What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Tech Career Hub
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
July 28, 2023

Explore the roles and responsibilities of a software engineer, understanding what they do on a daily basis. Gain insights into their key tasks, skills required, and the impact they have on the tech industry.

So, you’re interested in becoming a software engineer? If code is your language of choice, then you’ve chosen an awesome career path with high earning potential. But what does a typical day actually look like? Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect in the day in the life of a software engineer.

What is a Software Engineer?

First, the basics. Software engineers apply engineering principles and practices to design, develop, test, and maintain software systems. They analyze user needs, collaborate with other programmers, consult with designers, and use mathematical models and coding language to do so.

They are the creative minds behind every computer program, website, game, operating system, and mobile app that you encounter.

There are many kinds of software engineering specialties. Video game designers, quality assurance engineers, CRM project managers, security engineers, front-end engineers, full-stack developers, data scientists, mobile developers, and more. This career in computer science is ideal for analytical thinkers who are problem-solvers at heart.

What Do Software Engineers Do?

Depending on the specialty, the responsibilities of a software engineer may vary a bit. However, the core role tends to be similar, no matter the specific career choice.

Main Role & Responsibilities

Nearly all software engineers have some fundamental duties that span the job title, no matter their specific position (junior or senior), job title (full-stack or front-end), company (office supplies distributor or tech startup), or industry (medical or industrial). Here are the primary roles of a software engineer and what they will experience day-to-day, across the board:

  • Software Development: as outlined previously, one of the most notable tasks for a software engineer is designing, coding, testing, and maintaining software applications. This entails writing clean, efficient, and scalable code using various program languages, such as Java, Python, C++, and more.
  • Analysis of Requirements: Before and throughout a project, software engineers will work closely with clients or other stakeholders to analyze the project’s requirements and ensure their solutions will meet the outlined objectives.
  • Discussion and Collaboration: they’ll also work directly with collaborative departments to help define the overall structure while considering both short-term and long-term goals with consideration for scalability, performance, and security.
  • Coding: now comes the fun part! Software engineers write the code based on the design specs previously outlined. To ensure a clean, functional, and well-documented code, they may use standardized best practices or even start with a framework.
  • Debugging and Testing: throughout the coding process, engineers will test their work by identifying and fixing bugs and errors. Unit testing, integration testing, and sometimes automated testing can be used to help locate and correct these issues as they come up.
  • Meetings: some may picture coders spending most of their time at a screen. Some also spend time in meetings, however, with cross-functional teams for team connects, code reviews, and feedback.
  • Continuous Learning: as with most technologies, near constant evolution plays a part in a software engineer’s day. That’s because they need to stay on top of the latest updates, new programming languages, and industry trends. Ongoing learning is one of those crucial components to ensure relevancy and savviness.

Other Possible Duties

Apart from those primary responsibilities, there are various other tasks that software engineers may perform based on their specific role, company, or industry. Additional possible activities may include:

  • Managing Client Relationships: some software engineers may interact directly with clients through the initial data-gathering stage, deliver progress reports, and address concerns or questions as they arise.
  • Team Collaboration: software engineers often work on teams that may have designers, developers, project managers, and more. Team environments are conducive for sprint planning of rush projects, feedback, progress meetings, and more.
  • Code Reviews: one of the crucial steps in defining and refining code is through peer review where software engineers can gather feedback and suggestions from other sets of eyes. This can contribute to better quality, efficiency, and insights.
  • Deployment: involvement in the deployment process means software engineers will configure servers and set up environments that help ensure a smooth deployment of a new system.
  • Maintenance: While some software engineers are hired to develop and deploy only, others stay on board to allow for continuous maintenance so they can troubleshoot issues, apply patches, and update code as needed.
  • Performance Optimization: another possible responsibility is to optimize the performance of the code as time goes on. Whether this is through identifying areas for improvement or optimizing algorithms to meet the latest trends or updates, performance is an important part of software engineering.
  • Documentation: knowledge sharing, onboarding new coders, and maintaining a system long-term requires thorough documentation of system architecture and development processes

Specific Types of Software Engineers

Ready to get started as a software engineer? What specialty will you choose? As previously mentioned, there are various specializations within the field. Here we’ll touch on the most popular kinds of software engineers and their primary focus that affects what their days look like.

Web Developers

A web developer specializes in building applications designed for the web. Within this field, there are front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers. Front-end developers focus on the user interface (UI) and interactive elements of a web page by using coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Behind the scenes, we have back-end developers who focus on the server side of things, including programming, database maintenance, and APIs. They work in complex systems behind the user interface to create a smooth front-end experience. Java, C++, Ruby on Rails, Python, Scala, and Go are some common languages they use.

Full-stack developers are trained in both front- and back-end technologies so they can work on the entire breadth of web development, without limitations. They often have skills in UX and UI frameworks, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Ruby on Rails, Python, and much more.

Learn More About Becoming a Web Developer:

Mobile App Developers

This specialty is designed for building applications for phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. They often create native mobile apps using coding languages such as Swift for iOS or Kotlin for Android devices. Some cross-platform frameworks may also be utilized to help apps run better on other platforms. Examples of these include React Native and Flutter.

