Software engineering is a fast-paced profession that is no stranger to disruptions. In fact, the growing need for innovative technologies and increased complexity of software projects has driven the demand for skilled software engineers to an all-time high. As per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to witness a 22% growth in the coming decade, which is significantly faster than the 4% average of all occupations.
Software engineers with relevant experience and competencies can pursue positions of CTOs as well as AI architects. This sheer range of advancement opportunities makes the software engineer career path a rather exciting one to pursue.
To that end, we will explore the software engineer career roadmap in this article so you can upskill yourself according to the knowledge, expertise, and qualifications required for the different positions in the field.
Is Software Engineer a Good Career Path to Choose?
Here are the top reasons why a software engineering career path is considered to be incredibly rewarding:
- Job Outlook: Software engineering is a fast-growing field with a lot of career potential. As technology-based solutions have become the standard to overcome challenges in almost every industry today, the demand for software engineers in the foreseeable future is only expected to grow. The increasing dependency on smartphones and tablets will further drive the need for competent software engineers. It is estimated that by 2029, an estimated 316,000 job opportunities will be created in the domain.
- Median Pay: At $107,510 per year, the average base pay for software professionals is almost double the median pay of all other occupations combined (i.e., $53,490).
- Flexibility: Relevant technical expertise and skills can land software engineers a position in a diverse range of industries, from healthcare, IT, and retail to education, government, and defense sectors. This makes software engineering an incredibly flexible and broad field to pursue.
How to become a Software Engineer?
Here's how you can attain a competent position in software engineering:
- Set clear career goals
Software engineering is a vast field, and thus, it is imperative to focus on a specific sector. Having clarity with respect to your goals in software engineering and where your interest lies will narrow down the path before you.
- Complete formal education
An associate’s degree or diploma will be the starting point, but a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or Engineering is optimum. These will provide you the theoretical knowledge you need to design software and write algorithms.
- Supplement your knowledge
Educational books, professionals courses, and internship programs can help you enhance your knowledge base in software development and programming and get a ‘taste’ of the actual profession. It is also a good idea to exploit the benefits of sites like StackOverflow, CodinGame, and CodeWars to test your programming skills in the real world.
- Acquire an entry-level position
Remember, you will have to start at the bottom to reach higher. The important thing is to begin. You will most likely be in a junior position and rise through ranks over time. Entry-level positions offer ample opportunities to learn and grow professionally. What's more, you stand a chance to land a job at FAANG eventually.
- Identify your specialty
Broadly speaking, software engineers may either choose to pursue application development or software/systems development. A few specializations to consider are DevOps, web development, technical stack, and mobile app development.
- Pursue certification courses
It is important for software engineers to stay up-to-date with the latest programming tools and databases, and acquire proficiency in multiple programming languages to avail the many benefits a software engineer career path has to offer. A certification can help achieve this. Furthermore, it helps enhance your marketability and gain a competitive advantage in the market.
How to become a Software Engineer at FAANG?
FAANG refers to the top 5 tech giants—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Most technology stock experts also include high-end companies like Microsoft and Oracle in this set of companies. These prestigious organizations constitute the dream companies of most software engineers and with good reason too!
Apart from the unparalleled benefits with respect to stability, salary, and perks FAANG companies offer, software engineers also get the chance to impact millions of consumers and gain widespread recognition.
So how can you become a software engineer at FAANG?
- FAANG companies are hard-pressed for role-related competency and skills. Therefore, educational qualifications aren't the primary criteria to land a job at FAANG. However, a bachelor's degree in computer science would be the minimum consideration for most positions.
- It is important for candidates to gel with the kind of culture each of these companies is known for. For example, Google calls this Googley-ness, Amazon's culture prefers hungry learners, and so on.
- As discussed, the right knowledge base is important to become a software engineer at FAANG. This means an in-depth understanding of system design/architecture, libraries, frameworks, and coding prowess. Therefore, read blogs and books, haunt top coding forums, and practice algorithms as much as possible.
- Make sure to develop excellent communication skills to effectively interact with your interviewers.
- Interview prep is a must. Familiarize yourself with the interview process of the various companies and prepare yourself accordingly. FAANG interviews are extremely challenging and demand your best performance. They consist of a minimum of 3 rounds of phone, onscreen, and onsite management-based or technical interview sessions, during which you interview with a recruiter, technical engineering manager(s), and directors/VPs. Have patience as the selection process can be extensive and can last for weeks or even months.
