This is both a simple and a complex question which can result in a complex and simple answer. If your intent in asking is to know the solely the definition, it is clearly defined by the Webster dictionary "a branch of computer science that deals with the design, implementation, and maintenance of complex computer programs." If you are inquiring with the intent of seeing whether this is a career you would like to pursue or would like a simplistic rundown of how to become a software engineer and the industries in which you could be employed in doing so, read on.
When discussing this topic it is important to take into consideration that there are many varied methods of teaching in this particular career field that are still expanding. With that in mind, it is easiest to separate the varied education paths as either a traditional or non-traditional approach. We will focus on a general definition while being aware that depending on the specific facet of the career field you are debating, there may also be an impact on the specific timeline or schooling that you pursue.
The traditional approach that a majority of us have heard about is the pursuit of an associates, bachelors or masters CS (Computer Science) degree. Depending on your current level of education and experience and whether you are aiming for an entry-level job or something more senior would be a large factor to consider when choosing what degree to work towards. Usually when aiming for an entry-level job with little to no job experience, most angle for an associates or bachelors degree, while those who already have experience in the field and are looking to either switch careers or further their current career aim for a masters degree.
When going to school individuals may attend a state school or university and spend all 3-6 years at the same institution. Others first attend community college to complete general education before transferring to a degree school which can be a more cost-effective approach. Several institutions also offer online programs to earn a degree in an attempt to help make this approach more widely attainable for students.
When it comes to nontraditional schooling for software engineering there are several types of approaches but the current three most prevalent are coding bootcamps, software engineering training schools and independent study. In the technology field, some companies are now looking to hire not only software engineers with degrees from traditional schools; their interview processes allow for an individual to be tested on their earned knowledge in the field to see if they would be an apt fit. Coding bootcamps are typically aimed at teaching an attendee a specific skill with the approach of time efficiency and high-impact learning through an intense and highly structured learning environment that can last anywhere from 6 - 40 weeks.
Various software engineering training schools can have highly varied approaches in their curriculum from a peer-learning and project-based approach for practical application to focusing more how software functions and communicates before placing an emphasis on mastering one particular language or coding style like at Holberton School. Most training schools do offer some sort of certificate upon the completion of their program and can offer a supportive network and introduction into the industry which can lend a helping hand in landing a job.
In regards to software engineering as a career, the opportunities are pretty much endless. In a day and age where every industry at the very least has some semblance of an online component, an individual is able to combine their passions with their software engineering skills in selecting exactly the type of career they want to pursue. Whether you are interested in art, architecture, medicine, sports, woodworking, video games, agriculture and so on you can find a software engineering job that allows opportunities in your chosen field.
For example one could have an interest in the medical industry; they could choose to pursue a career in designing websites for a medical company, software that doctors use to communicate with their patients and so forth.
If someone has an idea of an application that they feel the world would benefit from they could manifest their own dream by possessing the skills of a software engineer and create this application themselves. In 2018 there were approximately 4.4 million software developers in North America with the highest population in the world being in the United States. That being said software engineers are still at the top of the list when it comes to being the most in-demand. The reported average salaries in 2015 were anywhere in the range of about $96,000 to $147,000 and that has only gone up. Software engineering as a career truly can provide unlimited opportunities.
This article was meant to be a gentle introduction into what is a software engineer; if any part of this reading resonated with you take action! The technological industry is made up of wonderfully diverse and positive people who are elated to encourage others to pursue like-minded passions.
If you are interested in pursuing a job in this career field but aren’t quite sure what the difference would be between a coder, a software engineer and software developer you can click here for a simplistic breakdown to aid you in your pursuit. There are countless resources online that can provide answers to any questions you might have or direct contact to currently employed software engineers on forums who are more than happy to answer questions. The only way to really know is to give it a try yourself and see just how truly rewarding your efforts can be.