As technology evolves and becomes a bigger part of everyday life, so too does the need for technology professionals. Software engineers design and guide the development of programs that computers use to make life a little easier for the rest of us. Although self-taught programming skills can land you a job, formal education is the best way to achieve a job with more design responsibilities and higher pay.
Earn a degree in software engineering or a related field. Most software engineer positions require a bachelor's degree. Majoring in software engineering will provide the most useful background for designing and perfecting software in the corporate world. Computer science is another good choice, although its more theoretical approach is best suited for future graduate students and R&D work.
Begin programming immediately. Even if you're still in grade school, you can give yourself a huge head start by teaching yourself programming. Software engineering is not focused exclusively on coding, but you will need to know at least a couple languages, and a deeper understanding of how they function. There is no widespread agreement on which languages are most useful, but these are all popular choices:
Study math. Software engineers sometimes create the mathematical algorithms that allow software to function. Focus on developing and maintaining your math skills in order to do your best once you've obtained a position as a software engineer.
Discrete mathematics is a particularly useful area of study, as is any math course that involves software.
Build software. The best way to improve your skills is to use them. Whether professional projects or personal, designing and coding software will teach you a great deal. For many employers, hands-on achievements matter more than GPA or theoretical knowledge.
Seek an internship. Many software engineer students work as interns while they complete their studies. This can be an excellent way to gain hands-on training and network with potential employers. Look for internship opportunities through job posting websites and networking.
Find job opportunities. Software engineering is a rapidly growing field. You have a good chance of immediate employment, although you may start as a programmer and work your way up to software development. Start searching before your degree is up:
Colleges often help their alumni obtain a position. Talk to your professors, department staff, and the career services office about finding job opportunities.
A large percentage of jobs happen through networking. Use your personal contacts, and meet people in the field through career meetups and conferences.
Check job search websites regularly. Create a profile and post your resume to professional sites and use them for networking as well as job applications.
Consider your career goals. The software industry is always changing. Keep up by improving your knowledge and practical skills, and you'll have many chances to shape the direction of your career. Here are a few ways to improve your job prospects:
Join a professional organization for networking opportunities.
Consider a Master's degree if you have long-term plans in the field. While not a requirement for most positions, a Master's greatly improves your chances to work for an industry leader, in a management position, or in embedded software.
Certification can be useful in some sub-fields and regions, but may decrease your desirability in others. Talk to other engineers in your area of expertise before you enroll in one of these programs.