Between now and 2030, the field of software engineering and development is expected to grow by 22%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which translates to 1.8 million additional jobs nationwide and lucrative entry-level salaries. So if you’ve ever considered a job as a software engineer, there’s never been a better time to launch your career. 

Software engineering and development is the process of building out software applications, whether that be for a desktop, mobile, or smart home appliance. But there are several widespread misconceptions about software engineering, including what a software engineer does, what specializations fall under the umbrella of software engineering, and how their work does or doesn’t intersect with the work of software developers. 

Want to learn more about what software engineering is and how to launch your career as a software engineer today? Then keep reading.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineering, at its core, is a combination of computer software design and development. This group of professionals relies on strategic analysis, critical thinking, and industry-wide engineering principles throughout the development process. During a typical day, software engineers will:

  • Collaborate with product managers, designers, and data scientists

  • Design software based on user needs

  • Write code and computer languages

  • Test for software errors

  • Maintain software systems 

  • Manage software and web developers

Software Engineering Roles

Because the field is so vast, software engineers tend to specialize in different roles. Some software and programming skills, certifications, and job descriptions may sound the same, but these specialties each have their place in the engineering process. 

Front-End Engineer

A front-end engineer creates the interface, or how you interact and perceive an application, web page, digital platform, or computerized device. They are tasked with designing and building the look, feel, and experience.

Back-End Engineer

As the name suggests, these engineers deal with the framework, responsiveness, and maintenance necessary to keep the programming running and connected to the server. In other words, they handle what the user will not see. 

Full-Stack Engineer

These engineers do both front- and back-end development. Not only do full-stack engineers understand how to design and build systems, but they also work with scrum teams to test and maintain software.

QA Engineer

The most important aspect of any software is its functionality. Quality assurance (QA) engineers test the application or system before launch and keep track of errors, issues, or overall performance.

DevOps Engineer

DevOps engineers help integrate newer technologies, improve software operations, study and test system performance, and perform many non-coding functions.

Software Engineering Responsibilities

A software engineer can choose from two main fields, applications engineering, where software is analyzed and adapted to fit a user or company's needs better, and systems engineering, where the focus is on the growth and development of the software's technical capabilities.

Whether a software engineer focuses on applications or systems, there are three primary responsibilities or duties:

  • Operational Software Engineering: Engineers evaluate not only the responsiveness, reliability, and even the security of software systems or applications, but they also pay attention to back-end engineering issues and manage costs.

  • Transitional Software Engineering: When a system or application is migrated between platforms or devices, transitional engineers keep an eye on adaptability, portability, and the move's impact. 

  • Software Engineering Maintenance: As the name suggests, requires a set of eyes on the software or applications at all times, watching for flexibility, errors, updates, and anything that prevents the software from running correctly.

Software Engineer vs. Software Developer

These two job titles, developers and engineers, are often used interchangeably but actually denote different roles. A software developer typically focuses on adapting, writing, and fixing applications. Sometimes they're involved in a product or program's research, testing, and launch depending on their experience and knowledge of the project or technology.

Software engineers, on the other hand, are closer to upper management. They collaborate with development teams, perform software tests, and handle tasks like meetings and administration. In a survey of 443 software engineers, their non-coding and non-designing tasks took up 22.4 hours of a 41.5 hours week.

Becoming a Software Engineer

Many universities and state colleges have software engineering curriculums, web development, and software developers. But ultimately, you don't need a formal education. Here are four first steps to becoming a software engineer without a college degree:

  • Build your technical skill set by learning programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

  • Participate in coding boot camps that provide a crash course in open-source and other software skill sets like design, troubleshooting, and modifying code. 

  • Create real-world coding projects to demonstrate your knowledge of practical applications, which can help you get the attention of future employers.

  • Network with other developers and engineers to connect with mentors and industry professionals who can help guide your career journey.

Start Your Career as a Software Engineer

The University of Maryland Global Campus Software Engineering Bootcamp can train you to become a software engineer in under ten months. With this bootcamp, you’ll learn top-level programming code and job-ready programming skills, making you an expert on the most crucial engineering apps and tools. Sign up today for UMGC's 100% online, comprehensive, mentor-led Software Engineering Bootcamp.