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Software engineer: job description

Software engineer: job description

Software engineers are responsible for the complete life cycle of a new or modified software product, from research and design to implementation, training and support.
With enough experience and a strong portfolio it's possible to work on a freelance basis

What does a software engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

The skills of software engineers are called upon when operational problems are encountered with computer programs and applications.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • investigating current applications
  • liaising with users
  • producing specifications
  • costing new or modified systems
  • agreeing proposals
  • writing new software and operating manuals
  • testing the product to ensure that it operates satisfactorily
  • training users
  • handling support and feedback

There can be some pressure to meet deadlines, when extra hours may be required. Very good salaries can be commanded by those with relevant experience.

Typical employers of software engineers

  • Software companies
  • IT consultancies
  • Electronics, IT and telecommunications companies

They may also be employed by any organisation that uses computer systems. Self-employment is possible for individuals with several years' relevant experience.

Jobs are advertised by careers services and recruitment agencies and in local or national newspapers and in specialist publications such as TARGETjobs IT & Technology, Computing and Computer Weekly and their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

Most employers prefer graduates with a degree in a relevant subject such as computer science, software engineering, physics, mathematics or electronics. For graduates without computing experience or an appropriate qualification, a postgraduate IT conversion course can be useful.

Relevant programming knowledge is normally required, and many employers expect candidates to meet high standards in programming aptitude tests. Programming experience gained during placements and vacation work can also be of benefit.

Key skills for software engineers

  • Teamworking skills
  • Numerical and analytical skills
  • Ability to work to another’s design
  • Commercial awareness
  • Good communication skills
  • A thorough approach

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