Software Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: October 24, 2022

A Software Engineer, or Software Development Engineer, is responsible for developing software programs or systems that align with user needs. Their duties include meeting with clients or business professionals to strategize ideas for beneficial software, coordinating with other IT professionals to design software and running tests to catch coding errors.

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Software Engineer duties and responsibilities 

Software Engineers use an analytical, engineering-focused approach and expert knowledge of programming languages to develop computer programs and ensure software is as functional and robust as the client or consumer needs. They often have the following specific responsibilities:

  • Analyze the needs of the user
  • Design, test and develop the software to meet those needs
  • Recommend upgrades for existing systems and programs
  • Develop separate elements of a software that work well in the program as a whole
  • Create various diagrams, flowcharts and models that illustrate the type of code needed for programmers
  • Ensure continued functionality of a program during maintenance and testing of software
  • Document each aspect of a system or application as a reference for future upgrades and maintenance
  • Revisit the development process to fix bugs or address client or consumer concerns
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What does a Software Engineer do? 

Software Engineers typically work for corporations across industries or as members of IT firms. They can also work as self-employed individuals. They work closely with other Software Engineers and Software Developers to create code libraries, review design elements and ensure they meet client deadlines. Their job is to compare the systems they create to their client’s original objectives to ensure their satisfaction. They may also be responsible for refining past designs to correct defects or address new changing client needs.

Software Engineer skills and qualifications

Software Engineers use a variety of technical skills, soft skills and industry knowledge to develop applications and systems, including: 

  • Using analysis and critical thinking skills to determine and assess the needs of the user and then create software to meet the requirements.  
  • Providing clear instructions to the project team, clearly explaining how the software works to the customer and being available to answer any questions that may arise using exceptional communication skills.
  • Applying keen attention to detail and organization to work on numerous parts of a system or application at the same time while being accurate and thorough.
  • Working well with others on the team of Designers, Developers and Programmers using effective interpersonal skills.
  • Being able to efficiently identify and resolve issues that arise during the design, testing and maintenance processes using problem-solving skills.

Software Engineer salary expectations 

A Software Engineer makes an average of $107,542 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Software Engineer education and training requirements 

Software Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science or another related field. They also need a strong background in programming and familiarity with languages such as Ruby, Python, C# and others. Some positions, especially those with specialized duties or those in certain fields, may require Software Engineers with a master’s degree in a specific IT or software engineering discipline. Some candidates may also pursue a certification in various technological systems, languages, programs or issues. Having a master’s degree and/or certification may also indicate a candidate’s leadership potential and dedication to ongoing learning.

Software Engineer experience requirements 

Entry-level candidates may have 1 to 2 years of experience, often through an internship or part-time role in software development. These professionals can also gain on-the-job experience in roles such as Web Developer, Software Designer, Quality Assurance Tester or other IT-related roles. Candidates with more than 3 years of experience often develop their technical skills and knowledge in entry-level Software Engineer or Software Developer roles. Those with more than 5 years of experience may have some leadership experience in their background and may be ready for a managerial or team-lead position.

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Frequently asked questions about Software Engineers

What is the difference between a Software Engineer and a Software Architect?

The difference between a Software Engineer and a Software Architect is seniority and relative job responsibilities. For example, Software Engineers usually have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or computer science. Their education qualifies them to code a variety of software for consumer or professional use. In contrast, Software Architects either have a bachelor’s degree and a few years of professional experience as a software engineer, or they obtain a master’s degree in software engineering that makes them eligible for their role. 

Because of their differences in education and professional experiences, Software Architects typically hold a more senior role when compared to Software Engineers. This means that Software Architects are responsible for setting standards for software quality and the types of platforms used. Software Engineers refer to their guidelines to develop software that satisfies business requirements.


What are the daily duties of a Software Engineer?

On a typical day, a Software Engineer starts by checking their email and voicemail to respond t time-sensitive messages from clients or upper management personnel. They review upcoming project deadlines and plan their work activities around those dates. Throughout the day, they work on coding and testing one or more software systems and collaborate with other Software Engineers to troubleshoot defects. Software Engineers also spend a portion of their day in meetings with clients or IT personnel to discuss system updates and receive additional tasks as needed.


What qualities make a good Software Engineer?

A good Software Engineer has a keen attention to detail, enabling them to identify coding errors before the testing stage. This is important as it saves valuable time and ensures Software Engineers meet their deadlines. They value continued education, motivating them to enhance their knowledge of different programming languages or software trends. Further, a good Software Engineer has excellent interpersonal communication. This allows them to explain software features to professionals with little-to-no coding experience.


Who does a Software Engineer report to?

A Software Engineer usually reports to different roles depending on their place of employment. For example, a Software Engineer working for an IT firm or Software engineering firm typically reports to either the Senior Software Engineer, Software Engineering Manager or the Director of Software Engineering. In contrast, Software Engineers working for large corporations usually report to the IT Department Manager. Software Engineers working as self-employed individuals report directly to their clients.

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