget.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for applications software developers was $99,530, while systems software developers earned an average of $106,050 as of May 2014. Employment opportunities for both applications and systems software engineers were expected to increase 22% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society reports that many of these new jobs might be available in the aerospace and defense industries as well as the mobile and social networking applications markets (www.computer.org).
Career Skills and Education Requirements
To become a development software engineer, the minimum educational requirement is usually a bachelor's degree in a field such as computer or electrical engineering, according to the BLS. A major in computer science or math could also provide adequate education. However, some employers require that you have a master's degree. Many schools offer software engineering programs at this level with coursework designed to develop your critical-thinking and managerial skills.
Business and communication skills are also useful for development software engineers, since you could be required to consult with end-users to asses their system needs. If you want to work in such fields as medicine or finance, you might consider getting additional education or experience in these areas. Other traits and tasks necessary for software engineers include the following:
- Analytical skills
- Attention to detail
- Creative problem-solving abilities
- Manual and report writing
Jobs Posted by Real Employers
Development software engineers generally need anywhere from 1-7 years of experience to work in this field. You'll also need to be familiar with such programming languages as C++, Visual Basic, Python, Java and MatLab as well as Web-based languages to provide application or system versatility for mobile end users. Below are some examples of software engineering jobs posted during February 2012:
- A manufacturer in Denver, Colorado, was seeking a bachelor's degree-holder with 1-3 years of experience to test software used in medical devices. Applicants who have completed an engineering internship with a manufacturer are preferred.
- A medical device and pharmaceutical firm in Illinois was looking for a software engineer with a bachelor's degree in engineering and 5-7 years of experience in software design and development. Candidates with engineering-related credentials, such as IEEE, Six Sigma or American Society for Quality (ASQ) certification, receive higher consideration.
- An identity card company in Minnesota was seeking a software engineer with two or more years of experience building Web applications. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in math, computer science or a related field can meet minimum qualifications, but those with an engineering master's degree are preferred.
Standing Out From the Crowd
Since some employers prefer applicants who've completed internships, you might consider getting some of this hands-on training while enrolled in your bachelor's degree program. Many schools' computer science and engineering departments allow students to put their programming skills to use by placing them with employers, such as software development companies and consulting firms.
Earning voluntary certification is another way to make yourself stand out to future employers. The IEEE Computer Society offers the Certified Software Development Associate credential to entry-level software engineers who pass an exam. The organization's Certified Software Development Professional credential is for candidates with two years of experience and an advanced degree or four years of experience. Vendors, such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, also offer various levels of product certification that can showcase your familiarity with programming expertise for certain platforms.
Other Careers to Consider
The job of a development software engineer can require significant attention to detail, since one misplaced code could break an application. If you'd rather work in a more creative position or one that offers a more high-level management, there are other options in the technology field that might appeal to you.
If you'd like to pursue a technical yet creative career that could require only an associate's degree or professional certification, you might consider a job as a webmaster. Also called Web administrators or Web developers, these professionals are responsible for maintaining websites' content and accessibility. In this role, you might design a company website, make data available online or work with software engineers to convert an application to the Web. Like software engineering jobs, the BLS anticipated opportunities for Web developers would be plentiful. However, PayScale.com stated that the salary for this career wasn't as substantial, with a reported range of $29,968-$74,476 as of February 2012.
Network Systems Administrator
Educational requirements are also less extensive for network systems administrators. If you have experience installing and maintaining an organization's local area and wide area networks, you might find a job with only an associate's degree or certification, though a bachelor's degree in computer or information science is usually required. A 23% growth in employment opportunities was projected for network and computer systems administrators between 2008 and 2018, per the BLS. The average salary, though, was 26%-35% less than applications and systems software engineers.
While a software engineer might develop a database, as a database administrator, you could be responsible for managing how the data is stored, secured and used. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for database managers would increase 20% over the reporting decade. Some employers prefer database administrators who have an master's degree in information systems, although a bachelor's degree is sufficient for employment. Additionally, with several types of database applications in use, such as SQL, Domino and Oracle systems, you could need to either specialize in one manufacturer's database or strive to develop a functional knowledge of multiple types to stay competitive.