What is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is the process of applying engineering principles to analyze the needs of a specific user and then design, build and test software applications which will meet those needs. Software engineering goes beyond the fundamentals of programming to create more complex software systems that can serve as critical systems for businesses and organizations.
Software engineers need to understand how to write software and how software and hardware interact. More than that, software engineers are big-picture thinkers who can have a range of responsibilities when designing a new system. A software engineer may:
- Meet with clients to understand what they need the software to achieve and the overall scope of work.
- Design the overall framework of a project to determine what type of computer languages may be used, how they will interact and how they will function given existing hardware.
- Work with designers, data scientists and project managers to support their processes and keep them aligned with the project’s goals.
- Assure quality by reviewing code, helping problem solve and ensuring that all the project elements are working as an effective whole.
Software Engineering Fields
Because a software engineer may wear many hats when creating a project, there are many fields of specialization in the industry. Some of the subfields of software engineering may include:
- Software Manager – Oversees team-driven software projects to ensure that tasks are completed, tested and meet the client’s needs.
- Software Architect – Designs strategies and the overall framework for software projects.
- Embedded Software – Writes the code necessary for machine-based software such as industrial robots, “smart” appliances and other non-computer devices.
- Modeling and Simulation – Engineers software capable of simulating specific processes or to model results based on vast quantities of data.
- Entertainment Systems – Engineers the embedded software that makes game platforms, smart TVs and other entertainment systems possible.
- Networking Software – Creates the operating systems that allow networked hardware systems to communicate with each other, ensure efficiency and troubleshoot problems.
As the world becomes increasingly connected, software engineers will be in demand to create the underlying systems that maintain those connections.
Software Engineering Industry Trends and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 22% increase in positions for software developers between 2019 and 2029, more than four times the growth projected across all occupations during that same decade.
And the following trends are among the reasons for this expected job growth:
Increased Automation – As more industries look to stay competitive and reduce labor costs, software engineers will be needed to design and improve the software platforms powering automation technologies.
- Big Data – A growing number of industries are using data science and big data to target customers, predict trends and speed innovation. Software engineers will be needed to create the systems capable of processing and utilizing that data.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML) – As technology is tasked to solve increasingly complex problems, industries are turning to AI and ML. Software engineers will be needed to create the software platforms for these intelligent systems.
- Cloud Based Systems – While physical storage systems can be finite, the cloud offers almost unlimited storage capacity and greater flexibility. Software engineers who can design and implement cloud-based systems will be in demand as more of our data moves to the cloud.
- Internet of Things – From cars to home appliances, more and more aspects of our daily life are networked into the “internet of things.” Software engineers who can design the software for these platforms will also be in high demand.
Choosing to pursue a software engineer career path promises challenge, excitement and opportunity for continual professional development.
Some examples of software engineer jobs include:
- Applications developer - App developers create desktop or mobile apps to perform a wide variety of functions, from banking and finance to social media to health and fitness. Depending on his or her skills and qualifications, an app developer can potentially earn an average yearly salary ranging from $68,000 to $84,000.
- Chief technology officer - A chief tech officer (CTO), or chief technologist, is an executive responsible for implementing technological systems that successfully support the business’ initiatives and objectives. The salary for a CTO can range anywhere from $80,000 to $238,000 per year.
- Computer and information systems manager - A computer and information systems (CIS) manager assesses, and makes recommendations regarding, the hardware and software a company uses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a yearly average salary of $141,000 for CIS managers.
- Cybersecurity manager - Cybersecurity managers coordinate projects that are designed to protect businesses from computer viruses, malware, data breaches, and other cyber attacks or security threats. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for a cybersecurity manager is over $95,000.
- Embedded software engineer - Embedded software engineering is a subfield of software engineering that specializes in machines other than computers, such as robots or calculators. Embedded software engineers are paid a yearly salary of over $79,000 on average, according to PayScale.
- Sales engineer - As its name suggests, this occupation merges elements of sales with those of engineering, such as interpreting and communicating data, conducting presentations, and analyzing needs for machinery or technology. The median pay for sales engineers is reported at approximately $98,000 per year.
- Software architect - In addition to establishing technical criteria for code and other components of software, software architects also set design strategies. Software architects are paid an annual salary of up to approximately $129,000 per year, depending on qualifications and experience.
- Systems developer - Systems development is a subfield of software development that focuses on program and app development. This occupation also involves duties such as software maintenance and testing. The average yearly earnings for a systems developer are around $62,000, according to PayScale.
- Video game designer - Video game designers coordinate various tasks and departments, such as testers and environmental designers, to ensure the quality of the finished game. They are responsible for managing factors such as plots, character design, and user interface. According to the Game Industry Career Guide, the yearly salary for a video game designer can range anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 or higher.
- Web developer - A web developer is a type of computer programmer who focuses on designing and updating websites. Depending on his or her qualifications, a web developer earns approximately $65,000 per year.
The median annual salary for a person with a Masters in Software Engineering is $100,000; however, geographic location, experience, and specialization can boost their earning potential.
By integrating a rigorous capstone project requirement with dual degree options, cutting-edge equipment, and a comprehensive curriculum, the Drexel MS in Software Engineering degree program empowers students to maximize both their academic and professional potential, gaining specialized knowledge and skills while building career opportunities in their chosen industries.
What Do You Learn in Software Engineering?
Students in Drexel CCI's MS in Software Engineering program will learn how to design software from the ground up, which may entail learning multiple programming languages and understanding how they can be integrated to create a complete system. Students may also need to learn human and computer interaction, information systems, as well as business skills like project management and leadership.
Software engineers may also find it helpful to study other disciplines, including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, to keep up with growing technology trends.
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