Learn More: The Best Programming Languages for App Development

Video Game Designers

With specialized knowledge in designing and implementing gaming systems, video game designers use creative storytelling to build worlds within program environments. Often seen as one of the most creative avenues within software engineering, game developers use skills such as OpenGL, DirectX, Unity 3D, WebGL, Java, Swift, HTML5, and more.

Learn More About Gaming Careers for Programmers:

Data Scientists

Taking the analytical side of things are data scientists. This specialty focuses on extracting and statistically analyzing large datasets. They may use tools for machine learning and data visualization to help draw and present conclusions to stakeholders. The most common programming languages used in this field are Python, SQL, and R while the most popular frameworks are TensorFlow and PyTorch.

Security Engineers

This exciting field of software engineering is often lovingly referred to as “ethical hacking,” with the main goal to discover vulnerabilities in systems and fix those vulnerabilities before malicious intent can work its way in. Common languages for security engineers include Python, Ruby on Rails, C++, and more.

Where Do Software Engineers Usually Work?

The software engineering career path is highly sought after. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average of nearly 163,000 new software engineering job openings each year up and through the year 2031. With this higher-than-average growth, the opportunities for software engineers are extensive and span nearly every industry across the globe. Here are just a few of the most common industries where software engineers thrive:

  • Finance. Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are always on the lookout for software engineers to help develop and maintain their financial software systems, while also providing security and financial analysis functions.
  • Tech. Perhaps most obviously, technology companies have a high demand for software engineers. Some of the largest of these companies include household names like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Startups, development firms, and other software-related service providers are also in this category.
  • Healthcare. When entering the healthcare field as a software engineer, the primary focus is often on developing and maintaining electronic medical records systems, medical imaging software, health data analytics, and telemedicine applications.
  • Government. The military and government agencies employ software engineers for various roles including security, database management, public service applications and websites, and more.
  • Education & Non-Profits. Educational institutions, non-profits, and other public sector organizations utilize software engineers for similar things as the government, such as maintaining the school website, managing databases, and developing educational software.
  • E-Commerce. Nearly every online business relies on software engineers to build and maintain its websites, e-commerce shopping platforms, logistics software, and payment systems.

A Typical Day for a Software Engineer

A day in the life of a software engineer will vary by field and specialty choice, but there are some typical things you may experience in your day-to-day in this field. For one, there’s a growing opportunity for remote work that offers flexible working hours outside of the traditional 9-to-5 model. So, this means that you may be able to avoid a commute and dress code while having more time with your family.

While the bulk of your time would likely center around designing and building code, software engineers often work in teams and will spend a fair amount of time collaborating. Whether in-person or via virtual meetings, teamwork is often a part of the job. You can also expect a solid path to career growth with predefined steps to the top, including junior, mid-level, and senior development opportunities.

How to Become a Software Engineer

With such demand for quality software developers and engineers and a salary hovering over $100,000, people are flocking to the industry to help fill the need. But how do you know if software engineering is the right decision for you?

There are many paths to becoming a software engineer and many skill sets that you should master to achieve your goals. Here is an outline of some steps you can take to become a stellar software engineer that can command the highest salary and benefits:

  1. Learn the Foundations: understanding coding on a fundamental and practical level is one of the most important first steps to becoming a software engineer. Mastering a tech stack that is diverse will help open opportunities to various sectors and industries. You may choose a formal education at a college or university, attend a coding bootcamp, or do both. What’s most important is that you choose a program that offers a comprehensive curriculum.
  2. Upskill: technology is always evolving, and to be on top of the game, you must evolve too. Make sure to attend regular training to stay up to date on the latest technologies and trends. You can do this by taking new classes periodically, reading online coding magazines, and connecting with peers and professionals in the development space.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: don’t rely on the projects assigned to you in class as your only source of practice. Push yourself to new heights by taking on challenging new ventures and practicing various languages and applications until you feel confident in your mastery.
  4. Build a Portfolio: with all that practice, you’ll begin to build an impressive portfolio to showcase your skills and capabilities. If you’re focusing on a specific field of software engineering, you can tailor the majority of your portfolio to that field. Or if you’re not sure which industry you want to enter, you can create a more diverse portfolio.
  5. Network and Collaborate: engage with your community of new and up-and-coming software engineers by connecting on LinkedIn, attending meetups and conferences, and communicating on online forums. You should actively reach out to other participants and start the conversation. This can lead to collaboration on projects and teach you new skills and insights.
  6. Participate in Internships: in addition to looking for your first software engineering job, you can also broaden your chances of joining a company by looking for internship opportunities. This is a great way to learn on the job and gain practical experience and exposure to real-world projects. It also helps you connect with others who have already achieved professional work in your field, expanding your network.

Become a Software Engineer with App Academy

If you’re ready to step into the wonderful world of coding, you can learn how to become a software engineer with App Academy. Our programs offer comprehensive training across all topics, equipping you with the skills you need to kickstart your new career.

With a curriculum that covers all the essential programming practices, portfolio building, and career coaching, App Academy will prepare you for a successful career in software engineering.

Schedule a call with an App Academy admissions counselor to learn more about our programs. And, if you’re ready to dig in deeper, start exploring our programs to see which one might be a good fit for you!




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