A Day in the Life of a Software Engineer

Want the lowdown the day of a software engineer looks like? Keep reading to find out about software engineer salary information and job duties.
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Nalea J. Ko has worked as a journalist in Hawaii, Los Angeles, and New York covering news and entertainment. She currently writes about tech, with a focus on coding. Nalea received her MFA degree in fiction from Brooklyn College and bachelor's in jou...
Updated on April 20, 2023
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  • About 1.3 million software engineers work remotely, freelance, or hold staff positions.
  • Employers across all industries need software engineers to monitor and fine tune software systems.
  • Software engineers write code, clean existing code, and fix web application and programming issues.
  • Software engineers also attend meetings, answer emails, and take phone calls — sometimes after hours.

Do you want to join the more than 1.3 million software engineers in the country? Many software engineers work in computer systems design, manufacturing, software publishing, management, and insurance, creating and maintaining computer systems and applications. Daily responsibilities and salaries for software engineers look different in each industry.

Continue reading to get an inside look at a software engineer's work life and learn more about how long it takes to get into tech.

What Is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers build and maintain applications based on company needs and user demands. They work in finance, retail, computer system design firms, manufacturing, and broadcasting to build products.

Software engineers have development skills and extensive programming knowledge, which helps them to see a product throughout the entire workflow process. The development process begins with the planning and analysis phase, in which software developers determine the need and requirements.

Then comes the design and developmental stage, where they create diagrams and sketches of the product. Software engineers must also test products, write code during the implementation stage, and deliver the product.

According to LinkedIn, which reviewed millions of software engineering profiles, this broad field includes about six specialties: embedded and application, front-end, infrastructure and cloud, machine learning and data science, mobile, and test and quality assurance.

Data engineers, mobile developers, web developers, and systems engineers fall under the umbrella of software engineering.

Software Engineering Bootcamps for You

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineers work on the client-side, server-side, or toggle between the two web development domains as full-stack engineers. Companies need software engineers to create solutions for games, mobile apps, network systems, and web applications.

Software engineers are there throughout the entire lifecycle of a product —from design, test, and implementation. They work with product managers, senior engineers, designers, and sometimes programmers to meet launch dates.

College and software engineer bootcamps provide tech students with specialized training to take specific roles in software engineering. A degree or coding bootcamp certificate prepares graduates for jobs as front-end engineers, back-end engineers, full-stack engineers, or data engineers.

Job duties vary by role. Front-end developers create the user interface on a website or application, whereas back-end developers handle the server-side components needed to load a webpage.

Tools for front-end developers include JavaScript and CSS libraries such as React and Bootstrap. Back-end developers use JavaScript, Python, PHP, and MySQL.

The Day-to-Day Responsibilities of a Software Engineer

Software engineers work across all industries — banks, broadcasting and media companies, gaming live streaming services, and government agencies. In every work setting, software engineers have similar day-to-day responsibilities that include:

Creating Software Solutions

In the private and public sectors, software engineers identify problems and build products that help businesses and fulfill customer needs. The development process begins with analyzing the data to create insights about new products.

Software engineers create instructions for computers which programmers create into code. Software solutions may offer amusement to people or provide real solutions to their problems. They may focus on building user-end applications or maintaining a company's computer systems.

Writing New Code and Editing Existing Code

Writing code remains an integral part of a software engineer's job. However, software engineers also fill their day meeting with team members, reviewing other people's code, and analyzing data.

Additionally, they build products they have never created before while adhering to a company's requirements. Software engineers also spend time debugging code.

Testing and Maintaining Applications

Tests help software engineers to see if products and applications work the way they should. Software engineers test products to make sure they do have bugs before the launch.

Software bugs not only can pose security risks, but they can be costly to companies. Software engineers follow three main testing methods: unit testing, performance testing, and maintenance.

Recommending Software Designs and Upgrades

Software engineers routinely monitor the performance and provide operational support to maintain a company's network systems and applications. Because of this, software engineers continually recommend and implement software and hardware upgrades.

They also identify any risks and make security recommendations, including software updates and improvements to security measures.

