What Subjects to Study to Become a Software Engineer

Tech Career Hub
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
January 16, 2023

Explore the essential subjects and areas of study necessary to pursue a career as a software engineer. This post provides a comprehensive guide to the skills and knowledge required in this field.

If you’re thinking about becoming a software engineer, there isn’t just one academic path you can follow. And with the right skills and training, anyone can become one.

Becoming a software engineer requires hard work and dedication, and there are some important principles that it can be helpful to be aware of if you choose to pursue this career path. Let’s take a look at what to study to become a software engineer.

What to Study: Common Degree Paths

Employment options after obtaining a bachelor’s degree are usually more diverse than you might think. It’s almost always possible to pivot. And when it comes to software engineering, the career is in reach for most people with the right technical knowledge and soft skills.

Here are some of the most common degrees people pursue before moving into software engineering.

Computer Science

This is a straightforward degree option for someone looking to start a career in software engineering. Computer science majors often gain a basic understanding of different programming languages, databases, and abstract mathematical concepts that give them a strong start.

With a computer science degree, up-and-coming software engineers will have many of the hard skills they’ll need to break into the industry, plus some personal experiences and mentorship.


Biology can help teach you how to visualize data and analyze organic systems, which, you may be surprised to learn, are skills that come in handy when working as a software engineer.

The use of computers has also increased in the biology field over recent years, so there’s an overlap between biology and software engineering with areas like computational biology and bioinformatics.

Business Management & Administration

Business management and administration opportunities may offer some people hands-on experience in the field that might encourage them to transition toward computer science or software engineering. The ability to organize, analyze, and leverage large data sets are overlapping skills.

Plus, there’s often a great need for software engineers in business management — often, new software or automated systems can help businesses solve productivity problems or help standardize processes.


A background in economics can give budding software engineers an understanding of quantitative analysis, a practical set of skills that comes in handy in software development. Understanding scarcity and the implications of specific actions over time can be an advantage when designing computing systems.


Psychology may have its foundation in the analysis of the human mind and behavior, but many of the workplace skills overlap with software engineering. The ability to experiment, learn in a flexible environment, and analyze behavior (even if that’s a computer’s behavior) are skills someone might learn studying psychology that they would be able to leverage when turning toward software engineering.

Communication skills and critical thinking are also essential skills for software engineers that psychology students have usually honed and practiced.


Accounting students are often taught to manage data and use technology to organize and assess large volumes of information. They tend to have mathematical aptitude, organizational skills, and attention to detail. All of these are transferable skills that someone can lean on if they decide to start learning to code.


Financial professionals may be experts in web-based tasks and are adept at leveraging cutting-edge information and tools. Financial technology (FinTech) is a quickly growing field that requires knowledge of both finance and computer science. By learning basic computing concepts alongside financial knowledge, it’s possible to open a world of new employment opportunities in spheres such as designing retail platforms, pricing tools, and other financial software.


As much as software engineering relies on technical, hard skills, it requires creativity as well. Not only can creativity serve those who are looking to design new software systems, but there’s a whole sector of musical software development. It’s a specialized field that musicians with technical coding knowledge can drive forward.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers are trained to design, build, test, and deploy complex systems using mathematics, physics, and other core scientific disciplines. This makes mechanical engineering a great field of study for potential future software engineers.

There are many conceptual similarities between the two fields, and studying mechanical engineering is a great way to learn basic methodologies and skills that you can use in software engineering.


Software developers should have a firm grasp of mathematical principles, so a math degree can be a huge benefit. It’s not necessary, but it can give you a leg up when you’re faced with certain problems in your software engineering career.

What to Study: Useful Courses

Even if you’re not enrolled in one of the degree paths listed above, there are always courses you can take to keep your skills sharp if you’re considering becoming more serious about a software engineering career. Some of these include:

  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Discrete math
  • Database programming
  • Software engineering principles and methodologies
  • Distributed systems

Courses at most institutions will vary, but these are some general ideas and concepts to look for if you want to learn more about specific coding principles or even brush up on a more basic curriculum that will still strengthen your skills.

What if You Don’t Have a Degree?

If you don’t have a computer science degree or any related college experience, don’t count yourself out just yet. There are a number of options outside of traditional college education paths for those who want to learn software engineering skills and break into the field.

Coding bootcamps, for example, provide a great way for those without a degree to prepare for a career in software engineering. App Academy’s program options are designed to give you all the skills you need to be successful.

Just around 55% of our students already had a bachelor’s degree when applying to one of our programs, meaning that 45% of our students did not. They still successfully completed the bootcamp and found jobs after graduation.

Learn More: 38 Best Jobs that Don’t Require a College Degree

Becoming a Software Engineer is About More Than the Degree

Software engineers are tasked with finding real solutions to real problems. There are many important qualities and skills that go beyond technical training that make a software engineer good at what they do. Some of which include:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Time management
  • Logical & critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills

The ability to build well-functioning software products isn’t just about coding skills, or your degree. It also depends on your soft skills, thinking about problems in an effective way, and building relationships with your team members.

Start Your New Career Today with App Academy

Bootcamps can be a great way for individuals — whatever their current level of training — to quickly gain skills and experience they need to succeed as a software engineer. Explore our program options and curriculum to see how we can help you get started on a new career path.



Don’t miss a beat with The Cohort!

We’ll send you the latest Tech industry news, SWE career tips and student stories each month.

You can unsubscribe at any time. View our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! You've now been subscribed to The Cohort.
There has been an error. Please try again.

Interested in an App Academy Bootcamp?

One of our coding bootcamps, prep course or free online coding platform (App Academy Open) could be the next step you need to make a lasting career change!