How to Lean in and Become a Software Developer

How to  Become a Software Engineer
Created by CakeResume

Software engineers use computer languages to design software, solve software problems, or maintain computer applications. Their daily activities include constructing, modifying, and testing programming languages to ensure applications meet users’ needs. They often work closely with quality assurance specialists, software developers, or product managers. 

Software engineer job qualifications and requirements often contain education in certain fields, such as a bachelor’s degree in computer, math, or science. Essential programming languages one needs to master to become a software developer include C++, Java, and Python.

The terms “software engineers” and “software developers” are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference between them: software engineers use engineering knowledge to build programs and applications, while developers focus more on the design and implementation of software programs.

In general, software engineers' duties encompass more tasks and software problem-solving and thus are usually better paid.

❓ Is it hard to become a software engineer? 

Yes and no. The crucial thing is planning and motivation. To become a software engineer from scratch, consistency, and persistence are crucial. It takes lots of practice, problem-solving, and steps to become a software engineer.

Education Required for Software Developers

Do you need a degree to be a software engineer? Not necessarily. But you need some education in the field for sure. But what does one need to study to become a software engineer? 

There are three main ways to earn meet the software engineer education requirements for the job market: coding bootcamps, college degree, and self-directed learning certificate.

📍 Software Engineering Certificates

When hiring managers look for software engineers who meet qualifications for the job, certificates can clearly voucher for your skills and knowledge. Certificates are also important for people who want to become software developers without a degree. Software engineer certificates can even be considered the best supplements for your programming capability aside from education requirements.

📍 Software Engineering Bootcamps 

Coding bootcamps are short—usually less than four months—and intensive training programs that aim to help people develop job-ready software engineer programming skills. If you don’t meet the software engineer education requirements, attending programming bootcamps will be a good way to build strong knowledge and compete for an entry-level role. Bootcamps are like software engineer schools for those who don’t have a formal eduction on the subject. 

Even though bootcamps tend to gear toward web-based programming, you should still consider bootcamps as a way to turn to full stack developer and back end skills. How to become a software developer without a degree? Join a software engineering bootcamp!

📍 Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

An associate’s degree is certainly beneficial for students who want to have basic technical and academic knowledge to become software engineers in two years. 

An associate’s degree is most commonly offered in the U.S., but you can also see them in Hong Kong, Australia, the Netherlands, and some parts of Canada. You can usually find an associate's degree to become a software engineer in various types of colleges, such as community, technical, junior, and affiliated colleges as well as universities.

The curriculum typically covers network management, programming, and software applications. For instance, classes will teach web development using PHP and MySQL, data analytics skills, Python introduction, and discrete mathematics.

After finishing the associate degree, students can choose to either begin their career as a software engineer or continue their way and migrate into a bachelor’s degree.

📚 Further reading: ​​How to List an Associate Degree on a Resume [+ Examples]

📍 Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree that people who want to become software engineers have. Most bachelor’s degrees in computer science related subjects will equip you with structure design, advanced math, programming, and database management skills to help fresh graduates become software engineers.

📍 Master's Degrees in Software Engineering

Master’s degrees are generally welcome but not required to become a software engineer. It takes about 15-24 months to complete the program and will incorporate more focused and advanced classes like software engineering economics, open-source engineering, information assurance and testing, and software engineering principles. 

Depending on your previous experience, a master’s degree in software engineering might help you leap into managerial roles or become a senior-level software engineer.

📍 Doctoral Degrees in Computer Science

A doctoral degree in software engineering is certainly not an education requirement for most job roles and is less common in the work field. Yet, mega-companies might list a doctoral degree as an education requirement, especially if the company values software engineering research. 

Potential jobs for software engineer doctors include professors, researchers, or even entrepreneurs. Courses and dissertations in software engineering include data structures and algorithms, concurrent programming, distributed system design, and machine learning.

Software Development Experience Requirements

What experience do you need to become a software engineer? Depending on the company you are applying to and the role you are applying for, the answer may vary. 

Below are the most seen software engineering requirements for different experience levels:

🔎 Junior/Associate/Software Engineer I

Junior/Associate level or software engineer I usually have 0-3 years of engineering experience. Qualifications to demonstrate include proficiency in one or two languages, basic knowledge of a few other languages, and strong framework concepts.

A hiring manager usually asks for at least an associate's degree from a junior-level software engineer, even though most applicants would meet a bachelor’s or master’s education requirement.

