Without a doubt the most lucrative and relevant degree to graduate with in today’s digital age, software engineering graduates and jobs are in high demand. These programmers are the building blocks of our world (literally building all the digital products we use on a daily basis), and their job is to use engineering principles to develop computer programs, software applications, and operating systems.
With the sky as the limit, narrowing down on a chosen field of interest would largely depend on your knowledge of programming languages. From large corporations that require specialized computer assistance to startups changing the landscape of our digital lives, software engineers are calling the shots in their job hunt.
What Do You Do in Software Engineering?
Writing code is their key responsibility, so knowledge of at least one programming language is necessary, though mastering multiple languages tend to be the norm as it increases their versatility. In addition to writing code, they also need to update code to ensure that programs are running smoothly and securely. By running tests to search for errors, they are then able to debug technical issues.
There are essentially two types of programmers:
1.) Applications programmers
Applications engineers focus on the end user’s needs, creating or adapting software and applications for businesses and organizations. Not defined to one type of operating system, their applications and programs could be for Android, iOS, Windows, etc. They’re also required to design, build, install, and maintain these applications and programs.
2.) Systems programmers:
Systems programmers build operating systems that the end user applications and programs depend on to perform. As such, they take on a more holistic approach to ensure that these applications function to their fullest.
Jobs Within Software Engineering
Your eventual decision on which developer position within software engineering you’d like to venture into is dependent on what programming languages you’ve accumulated.
1) Front-End Developer
A front-end developer oversees the way content is presented on mobile devices or a desktop; the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that is determined by the interface the front-end developer builds. An understanding of a variety of browsers and users is therefore of utmost importance. In essence, their job is to ensure that the user interface functions seamlessly and is also attractive for their users (think: look and feel).
Programming languages required:
2) Back-End Developer
If you enjoy working with data, back-end development offers just that. It’s the foundation of a website and a seasoned back-end developer would need a comprehensive knowledge of frameworks, design patterns, APIs, and databases. They do so by creating a data storage solution with a database, which is vital for all web applications. In addition to that, back-end developers have to ensure that applications are optimized for speed and efficiency. The ability to grasp and put together abstract concepts and complex logic is a must.
Most popular backend programming languages:
- C / C++
You can think of a full-stack developer as a combination of front-end and back-end developers, it’s an engineer who handles all the work of databases, servers, systems engineering, and clients. Utilizing their extensive understanding of building applications, a full-stack developer plans, manages and builds the software that these applications run on. A core requirement of the job is a deep mastery of logic to see where and how a successful solution lies.
- Programming languages for front-end and back-end developers
- Third-party library: ReactJS or Angular
- Database: MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, Oracle or SQLServer
- Servers: Apache, nginx or Linux
How To Get Into Software Engineering
A Bachelor's in Computer Science will provide the opportunity to learn several programming languages. It’s the perfect chance for potential software engineers to figure out what role they would like to explore upon graduation. On top of that, they also acquire a strong foundation in mathematics, necessary for understanding how to deal with objects that have distinct values—as well as computer organization and architecture, algorithms, programming and software design. If you’re looking to acquire more skills and certificates, a masters is a great option.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
As with any industry, internships are going to be a great way to chalk up experience and expand your network. Particularly for software engineering, internships give you the practical experience to start developing software and writing code for real products. Everything you’ve learned in university can be put to the test in your internship.
It might not be the first thing you associate with software engineering but creativity is actually very important. Problem-solving isn’t always clear cut and requires some thinking out of the box to come to the most efficient answers. A big part of that would be to possess critical thinking and analysis - recognizing patterns and analyzing data requires a strong and focused thinker. Lastly, you’re going to be collaborating with people from all different types of backgrounds and teams. To ensure that you build an application or operating system that meets their needs and one they understand, you need to be able to communicate with them in basic and easy to understand means.
Starting salaries for fresh graduates in Berlin generally range from ~40.000€ in small companies and startups to 50.000€ in bigger companies. With some experience under your belt you can then quickly increase this to around 60.000€ if you bring >2 years of experience to the table.
Tips & Tricks
Work on projects
Still in university? You can choose courses with a lab component to work on a project and apply what you’re learning concurrently. If you like more flexibility (or are already out of university) and want to pursue developing or improving a particular application, you could start your own project to tackle an issue you’re facing or see a gap in the market for.
Get into a startup
The beauty of interning at a startup is the autonomy and cross-functional opportunities you’ll be exposed to. Early-stage startups might even give you the opportunity to work directly with a CTO, an extremely valuable experience for any undergraduate. It’s a high stakes environment but oh so rewarding as long as you’re driven and motivated. But if you’d like to develop skills in a lower risk environment, IT departments in corporations are perfect for your growth. You’ll be surrounded by more senior colleagues who have a wealth of information and advice to impart onto you.