Getting Feedback From Stakeholders and Customers

Software engineers analyze customer needs and develop solutions to their technical issues. This may mean meeting with customers to get their feedback and design system requirements and making modifications as needed.

Software engineers also meet with executives at large corporations or small and mid-size enterprises to build products that benefit their businesses. They also partner with other engineers, product managers, and designers to troubleshoot problems or launch new products.

Maintaining Practices and Procedures

After delivering the software product to customers, software engineers continue to test, maintain it, and make fixes. Software engineers often train other employees about best practices and procedures to protect files and security information.

They also keep their teams on task to maintain the best practices throughout the development process.

How to Become a Software Engineer

Software engineers must learn to code, but they do not always need a college education. Software engineers may find a career after four years of college or less than a year in coding bootcamp. No matter their career route, job seekers need a curated portfolio to showcase their work to hiring managers.

Earn a Degree

Some employers may prefer software engineers with bachelor's degrees in computer science or a related field. Students enrolled in a bachelor's in computer science program study data structures, algorithms, and systems programming over about four years.

Online software engineering programs often feature accelerated graduation timelines thanks to shortened semesters and generous transfer policies. A bachelor's degree not only takes longer than a coding bootcamp but can also cost more.

That said, bachelor's degrees provide the foundation to enter a master's program in software engineering, while coding school credits usually cannot transfer to an accredited four-year university.

Attend a Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps teach aspiring software engineers how to code in months. Instead of the theoretical knowledge emphasized in college, software engineering bootcamps focus on hands-on training.

Students attend coding bootcamp in person or online, often graduating in as few as 15 weeks. Additionally, coding bootcamps offer access to recruiting events, resume help, interview prep work, and portfolio reviews — personalized career services not always available at colleges.

A coding bootcamp education may not always meet job requirements since it cannot provide the same intensive education.

Obtain a Certificate

Certificates for software engineering provide short-term training. What's the difference between bootcamps vs. certificates? Students can earn software engineering certificates in less than one year from community colleges.

Programs teach students programming basics: object-oriented programming, data structures and algorithms, web design and development, and database management systems. Certificates focus on engineering and technology, computer programming, and software engineering.

A certificate may suffice to get an entry-level job, especially for people with prior tech experience. However, companies may have a preference for degree-holders or bootcamp graduates.

Should I Become a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are great problem solvers. While some get discouraged trying to debug code, software engineers can spend hours or days pinpointing and fixing problems. Throughout the development lifecycle, software engineers draw on different abilities.

They work on development or support projects with teams, which require interpersonal communication skills, especially for senior developers who also train and educate up-and-coming engineers.

Software engineers love to code, and they do it a lot. They read and review code written by their co-workers, and they also create original code. The job also requires writing instructions that programmers translate into code.

Additionally, software engineers must attend backlog grooming meetings to prioritize tasks and do product support tasks, such as investigating logs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Software Engineering

How much do software engineers make?

Software engineers made a median annual wage of $110,140 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People new to the industry may make less. Consider that the lowest 10% of software engineers makes less than $65,210, although the top 10% makes more than $170,100.

No two industries pay software engineers the same. Software publishers pay these professionals the most, with a median annual salary of $124,050, while insurance carriers compensate software engineers with a median wage of $102,380 a year.

Is software engineering hard?

Yes, it can be difficult to learn if you do not have coding or a tech background. But people who have a knack for solving problems and have an aptitude for computers and math do well in software engineering. That said, more than 1 million people work as software engineers and excel at it.

With the right training at coding bootcamp or college, software engineering can be exciting, albeit challenging. Since tech continually changes, the profession requires constant learning to stay up to date and knowledgeable of hardware technologies and programming languages.

How long does it take to become a software engineer?

Becoming a software engineer could take 9-12 months or up to four years. Search your local job postings, and you will see that employers commonly prefer software engineers with a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology, engineering, or mathematics.

Senior-level software engineering positions may require that candidates have master's degrees. Coding bootcamps can also prepare people to become software engineers in less than one year, with career services that sometimes guarantee a job placement within 90 days.

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