What Are the Requirements for a Career in Software Engineering?

Software engineering can be a dream career for many.

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for getting started in this discipline—just visit our rankings for the Best Online Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Degrees and Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees to see some of the most prestigious ones.

But a career in this field is not for everyone. Here’s what you’ll need to be successful in the software engineering industry.

Personality Traits

Software engineering is rooted in mathematics. Students who do well in calculus, analytical geometry, and discrete mathematics tend to excel in this field. The ability to logically work through problems, consider many possible methods, and develop and implement solutions is essential.

As a software engineer, you may need to carefully sift through code line by line to find errors. You might be responsible for restoring a network system that’s costing your company money every minute that it’s down. You may need to work with clients who have specific and difficult demands for a new software product. For all these reasons, working in software engineering requires patience, precision, and excellent attention to detail.

Teamwork and collaboration are also important aspects of this field. In many cases, software engineers work closely with other computer specialists to create a final product. You may work with clients and employers as you develop new applications and computer systems. In some software engineering jobs, you may be responsible for interacting with the management and top executives of your organization. For these jobs, you’ll need to display strong skills in communication, presentation, and business writing.

Educational Requirements

There are some entry level jobs that will only require an associate’s degree. Job titles like computer support specialist, computer programmer, or database manager might be in reach with a two-year degree.

Keep in mind, though, that you’ll typically earn much less with an associate's degree than you will with a bachelor’s degree. The average employee with an associate’s in a computer science field has an expected early career salary of $39,444. Compare that to graduates of a bachelor’s degree program, who have an early career salary of $73,469.

Most employers are looking for at least a bachelor’s degree when they hire a software developer. There are some instances where equivalent work experience or on-the-job training might be enough to circumvent the bachelor’s degree requirement. In general, however, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or a related field is a wise investment.

Some job titles in the software engineering industry will require a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. This is especially true for highly specialized roles such as computer information scientist, which requires experience in research methodology.

Certifications and Credentials

There are no formal licensure or credential requirements for most software engineering occupations. However, there are a number of professional certifications that will increase your competitiveness in the industry.

If you’re serious about your software engineering career, you may want to consider the following certifications: