Computer Software Engineers

Computer software engineers utilize the principles of computer science and mathematical analysis to design and develop software used to control computers. Since technology is continuing to evolve, the duties of computer software engineers is continually changing.

Software engineers design or develop computer games, word processors, operating systems, and compilers, programs that convert machine language so it can be processed on a computer.

Computer software engineers determine customers' needs and develop software to accommodate them. During this process, engineers develop algorithms, instructions that control computer functions. Sometimes engineers convert algorithms into a computer language, also known as coding or programming, but this task is usually performed by programmers. Computer software engineers must possess expertise in middleware and operating systems to make sure other systems are functioning properly.

Computer applications software engineers determine customers' needs and design, develop, and maintain general computer applications software. These engineers utilize an assortment of programming languages, depending on the program being developed, usually C, C++, and Java while Fortran and COBOL are less common. Some engineers create packaged software systems or customized software for specific clients.

Computer systems software engineers supervise and coordinate the building and maintenance of new computer systems, and they determine the computer needs of each division within a company. Computer systems software engineers also set up intranets, computer linking networks that permit interdepartmental communication.

Systems software engineers can work for firms that install and configure computer systems. These engineers can work in sales or customer support or explain complex technical terms to customers since many systems are custom built. Moreover, systems software engineers also coordinate network security.

Computer software engineers work in teams to develop new computer systems, hardware, and software. A team usually consists of engineering, marketing, and manufacturing professionals.

Work Environment
Computer software engineers usually work in cozy offices or laboratories with computers. Engineers employed with consulting firms or software vendors often travel long distances to meet with clients.

Software engineers usually work 40 hour weeks, but nearly 17 percent work 50 hours or more a week. Also, software engineers may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines and resolve problems.

Computer software engineers may experience back pain, eye strain, or carpal tunnel syndrome from working in front of computers all day.

How to Become a Computer Software Engineer
Most software engineers have a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or similar field. Some other engineers have bachelor's degrees in mathematics. Programs in computer science are the most widely available, and train the student in a wide range of topics. Students who want to become a computer software engineer should focus on software-building classes and similar courses. Engineers with master's degrees are generally more attractive to employers.

Software engineers should be able to write code and program computers, even though their job tasks extend to many other areas. Training in computer programming is usually acquired in school. Software developers must continually further their education throughout their career, in order to keep up with the rapid pace of technological evolution.

Software engineers should also understand the basic principles of the industry in which they're employed. For instance, a software engineer working for a bank should understand finance, so they can better serve the bank's computing needs.

The median salary of a computer software engineer is more than $87,000 a year. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $55,000 a year, and the highest 10% earn more than $133,000 a year. The median salary of systems developers is more than $94,000 a year. The lowest 10% earn less than $61,000 a year, and the highest 10% earn more than $143,000 a year.

Job Outlook
It's estimated that job prospects for computer software engineers will grow by 30% in the next decade. This growth is much faster than usual, when compared to the average occupation. Job prospects for applications developers are estimated to grow by 28%, and job prospects for systems developers are estimated to grow by 32%.

The demand for computer software is increasing rapidly. Technology evolves very quickly, and as new devices are developed, new software must be developed as well. The increase in mobile technology increases the demand for new applications. The healthcare industry, in particular, is tending to rely more and more on applications and computer systems in its services. With this increase in technology, the public is becoming more concerned about cybersecurity, which will reflect in an increasing need for security software.

Computer systems are more common now than ever, and are being used in more new ways than ever. Smartphones and tablets are becoming more sophisticated, and household appliances are incorporating computer systems into their design. Also, more and more software is becoming available online, which lowers costs and increases the need for software developers.

It is likely that this job growth will be tempered by foreign competition, and by foreign outsourcing. Software engineers need to be close to their clients, however, so the impact of this outsourcing is not expected to be severe.

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