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Software Engineer jobs
What's it really like?
Simon Davy is 30 years old and works for X-Lab Systems as a qualified software engineer. He gives us the inside story…
After doing a computing degree at the University of Leeds I decided I wanted to undertake some further study so I spent 3 years doing a PhD in computer science (this isn’t necessary to become a Software Engineer but it meant I found it really easy to get a job once I’d finished studying). It’s quite hard to describe what I do in a typical day at work without going into a lot of technical language. Put simply, I meet with colleagues, clients and vendors, write documentation, develop code and draw big messy diagrams on white boards!
Most of the time I really enjoy my job. Solving technical problems is fun and I enjoy the constant learning that comes with technological improvements. A software engineer requires a certain level of expertise so I enjoy the respect that sometimes comes with the job! I don’t like it when I am forced in certain technical directions for political reasons and I find it very difficult to work with managers who think they understand technology but don’t! Writing documentation for people who don’t understand code is also a necessary evil that goes with the job.
After I have had more experience as a software engineer I expect to go on to a team management role or a more senior software development job. There are good opportunities for career development in software engineering providing you are committed to the job and willing to learn as technology improves.
A software engineer is responsible for the development, maintenance and operation of computer software to enable businesses and organisations to function as efficiently as possible.
Recent graduates and newly qualified employees typically earn between £19,500 and £24,000 a year. With experience this can rise to between £25,000 and £38,000 depending on the size and nature of the company. Senior software engineers and those working in a more managerial role usually earn up to £45,000 a year.
A software engineer’s job varies according to the demands of the business or organisation but typical responsibilities include:
Software engineers are usually required to have a good first degree, BTEC or HND in a relevant subject such as computing, computer science, information technology, software development or software engineering. For graduates with a non-related degree it is possible to sign on to a graduate training scheme with a company, which will provide professional training in software engineering (candidates wishing to embark on a graduate scheme will be required to demonstrate an enthusiasm and commitment to the job) Alternatively, many universities offer post-graduate conversion courses in IT related subjects which may be a quicker, but more expensive way, of getting a job.
A software engineer is a highly skilled job and requires expert knowledge in computer programming and software development. More specifically the job requires:
Typically, software engineers work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Most of their work is done during normal office hours but the job can entail some evening or weekend work, particularly if an unforeseen problem arises with the client’s software. The job is office-based but can involve working away for long periods of time depending on where the client is situated.
Computers are used in almost every industry so software engineers are in high demand. Financial services, businesses, local authorities, public institutions, manufacturing companies, schools and universities usually employ full-time software engineers but most other organisations will call on a software engineer for a temporary period of time. As an alternative to working for one organisation, software engineers could get work as a sub-contractor or work on a consultancy basis. With enough experience, software engineers often decide to set up their own business. This can be more lucrative in the long run but it is wise to get experience working for someone else in order to develop contacts and get an idea of what is involved in running a business.
Software engineering accounts for almost a third of all IT jobs so prospects are good and there are plenty of opportunities for professional development and on-the-job training. Many employers offer software engineers the chance to develop their skills through a professional qualification, such as a British Computer Society Certificate or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Software Development and Engineering. There are also training courses available which are run by a specific software company, such as Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, Sun Microsystems Java Certified Programmer and Oracle PL/ SQL Developer. Further accreditation and professional development courses are offered by the Institution of Analysts and Programmers
With significant experience of software engineering, employees can move into a more senior software development role. This will usually involve supervising a team of engineers, liaising directly with clients, researching products, advising clients and colleagues, reviewing the work of other team members and taking more responsibility for the project management side of the work. Working as a software engineer also lends itself to work in other IT related jobs such as systems design, IT architecture and systems analysis.