How To Become a Senior Software Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

How to become a Software Engineer


Software engineering is one of the most exciting and rewarding careers today. Software engineers are responsible for designing and developing different kinds of software programs. In a world that emphasizes the importance of applications and web development, employment opportunities for software engineers are constantly growing in different industries. Thus, if this sound like a dream career for you, then you need to learn how to become a senior software engineer.

 This post provides an overview of software engineering, including software engineer education requirements, software engineering career paths and job opportunities, as well as occupational and salary data.

So what is a software engineer?

Basically, software engineering is a branch of computer science that focuses on the design and development of computer systems software and applications software. Computer systems software refers to the programs that include operations systems as well as computing utilities. Applications software on the other hand refers to user-centered programs such as database programs and web browsers.

What does a software engineer do?

A software engineer applies systematic methods and engineering principles to design and develop applications and operating data for computers. A software engineer’s daily tasks vary widely depending on the industry. However, these professionals basically team up with analysts, system programmers, and other engineers to extract crucial information for designing and developing systems, projecting capabilities, and testing design interfaces. Software engineers also gather information on user needs, offer consultation services to discuss design elements, and supervise software installation. Software design and development involves mathematical models and scientific analysis to ensure successful project delivery.

According to the BLS, the demand for software engineers is projected to be on the rise with a job growth of 21% through 2028. Software engineers can work in pretty much any industry. Furthermore, software engineers are natural innovators, with new programming tools coming with inexplicable challenges that require professionals with cutting-edge knowledge and skills to fix them.

Software engineers can be grouped into two broad categories:

Applications engineers

These professional create or adapt applications for organizations by analyzing end-user needs. They design, build, installing, and maintain software applications for client organizations.

Systems engineers

A system engineer co-ordinates the creation, maintenance, and growth of the organization’s computer systems. These professionals co-ordinate the different departments’ needs, suggest technical direction, and set up networks that link up computers within the organization.

Understanding the difference between a software engineer and a software developer

To most people, there is no difference between software engineering and software development. However, there is a technical difference between the two. The real difference between software engineering and software development begins at the job function. A software engineer can also take part in software development while a software developer rarely involves himself in software engineering.

To explain further, a software engineer combines technology solutions applicable to the client’s needs with the software development life cycle. They realize this by applying engineering principles to build up the requested software applications to provide specific functions.

A software developer, on the other hand, is the creative driving force behind software applications and is responsible for the software’s complete development process. A software developer begins by collaborating with the client to develop a theoretical design before working with the programmers to create the code needed for the software to function properly.

Important hard skills for software engineering

Hard skills refer to the practical, teachable skills and competencies that a software engineer must acquire to excel in the profession. Examples of hard skills for software engineers include learning how to write codes with programming languages such as SQL, Java, and Python.


This programming language is used for developing software on multiple platforms without having to recompile it. Java codes run on nearly all operating systems including Windows and Mac OS. Java employs syntax from C++ and C programming. Browser-operated applications facilitate GUI and object interaction from users.

Best online Java courses for beginners:

  1. Introduction to Java Programming
  2. Intermediate Java Programming
  3. Become a Java Web Developer


This is a scripting programming language that allows users to execute complex tasks. It comes with most webpages. JavaScript is used for updating content, animating images, operating multimedia, and storing variables. JavaScript represents one of the web’s three crucial technologies.

Best online JavaScript courses for beginners.

  1. Introduction to Javascript: The Basics

  2. JavaScript Introduction
  3. Programming for the Web with JavaScript
  4. Learn Intermediate JavaScript

Structured Query Language

Commonly known as SQL, Structured Query Language queries, updates, deletes, modifies, and inserts data using a set number of commands. This computer language is standard for the manipulation of data and relational database management. SQL is also used for managing structured data where relationships between entities and variables exist.

Best online SQL courses for beginners. 

  1. Learn SQL
  2. Learn SQL Basics for Data Science
  3. Introduction to SQL
  4. SQL Essentials
  5. Databases and SQL for Data Science


Considered as an object-oriented, general purpose programming language, C++ utilizes both low as well as high-level language. And given that pretty much all computers come with C++, it is imperative that software engineers master this language. C++ enables users to utilize C programs without having to switch the source code line. C++ basically manipulates text, numbers, and other computer-capable functions.

Best online C++ courses for beginners


  1. Project: Creating Your First C++ Application

  2. Become a C++ Developer
  3. C++ Programmer
  4. C++ Intro to Data Structures


Originally developed for Microsoft, C# is a highly expressive programming language that is quite simple compared to other languages yet it comes with both Java and C++ components. Its generic types and methods provide an extra layer of safety and enhanced performance. C# also allows developers to define iteration behavior while supporting inheritance, polymorphism, and encapsulation.

Best online C# courses for beginners

  1. Introduction to C# Programming and Unity
  2. Introduction to C# Programming
  3. More C# Programming and Unity
  4. C# Programming Series
  5. Intermediate C# Programming


This is a high-level programming language that comes with dynamic semantics, typing, structures, and binding that connect existing components. However, Python syntax is quite easy to learn and does not require any compilation. This reduces the program’s maintenance while boosting its productivity. Python also supports both module and package use, thus allowing engineers to use this programming language for a wide range of projects.

Best online Python courses for beginners

  1. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)
  2. Python for Everybody
  3. Python Programming
  4. Python 3 Programming
  5. Java Programming + Python Developer

Important soft skills for software engineering

While hard skills like programming languages and knowledge are crucial, a software engineer must also understand that soft skills they need to be successful in their role. These soft skills include personality traits as well as individual preferences that demonstrate how the software engineer executes his duties and fits into the larger team.

Here are some of the crucial skills that you should possess to be a successful software engineer.


