As around 20 million people face unemployment courtesy of the Covid pandemic, many of them face the real possibility of a career change. The shift to remote work looks primed for a long-term stay as it cuts overhead costs for many businesses.
A potential option that many people think looks good is software engineering. It’s remote-work friendly and, unlike many professional careers, a college degree is not mandatory. Of course, learning all the skills necessary for a transition into software engineering means a major commitment.
You likely want to know certain things, such as the typical software engineer salary. Before diving into the salary issue, it may help to take a closer look at the software engineer career in general.
Software Engineering Description
Right now, you may be asking yourself should I become a software engineer. That question routinely gets paired with another question. What is a software engineer’s job?
Something that makes the questions a little murkier is the tendency for people to use the terms software engineer and software developer as synonyms. While there is a lot of overlap in skills between the jobs, there are a few crucial differences.
Software engineers primarily address the overall structure of programs or apps. For example, they might use different UML diagram types to express how functions relate in a program.
The idea is that software engineers use engineering principles to construct the workflow inside a program. They also address the relationship between the software itself, network parameters, and even server functionality. As a general rule, software developers write code that creates a functional version of the engineer’s overall concepts.
How To Become A Software Engineer — College
One path you can take to become a software engineer is through formal education. This typically means that you get an undergraduate degree in computer science.
Computer science programs cover a lot of ground but typically include courses like:
- Mathematics – calculus, stats, linear algebra
- Algorithm design
- Data visualization
- Computer architecture
- Network fundamentals
This coursework lets computer science grads conduct mathematical analysis on systems or proposed software. For example, they can determine how software might behave on different kinds of computer processors.
How to Become A Software Engineer — Self-Taught
Self-taught software engineers take a more roundabout route in terms of education. Most of them start out by learning programming languages and working as software developers. You may do this through a boot camp or online coding training.
After spending time as a developer, you’ll typically begin a process of self-education in the topics covered in a computer science program. You may pick up some math skills. You should certainly look for massive open online courses in computer science.
These courses help you develop the foundational knowledge you’ll need for more advanced topics. There are a number of well-regarded texts on topics like algorithm design that you can study. You can also lean on publicly available resources like Stack Exchange to field any specific questions your courses or texts don’t explain well.
Software Engineer Benefits
You will enjoy a number of software engineer benefits if you move into the field. For one, most software engineers work full-time for a company and get a full benefits package, such as health insurance and a 401k.
Software engineers may also negotiate for stock in a company before they get hired. If you get hired on at a startup that goes on to a big initial public offering, that stock can end up making you a lot of money.
Software engineers and developers remain in demand despite the Covid crisis. That means you can probably land a job with the right technical interview prep. There is also an ongoing software engineer shortage, so that situation won’t likely change any time soon.
Factors that Affect Salary
A wide range of factors can affect your salary as a software engineer. Right at the top of the list is your overall experience.
If you’re fresh out of college or transitioning after a period of self-education, expect a salary on the lower end of the scale. You still have a lot of practical, on-the-job learning you must accomplish.
Your location will also play a role in your salary. If you get a job in a tech hub like Silicon Valley, Austin, or Seattle, you’ll typically see higher starting salaries. If you look for work away from major tech hubs, you’ll see lower starting salaries.
Your areas of expertise will also play a role. Demand for expertise in certain programming languages, such as Java, runs high. If you possess that expertise, you can negotiate higher pay.
Average Software Engineer Salary
Coming up with an average for a software engineer salary is a bit of a challenge given the many factors noted above that affect the number. That being said, software engineers enjoy a median salary of around $107,000 per year.
Less experienced software engineers often command lower salaries, although even they receive quite decent salaries in the $65,000 range. Engineers in rural areas often command lower overall salaries, although they also tend to enjoy lower overall expenses.
For example, homes generally go for less than the national average in rural areas. Overall food costs run a little lower in rural areas.
Transportation runs a little higher, historically, but that may change as Covid drives more and more remote work. People in industries that favor remote work — like software development — will benefit most from that transition. On the high end of the scale, experienced software engineers can see salaries upwards of $165,00 per year.
Is the Salary Enough?
Switching over to software engineering means a lot of work. You must weigh whether the software engineer salary is enough to justify making that switch.
If you go the self-education route, it can mean years of study in your off-hours. If you go the formal education route, it means years of formal education and probably some student loan debt. For many, the sacrifice is worth the payoff.
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