🔎 Mid-level/Software Engineer II

Hiring managers typically list 3-5 years of experience as part of the requirements for mid-level software engineers. In addition, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science is preferred. At this point, applicants should have mastered 2 to 3 languages/frameworks/environments.

🔎 Senior/Software Engineer III

A senior engineer should have 5+ years of engineering experience and proficiency in multiple programming languages. Requirements that managers seek vary, but most managers are looking for a leader with outstanding communication, organization, and technical skills to guide the team.

Education requirements for senior roles welcome applicants with doctoral degrees, master’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. However, your professional history and practical experience also count.

How to Become a Software Developer

✅ Earn a degree.

Most software engineering jobs list a four-year bachelor's degree as a basic requirement. The college majors you should consider include software engineering, computer science, information technology, or computer and information systems. An associate’s degree may also help greatly on your road to becoming a software engineer.

✅ Gain internship/relevant experience.

Gaining practical experience is the most imperative step to becoming a software engineer. An internship experience will likely secure an entry-level software engineering role and provide you with invaluable skills.

✅ Choose a specialty.

Next, straighten out your coding career path. For different job paths, what languages and skills you’ll need to learn to become a software developer will differ. In addition, it’s time to choose an industry such as health care, FinTech, or cybersecurity.

✅ Get certifications.

Certifications are not software engineer requirements, but these documents can increase your job market competitiveness. A good selection of certificates will demonstrate your specialization and knowledge area. 

Software Engineer Certificates

  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
  • Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP)
  • Certified Software Engineer (CSE) by ICCP
  • AWS Certificate
  • Microsoft Azure Certificate
  • MySQL Oracle certification
  • C Programming Language Certified Associate (CLA)
  • CIW Web Development Professional

How to Become a Software Developer Without a Degree

As we mentioned before, there are other ways to become a software developer than getting a formal education. You can show the recruiter that you have the technical skills and knowledge of programming by completing bootcamps or earning certificates, among other ways.

Below are some basic steps to becoming a software engineer and apply for an entry-level job without a degree.

❗️ Participate in software engineering bootcamps. 

These accelerated programs typically take 12-24 weeks. A coding bootcamp will train learners in key programming languages and platforms. For people who want to become a software developer without a degree, bootcamps are valuable. 

They often have a more flexible schedule and teaching. You can choose to learn in-person or online. Some even offer one-on-one guidance.

💡Joining hackathons may also be an ideal way to prove your software engineer qualification.

❗️ Enroll in software engineering certification courses.

It’s hardly possible to run out of online coding materials. There are countless websites that offer free courses and guide you through what you need to study before you become a software engineer.

The best online software engineering certificate schools include:

  • Codecademy
  • code.org
  • Khan Academy
  • BitDegree
  • edX
  • Free CodeCamp
  • Coursera
  • Udemy
  • Skillshare 
  • Pluralsight
  • General Assembly

Many universities also partner with online education academies to offer degrees or certificates. It would be an ideal substitute for a degree to become a software engineer. 

❗️ Get a job in a related field.

Professional experience in the work field is highly valued for software engineer applicants. It is also one of the hardest steps to finally becoming a software engineer. You might not be able to work as a software engineer at first, but you can apply for an internship role or an assistant role in the technology information field.

💡 If you have joined bootcamps, reach out to them and ask for open opportunities. Apply for internships, volunteer as a software engineer, or help develop open-source projects. 

❗️ Build a strong portfolio with personal projects.

A portfolio best demonstrates your software engineer qualifications. To fill the gap of lacking education requirements, showcase your ability and passion for the job in your portfolio.

Start with topics that interest you and build your project to solve a problem or make a proposal. Document the problems you’ve encountered along the way and explain your thinking process.

Experienced software engineers will want to see your approach and rationale behind your results, and ask you to understand why you develop the application in a certain way.

📚 Further reading: All You Should Know about GitHub to Improve Your Resume

❗️ Ask for feedback on your code from professionals. 

Network with professionals. Senior software engineers might just be your best software engineer mentor and teach you how to become a successful software engineer. 

Most people would be glad to help offer you tips on steps, how-tos, what-tos, and how long it takes to become a software engineer lead.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and embarrass yourself. It’s one of the essential steps to grow, let alone if you want to become a software developer without a degree.

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--- Originally written by Wu Chao Min ---

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