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How to become a software engineer

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

There’s never been a better time to pursue an ICT career – with industries and their markets growing ever-more digitised by the year, each at a more rapid rate than the last. 

Digital applications and platforms are now playing a vital role in business growth and marketing, as companies rely on a multitude of software programs and services to maintain and improve operational efficiency. 

As such, the need for software engineers isn’t waning anytime soon – with the field offering plenty of career opportunity for those with the right skills, qualifications, and innovative drive. 

SkillsTalk dive into the details of a software engineering role below; including the daily duties of the job, its importance in modern business, current industry trends, and the best pathways for launching a career.

What is software engineering? 

Software engineering is the practice of analysing user needs and building, testing, and maintaining effective software to meet these needs. Professionals apply traditional engineering principles – such as ethics, integrity, testability, and maintainability – to the software development process, creating safe, reliable, and innovative digital systems (used to run devices or control entire networks) or individual programs.

In contrast to simple programming tasks, software engineering is commonly used for larger, more complex projects that play a critical role in a business’ systems or operations. These professionals thus usually work within teams, liaising with stakeholders and other IT experts to determine user requirements for specific systems. 

Of course, extensive knowledge of programming languages is vital to succeed in this role, including commonly-used languages such as Java, C++, and Python. 

Software engineers can be found in a vast range of industries, as plenty now rely on various software systems, platforms, and applications to successfully run and market their business. According to Job Outlook, the need for software engineers can be found across the scientific and technical services field; among financial and insurance services; and in the field of public administration and safety.

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of a software engineer? 

woman software engineer working on desktop computer

The role of a software engineer is a highly collaborative one. These professionals spend much of their time working with software designers and programmers to determine the functions and performance of a new system, program, or software update. They play a crucial role in the process of software creation – helping map out various programming tasks, automated elements, graphical interfaces, and assisting with testing and maintenance procedures.

Software engineers thus oversee the entire lifespan of a new software product – contributing their expertise from the early planning stages right through to the development, testing, and support stages. 

They may also be divided into two categories: applications engineers and systems engineers. The former focus on designing, building, and maintaining digital applications for businesses; while the latter concentrate on the development, support, and growth of a business’ computer and network systems. 

Aside from developing new programs or systems, these professionals also regularly assess existing software; identifying any apparent bugs or concurrent issues. They then highlight any opportunities for improvement, making recommendations for improving application design or efficiency to the rest of the software team. Additionally, they frequently keep up-to-date with new tools and technologies, and apply them wherever relevant. 

What skills or experience does a software engineer need?

To succeed in the field of software engineering, one primarily requires an in-depth knowledge of algorithms, data structures, and various programming languages – as well as keeping this expertise up to date. According to StackOverflow, software engineers are often seen as “lifelong learners”; constantly updating their skills with new languages, frameworks, and savviness with new digital tools.

While those aspiring the field can find employment through technical competency alone, formal qualifications will often grant you a distinct, competitive edge on the job market. In fact, Job Outlook statistics show that most software or applications programmers, at the very least, hold a VET qualification.

Consider taking a course or two to help your skills stand out among other applicants. Pursuing this vocational pathway is also an ideal option for beginners with little to no skills or experience – helping launch you into entry-level industry roles or even on a path to higher education.

A ICT50718 - Diploma of Software Development, for example, can help you get started on the basics of software creation and the issues of ethics, privacy, and copyright within an ICT environment. Students will typically equip themselves with crucial skills in HTML, CSS, and Javascript; software project management; testing, debugging, and reviewing processes; and creating digital applications for the cloud. Those who successfully attain this qualification may then pursue entry-level roles in software, web, or application development.

Additionally, successful software engineers are commonly expected to have soft skills in communication and collaboration, as much of their tasks require a heavy amount of teamwork. Excellent analytical and reasoning skills are also highly-regarded, as these can help them in managing risks, visualising outcomes, and solving complex problems.

Current industry trends in software engineering

software engineers working

The software engineering field is currently a large one (holding an approximate 135,000 workers), having experienced “very strong” growth in the past five years, with further, rapid growth expected to come. According to Job Outlook data, the amount of workers in the software and applications programming field rose from 80,200 in 2014 to a whopping 135,000 in 2019.

SEEK statistics predict plenty more job opportunities in the coming years, with a projected 23.4% industry growth by 2025. 

Those entering the software engineering field for the first time can expect a typical salary of around $61,000 AUD – though as their experience grows, Payscale data shows the potential of earning between $88,000 and $104,000 AUD. The average software engineer currently earns $78,125 AUD per year, or $31.19 an hour. 

Employment opportunities can be found all across Australia, with New South Wales and Victoria holding the largest share of workers. Most work full-time with an average of 41 hours per week. 

Looking to pursue a software engineering career?

With the ICT field set to grow to a high of 758,000 workers in 2023, and the Computer System Design field expected to experience the largest growth – there’s never been a better time to pursue a software engineering career.

As mentioned, a ICT50718 - Diploma of Software Development is an ideal starting point for anyone aspiring to the profession. Students can sharpen their knowledge of basic concepts while building on their practical experience in software creation. With Upskilled, you can also pursue this course completely online – helping tailor your studies according to your personal needs and schedule.

Enter the exciting world of ICT and software engineering today with Upskilled!
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