Our industry outlook series continues today with Computer Software Engineers, presented by DeVry University, whose slogan reads, 'We Major in Careers.' Enjoy Orlando.
Nature of the Work
Computer software engineers apply the principles of computer science and mathematical analysis to the design, development, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that make computers work. The tasks performed by these workers evolve quickly, reflecting new areas of specialization or changes in technology, as well as the preferences and practices of employers.
Software engineers can be involved in the design and development of many types of software, including computer games, word processing and business applications, operating systems and network distribution, and compilers, which convert programs to machine language for execution on a computer.
Computer software engineers begin by analyzing users’ needs, and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs. During this process they create the detailed sets of instructions, called algorithms, which tell the computer what to do. They also may be responsible for converting these instructions into a computer language, a process called programming or coding, but this usually is the responsibility of computer programmers. (A separate section on computer programmers appears elsewhere in the Handbook.) Computer software engineers must be experts in operating systems and middleware to ensure that the underlying systems will work properly.
Computer software engineers normally work in clean, comfortable offices or in laboratories in which computer equipment is located. Software engineers who work for software vendors and consulting firms frequently travel overnight to meet with customers. Telecommuting is also becoming more common, allowing workers to do their jobs from remote locations.
Most software engineers work at least 40 hours a week, but about 17 percent work more than 50 hours a week. Software engineers also may have to work evenings or weekends to meet deadlines or solve unexpected technical problems.
Like other workers who spend long hours typing at a computer, software engineers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Training and other Qualifications
Most employers prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor’s degree and broad knowledge of, and experience with, a variety of computer systems and technologies. The usual college major for applications software engineers is computer science or software engineering. Systems software engineers often study computer science or computer information systems. Graduate degrees are preferred for some of the more complex jobs. In 2006, about 80 percent of workers had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Academic programs in software engineering may offer the program as a degree option or in conjunction with computer science degrees. Because of increasing emphasis on computer security, software engineers with advanced degrees in areas such as mathematics and systems design will be sought after by software developers, government agencies, and consulting firms.
Students seeking software engineering jobs enhance their employment opportunities by participating in internships or co-ops. These experiences provide students with broad knowledge and experience, making them more attractive to employers. Inexperienced college graduates may be hired by large computer and consulting firms that train new employees in intensive, company-based programs.
Employment of computer software engineers is projected to increase by 38 percent over the 2006 to 2016 period, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This occupation will generate about 324,000 new jobs, over the projections decade, one of the largest employment increases of any occupation.
Employment growth will result as businesses and other organizations adopt and integrate new technologies and seek to maximize the efficiency of their computer systems. Competition among businesses will continue to create incentive for sophisticated technological innovations, and organizations will need more computer software engineers to implement these changes.
Demand for computer software engineers will also increase as computer networking continues to grow. For example, expanding Internet technologies have spurred demand for computer software engineers who can develop Internet, intranet, and World Wide Web applications. Likewise, electronic data-processing systems in business, telecommunications, government, and other settings continue to become more sophisticated and complex. Implementing, safeguarding, and updating computer systems and resolving problems will fuel the demand for growing numbers of systems software engineers.
Story information courtesy of Bureau of Labor
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Previous entries to the Industry Outlooks:
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
Construction Equipment Operators
Financial Services Sales Agents
Video Game Testers
Network / System Administration