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How to Become a Software Engineer

Software Engineer Career Paths

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Software Engineer career paths give professionals in this field a choice between focusing on programming, leaning on their knowledge of the software development cycle and soft skills to lead a software development team, or choosing other specializations such as mobile, big data, or computer systems security.

The most linear and straightforward career path in software engineering might see someone begin as a Junior Software Engineer or Software Developer. A junior software engineering job would likely focus on the development of software to meet the client requirements agreed upon by a more senior software engineering pro on your team. That team leader could act as a career mentor in this entry level job, in which you’ll likely spend most of your time writing code using programming languages like Python and Java.

With a few years of experience, a Senior Software Engineer would have more of a guiding influence on the software development cycle, with a mastery of a variety of programming languages and an understanding of higher-level business considerations. In this role, Software Engineers typically double as Managers of small teams of their own while also being tasked with project management responsibilities.

Along this career path, a veteran Software Engineer could be ready to step into jobs with even more management responsibilities. Tech Leads, Team Managers, and Technical Architects are managers of large teams with significant influence over the entire software development process.

The highest rung of this particular career path would be Chief Technology Officer or CTO.

But software engineering career paths can differ based on how an engineer chooses to specialize. All of these jobs could certainly be found along a software engineering career path:

Mobile Developer
Engineers who focus on mobile create software for phones, tablets, and other devices. Mobile specialists often specialize in iOS and Android operating systems. They’re expected to write responsive code, oversee testing and debugging, and work collaboratively among teams of other Engineers, Developers, Designers, and Analysts to launch software.

Front-End Engineers
Front-End Engineers focus on creating and refining any user-facing elements in software, web products or apps. Someone who specializes in the front end is tasked with creating, building, installing, and testing visual and user interface elements on web sites, mobile apps, and other software.

Back-End Engineers
Working on the server side, Back-End Engineers are mainly responsible for building the structure of software applications. Back-End Engineers are expected to write business logic, APIs, and server scripts for use by other members of software development teams. They’re also tasked with creating code libraries, data storage solutions, and server optimization duties.

Full-Stack Engineers
Able to work on both the front and back-end of an app or website, a Full-Stack Engineer is capable of building user-facing elements of software or websites, tackling database projects, or working at the project planning stage with clients. Full-Stack Engineers should be familiar with front and back end languages including Python, HTML, Java, and Ruby.

DevOps Engineer
A DevOps Engineer is responsible for introducing tools, processes, and practices through all phases of the software development cycle, from coding to deployment and beyond. Typically, software and web development teams don’t work the same way as information technology operations teams, so it’s the job of a DevOps specialist to unify certain processes so that software is both feature-rich and stable.

Data Engineer
A Data Engineer finds trends in data sets and develops algorithms to process raw data. Data Engineers need to have an array of technical skills, including an understanding of SQL database design as well as programming languages including Python and Java. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with company leaders so that the actionable business insights in their data aren’t lost.

Game Engineer
Software Developers who specialize in creating video games, Game Engineers work in a variety of settings on all sorts of software. Working among large teams of Developers and Designers, Game Engineers ensure that the visual and functional elements of computer, mobile, and console games work as designed on all intended devices.

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