Which Software Engineering Trends Are Worth Studying in College?

Studying these five emerging software engineering trends in college may put you ahead of the curve and benefit your career.
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Evan Thompson is an education and careers writer with BestColleges. He was previously a journalist with bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, and Everett Herald. His beats have included education, sports, business, outdoors, and lifestyl...
Published on November 16, 2023
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  • Ruby on Rails skills and high NLP engineer salaries are among five emerging trends.
  • Some colleges and universities provide skills to meet the demand for these trends.
  • The career outlook is positive for software engineers' job growth and earning potential.
  • Software engineers and related careers earn annual median salaries of $92,458-$127,260.

It's never a bad idea to keep an eye on software engineering trends. They can be a sign of progress, a new skill employers are looking for, or a potential career path.

Cloud computing is one notable example. The concept of cloud computing started in the 1960s. The idea was to use a unified system of computers to increase access to large-scale computing power. But it's evolved quite a lot since then, surging in popularity in the early 2000s.

Today, cloud computing refers to web and software services that users can access over the internet. It's at the heart of everyday activities such as email, media streaming, and shopping.

Cloud computing is revolutionary. For businesses, cloud computing saves money, increases flexibility, and optimizes efficiency. For software engineers, it provides on-demand access to the latest programming and software technologies.

Cloud computing's surge in popularity has led to a rise in cloud computing jobs. Students can major in cloud computing at colleges and universities or pursue more short-term options such as bootcamps.

The concept of cloud computing took more than 30 years to catch on, but it's changed the field forever. New trends are popping up every day. Besides cloud computing, which other software engineering trends are worth studying in college?

5 Software Engineering Trends to Watch in 2024

The following are notable software engineering trends you may encounter in a degree or bootcamp program that could be beneficial for your career.

1. Ruby on Rails is a growing skill

Ruby on Rails is the most in-demand skill for software engineers, according to Hired's 2023 State of Software Engineers Report. Engineers proficient in Ruby had 1.64 times more interview requests from employers than the marketplace average.

Ruby on Rails is a popular framework and scripting language. Institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and Auburn University use Ruby on Rails to build computational literacy in certain programs.

2. Natural Language Processing engineers earn high salaries

Natural language processing (NLP) engineers were the top-paid software engineers in Hired's report, earning an average salary of $179,000. NLP engineers also had the highest yearly salary growth, increasing 10% from $163,000 in 2021.

Natural language processing refers to a computer program's ability to understand human language in spoken and written form. NLP is taught in many computer-related programs, from master's in software engineering degrees to artificial intelligence (AI) courses.

3. AI-driven workflows

More than 50% of software engineering leader roles will require an overview of generative AI by 2025, according to a 2023 report by Gartner, Inc. Generative AI refers to machine learning models that quickly generate content such as images, design elements, and test cases.

Software engineering teams can create and deliver applications faster using generative AI, boosting productivity. Generative AI is among the fastest-growing technologies taught in software engineering, AI, computer science, and other computer-related courses.

4. Shift to Open Source

Open-source software is a concept and practice of making program source code openly available. A 2023 report by Synopsys found that 96% of all code bases use open-source software.

Organizations use open source to build products and platforms quickly. Software engineers can adapt and build on top of software without needing to wait for a vendor. Many institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Indiana University, and Rochester Institute of Technology use open-source learning management systems, providing experience for students.

5. Next-generation software tools

Skills in next-generation software development tools are in high demand, according to a 2023 report by McKinsey. Job postings related to next-gen software development saw the most significant growth, 29%, from 2021-2022.

These new tools include modern code-deployment pipelines, automated code generation, and automated translation. These tools — and more — are commonly taught in computer programming courses.

Check Out These Online Software Engineering Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Job Outlook for Software Engineers

The career outlook for software engineering is positive. It's one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs in the tech industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Software developers earned a median annual wage of $127,260 in May 2022, far above the U.S. average of $61,900. The BLS projects jobs for software developers to grow 25% from 2022-2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

There are many types of software engineers. For example, cloud engineers handle cloud computing duties like data storage and infrastructure security. There are also front-end and back-end engineers who manage the visible and behind-the-scenes parts of a website.

The following is a list of popular software engineering careers and how much they pay.

How Much Do Software Engineers Make?

Software Engineer Careers and Wages
Software Engineering Career Wages and Salaries
Software Engineer $92,458*
Software Developers $127,260 (BLS)
Cloud Engineer $100,530*
Computer Programmer $97,800 (BLS)
Data Scientist $103,500 (BLS)
Sources: BLS, Payscale
*average annual salary via Payscale

What Degree is Best for Software Engineering?

Software engineering trends can impact your education. Several types of degrees can lead to roles in the software engineering field, so how can you tell which one is the right move?

A bachelor's or master's degree in software engineering is ideal. They're more likely to provide skills directly related to software engineering and meet the requirements for entry or mid-level positions.

Examples of Degrees for Software Engineering

Most Specific

Closely Related

For example, a bachelor's in software engineering is a degree program that provides skills to enter the software engineering field. These programs focus on foundational math, design principles, and other technical skills. They often require 120 credits and four years of study.

Degrees related to software engineering are also an option. Most software engineering jobs consider degrees like computer engineering, mathematics, and physics because they provide relevant skills in programming, mathematics, and other technical areas.

Frequently Asked Questions About Software Engineering

Do I Really Need a Degree to Become a Software Engineer?

Most software engineers have a formal degree, usually a bachelor's degree, according to a 2023 survey by Stack Overview. Of 67,237 professionals, 47% had a bachelor's degree and 26% had a master's degree.

But you don't always need a degree to become a software engineer. Many companies hire graduates from coding bootcamps or engineers who are self-taught. These forms of training can provide the necessary skills for entry-level roles as a software engineer.

Will AI Replace Software Engineers?

Software engineers are anxious about AI replacing them. But it's unlikely that AI will replace software engineers in the foreseeable future. Instead, AI will become a tool to speed up workflows and automate tasks that don't need a human touch. For example, software engineers use coding assistant tools like ChatGPT.

Do Software Engineers Work from Home?

If you prefer to work from home, you're in luck. According to jobs platform Turing, 86% of software engineers work remotely. Why? Software engineers don't need to be in person for many of their common tasks, such as reviewing code or solving problems on a web application.

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