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Software Engineer

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Career Overview

As amazing as computers are, they can't think for themselves. They are only machines that follow orders - orders designed and tested by software engineers. From smartwatches to air traffic control systems, it's software engineers who are the backbone of all the good things computers bring to our lives.In order to design and develop computer programs, software engineers utilize techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis. So if you think you'd be interested in this as a career, you'll need to be good at math and be an analytical problem-solver.Since most computers exist to solve problems in human lives or to make tasks easier, software engineersusually being their project by analyzing the purpose of the program. Does it need to do calculations for stock investments? Automate temperature and humidity adjustments in a home? Once they understand the goal, they can begin to design and construct the software that ensures a computer will meet those needs.A software engineer could also write the actual code for a program, although in larger organizations or with larger software projects, the task of writing the actual lines of code is usually the responsibility of a computer programmer.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
National
$67,990
125,890
13.1 %
Virginia
$82,180
3,720
 

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Associate Degree in Computer Science or related field Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or Mathematics

Many programmers require a bachelor's degree, but a 2-year degree or certificate may be enough for some positions. Knowledge ofa variety of computer systems and technologies is a plus. A master's degree is preferred for some positions, and keeping up to date with the latest technology is always a good idea to improve your chances for career advancement.

 
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Valued Traits & Abilities

Analytical Skills
Communication Skills
Computer Skills
Creativity & Innovative
Detail Oriented
Problem-Solving Skills

Career Opportunities

Computer software engineers can generally be divided into two categories: applications engineers and systems engineers.

Computer Applications Software Engineers

These engineers focus on the computer programs and applications that individual people or companies utilize. Depending on the purpose of the program, they'll need to be fluent in programming languages like C, C++, Java and Python. Computer applications software engineers could work on creating or adapting packaged software, or on developing databases.

Computer Systems Software Engineers

Within a larger company or government agency, this is the person who coordinates allthe computer systems. They oversee things like ordering, inventory, billing, and payroll recordkeepingand make suggestions about how to improve system security or efficiency. They also might set up intranets and they could be involved in system security.

Work Environment

If you become a software engineer, you'll probably work in an office or laboratory and have a 40-hour work week. Depending on your role, you may work with customers and collaborate with coworkers from different departments. And if you work for a vendor or consulting firm, you may travel often to meet with customers.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013