Software engineer: job description

Software engineer: job description

Software engineers get involved in almost all aspects of new or modified software products, 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 of the job 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 and extra hours may be required to do this. 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 online and by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into software engineering for both graduates and school leavers.

Graduates typically need 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 beneficial.

An increasing number of software engineering apprenticeships are on offer. These lead to different levels of qualification; some include studying part time towards a degree.

To find out more about getting into IT and technology via a school leaver route, visit the IT and technology section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

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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