The degree you require to become a Software Engineer
Here's listing the various degrees that can help you acquire different roles in software engineering based on your goals:
- Associate’s Degree—
Goal: To get exposure or test the profession
An associate’s degree in computer applications takes two years to complete. Students usually pursue an associate's degree to figure out if the software engineering field aligns with their interests and to learn fundamental engineering concepts without committing to a four-year bachelor's program. An associate's degree provides you the fundamental knowledge of subjects such as Web Application Development, Operating Systems, Networking, and Database Management Systems.
- Bachelor’s Degree —
Goal: To become an entry-level software engineer
A bachelor’s degree requires four years to complete and is the bare minimum degree to obtain an entry-level position in the software engineering industry. It is for people having no background knowledge of computer technology or computer science. You can pursue a bachelor’s degree in any one of the following disciplines:
- Computer Applications
- Computer Science
- B.Tech/B.E in Software Engineering
- Master’s Degree—
Goal: For software engineer career growth; to take on integral responsibilities on large-scale projects or secure a position in management.
Depending on the college or university, a master’s degree takes 2-3 years to achieve. You can pursue a master's degree in any computer or software-related field. Mathematical modeling, software design, system architecture, software testing are a few areas that are covered in a master's program.
Goal: To pursue a career in research or academia
A Ph.D. spans 4 years and requires experience and competency before you can apply for it. You can pursue a Ph.D. in computer science or software engineering. It is usually taken up by students who wish to become professors or apply technical knowledge and experience towards research and development.
If you are looking for an affordable alternative and wish to learn at your pace, acquiring expertise as you go, certification courses and diplomas would be the ideal choice.
Software Engineer Career Growth Cycle
The hierarchy in the software engineer career path is rather similar to other professions. You enter in a junior-level position, advance to senior-level positions, eventually move on to leadership or management roles, and finally secure an executive-level position.
At every stage, you are required to possess a certain level of experience. However, the experience factor can be omitted in some exceptional cases, especially if the candidate is able to demonstrate the relevant qualifications and skills required. It is a good idea for software engineers to request a qualification assessment to close the experience gap and get promoted faster.
However, in a typical scenario, what is the career path for a software engineer? Let's take a quick look:
- Jr Software Engineer
As an entry-level position, you don't need prior experience to become a junior-level software engineer. On average, people can spend 1-3 years in this role which prepares them for a senior position.
Base Salary: ₹139k–494k per year
- Sr Software Engineer
This position usually requires a minimum of 3 years of experience; six years would be ideal. However, if you have an advanced certification or a master’s degree, you can achieve it faster. You would also need some teaching or instructor-based skills to be the ideal candidate.
Base Salary: ₹490k–1.9M per year
- Tech lead
A master’s degree would cut down the time, and more certifications would undoubtedly help to attain a leadership position. However, it would take at least 5-10 years to get to this position. Usually, a tech lead needs to possess and showcase leadership qualities and project management skills. If you have a project management qualification, you would be a preferred candidate for the job. However, other qualifications mentioned above are still pivotal.
Base Salary: ₹702K–₹2M per year
- Software Engineer Manager
Once again, this position depends on the technical competency and role-related knowledge base of a candidate. It takes anywhere around 8-15 years to become a software engineer manager. Even though a master's degree can increase your chances of success, you would need to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of applicable technologies, proficiency in multiple programming languages, and effective leadership and management skills.
Base Salary: ₹1.7M–4.7M per year
- CTO or Chief Technical Officer
From leading the technology or engineering departments to setting long-term goals and policies for a company, a CTO has many roles to play. It requires over 15 years of experience and high-end expertise. If you have been part of a start-up, you might acquire this position faster.
Base Salary: ₹720k–7.3M per year
Note: It is common for companies to have additional job roles apart from those mentioned above. In any case, every succeeding makes software engineers eligible for a salary hike of 25% to 100% (1.25 to 2x current salary).
What is the difference between a Software Engineer and a Software Developer?
Software engineering is a vast field that covers everything related to software development. Therefore a software developer is a software engineer with a unique specialization. However, a developer wouldn’t need a full-fledged degree. They can acquire a diploma or an associate’s degree to work as a developer.