Whether discussing a software development project with a client or providing a progress report to the team leader, or coordinating the team to work on a project, a software engineer must be adept at communicating via phone, email, as well as in-person meetings.


A software development project may require the engineer to split attention across different components of the same project, or switch in between projects when working on a deadline or meeting the goals of the team.


In order to take multiple projects through their various stages without losing track of the details, a software engineer must demonstrate a certain degree of organization.

Attention to detail

Concentration plays a crucial role during any software development project. They must be able to troubleshoot coding issues and bugs as they arise, and be able to keep track of the different components of the software development project.

Career paths for software engineers

A software engineer’s career can take any of the following paths:

Junior Web Developer

This is the starting point that for any individual with little or no computer programming experience. Junior web developers should have a working knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and JQuery. You can learn these programming languages online or at boot camps.

Key requirements for junior web developers include:

  • The ability to read and write simple scripts
  • Having a working understanding of the expected application life cycle
  • Basic understanding of database and application services like queues and caches.

Software Developer or Senior Software Developer

A software developer or a senior software developer is a professional who has several years of programming experience, can write complex codes, possess a sound understanding of databases, application services and application lifecycle development, and is proficient at creating complex applications. Much of your career path as a software developer will involve several years as a senior developer

Lead Software Engineer or Technical Architect

If you are looking to take on additional responsibility and more challenging assignments, then lead software engineer or architect role may be an excellent fit for you. Lead engineers offer guidance and direction by other programmers and engineers, and the role is considered mid-level management position. However, lead engineers still write codes while collaborating with other team members regarding workflow priorities and implement final decisions.

Software Development Manager

Management role is the next step along the software engineer’s career path that can involve a range of roles and responsibilities such as managing a team of developers, managing large-scale projects, and recruiting developers.

How to become a software engineer: A Step-by-Step guide

As already mentioned, software engineering is an ever-changing role. As such, it is important that you adopt as new technologies emerge. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a software engineer.

Clearly outline your goal

Starting a new career is never easy. However, with the ultimate goal in mind, you can easily identify and deal with hurdles along the way. You can define your end goals as:

  • I want to build a career as an Android application developer
  • I want to become a full-stack web developer
  • I want to work as a software engineer for SpaceX

Identify the programming languages you want to learn

There is more to software engineering than just coding. It is important that you know a couple of programming languages and a deeper understanding of how they function. Here are some of the popular programming languages you should consider learning:

  • Python
  • C++
  • C#
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Ruby

Get the right education

So you want to become a software engineer right? Well, congratulations! Now, you need to find out the software engineer education requirements. As a standard, you should earn at least a bachelor’s degree to begin your career in software engineering. Computer science is one of the software engineering majors that will offer you the important background necessary for designing and developing software. During your job interview, it will not be unusual if you are asked questions about data structures and algorithms. Thus, the theoretical knowledge you will earn during your studies will greatly prepare you for this. That said, it is important to note that you will spend most of your time outside of the classroom environment learning how to write software codes.

Supplement your education with certification programs and other resources

Truth is, software books get outdated real fast. Reference books take much longer to revise than software updates. As such, it is important that you supplement your learning with the following resources:

  • StackOverflow – this is one of the most reliable question and answer websites for developers. Here you can run a search based on the technology or programming language you need improvement in.
  • Websites like CodeWars and CodeinGame offers thousands of programming solutions that can help you test and polish your skills

Read codes written by seasoned engineers

Another great tip for building your software engineering skills is learning how to read codes that have been written by other people. You can do this by visiting platforms like GitHub repositories and reading through the documentation. By learning how to read codes, you will be able to understand how specific programs work.

Join a community of software engineers

Surrounding yourself with a community of seasoned developers will provide you with the much needed support system while learning how to become a software engineer. Besides, this community will give you guidance on where to focus your learning. One excellent site for meeting other software engineers is MeetUp.

Build projects

Nothing beats practical experience, especially when it comes to learning how to become a software engineer. So, once you have learned about a language, be sure to start building projects on it. This way, you will not only perfect your skills but also come up with portfolios that you can present to potential employers during a job interview. So, as you learn to program, be sure to build projects too.

Polish your pre-interview skills

Next, you need to pay attention to your resume as it plays a crucial role in your employment. You will need to build up your resume, cover letter, and online presence. A hiring manager will still look at them to get an idea of your skills and experience.

Prep up for your job interview

Finally, it is time to show up for the interview. Most hiring managers start with a screening interview, usually done remotely. After this, you will be scheduled for a phone interview. If successful on both, you will land a face-to-face interview before getting hired.

Different software engineering careers and their salaries

A degree in software engineering opens up the door for multiple opportunities. While geographic location and industry plays an important role, employers also consider education level and experience when determining a salary package. Here are some of the software engineer careers and their average national salaries.

Software Engineer

These professionals work with programmers, designers, and testers to plan the different development aspects so the software can function optimally.

Education requirement

Bachelor’s Degree


The average entry level software developer jobs salary is $83,515

Principle Software Engineer

These professionals take care of the projects’ technical details. Their core duties include efficient maximizing and scaling project’s performances.


Bachelors degree

Professional Certification

At least 7-10 years’ experience



Lead Software Development Engineer

These professionals create tailor-made software that meets organizational needs. They also manage teams of junior software engineers. Their core focus is project management, developing multi-threaded codes, and networked applications.


Master’s Degree


$106, 655

How to become a software engineer: What next?

Software engineering is a very exciting and rewarding career. However, becoming a software engineer does not happen overnight. As an aspiring software engineer, you need to take courses such as database management, programming languages, data structures and algorithms, discrete mathematics, and software architecture. Once you understand what degree you need to be a software engineer, you will be on track to starting an exciting career in this field. So wait no longer, sign up for this online masters degree in computer computer and start a lucrative career as a senior software engineer today.

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