Software Engineer Career Developer options
The rise in usage of products that run on software has led to a demand for software developers in a diverse range of domains. From web development and desktop services to creating mobile applications and video games, there are opportunities everywhere. Companies are also increasingly investing in security software to protect their networks from malware attacks.
Let's look at a close look at a few types of software developer roles:
- Frontend developers
Frontend developers are responsible for the visuals and interface of any project. They code various interactive features and designs to make platforms more appealing. The primary focus is on how users interact with a platform. UI and UX are the primary components of client-side web development. The qualifications required to become a backend developer include a UI and UX Certification or degree and possibly an associate's designer degree or diploma. It also requires proficiency in one or more of the following languages:
- Backend developers
Backend developers work on the core of any platform to provide it a stable infrastructure. It involves server-side scripting, coding internal functions, and logic on which an application is based. In simple words, backend developers make the program or app work.
To ensure a rewarding backend software engineer career path, you will need to cover several of these languages:
- Web full-stack developers
A full-stack developer is a combination of a frontend and a backend developer. A full-stack developer is essentially a full-fledged web developer who works on both the client-end and the server-end.
To be a full-stack developer, you need in-depth understanding and competency in one or more of the following programming languages or frameworks:
- Linux Servers
- Mobile developers
A mobile developer is a branched-out and more specific version of a full-stack developer. They provide app development services for mobile platforms like smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices. They primarily work on iOS and Android operating systems using the following app development frameworks:
- Kotlin / Java (for Android), or
- Swift /Objective-C (for iOS)
- Game/Graphics developers
The gaming industry is booming, especially with the advent of new (next) gen consoles in the market. The game developer role has a programming aspect and a designing aspect. Therefore, interactive game development requires expertise in the following development frameworks:
- C/C++ and Java
- Swift for iOS gaming
- GPU Graphics
- Unity 3D
- Data developers
Also known as Data Scientists, they focus on statistics, data analytics, configuration, and initiation. Often, the job post involves working with machine learning, predictive modeling, and AI possibilities. It requires an understanding of mathematical concepts like Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and so on. Data engineers work with the following technologies:
- Python Or R
- Data Science Toolkits Numpy, Pandas, SciPy, Scikit-learn
- Hadoop, Hive, Big Table, Cassandra, and other big data techs
- DevOps developers
DevOps engineers require knowledge of Agile methodologies to decrease the life cycle of software deployment. The job includes a combination of software development and management tools to deploy new high-quality applications and upgrades. DevOps are quite versatile and can fit various job profiles. Often, it is a team-based endeavor. From frontend to backend, there is a vast range of skills required to become a DevOps engineer:
- Linux Fundamentals
- Application Building and Testing
- Automation tools- Jenkins, TeamCity
- Management configuration - Docker, Ansible
- Cloud service
- Apache Mesos
- Web Developer
A web developer's job is a combination of frontend, backend, full-stack development. However, their work strictly pertains to websites. They either create websites from scratch or use existing tools, databases, and libraries to do so. They are not responsible for server maintenance. The job requires competency in one or more of the following programming languages and frameworks:
- Cyber Security
A security developer works on reinforcing the security of the platform they are assigned. Their job involves locating bugs, errors, and potential security leaks in an application. A security developer must be able to think like a hacker to prevent security risks.
- Security Incident Handling & Response
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
- Analytics & Intelligence
- Firewall/IDS/IPS skills
- Advanced Malware Prevention
- Embedded systems software engineers
Embedded systems software engineers are responsible for integrating devices and machines with software engineering. It requires controlling non-computer devices using microprocessors and programming tools. Embedded systems software engineers usually work with automotive technology in manufacturing, medicine, and aviation, among other fields. They require knowledge and expertise in the following domains:
- Data Science
- Tools And Enterprise
The skills required for all of the above job roles are apart from the minimum degree requirement. People usually acquire additional skills to drive software engineer career growth.
Brush up your Coding Skills with Structured Software Coding Courses
With technological disruptions so common these days, software professionals that can leverage competency in innovative software solutions are better-positioned to attract potentially rewarding prospects. For an optimum software engineer career roadmap, a structured software coding course that would prepare you holistically for a FAANG organization would be the ideal approach to stay ahead of the competition. It would provide you the skill set needed to climb the ladder of success.
There hasn't been a better time than now for coding engineers to invest in upskilling themselves in order to pursue exciting career opportunities. So, you might as well go for it!