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How to Become a Software Engineer: Your Guide to a Coding Career

In this guide, you’ll learn about various career paths, steps to becoming a software engineer, training for software engineers, and other useful information to help you along the way. 

POSTED ON MAY 21, 2024

Software engineering is one of the most versatile jobs in the world. Plus, it pays well, so it’s no wonder many people are moving toward this career path. 

With technology constantly evolving and the digital world facing frequent innovation, the demand for skilled software engineers is only growing. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for software developers will see a 25% increase by 2032. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to become a software engineer. You’ll learn about various career paths, steps to becoming a software engineer, training for software engineers, and much more to help you along the way. 

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is a branch of computer science that focuses on developing, designing, implementing, and maintaining software systems. This discipline impacts the technological aspects of everyday life, from computer programs and mobile applications to video games and college coursework. 

Software engineering is so vast, with many moving parts, that it requires communication and collaboration between not just other developers but designers, project managers, testers, and other key stakeholders. 

In short, software engineering is a collaborative discipline that focuses on the development of technological applications that we use every day. 

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineers ensure that software products are reliable, maintainable, secure, efficient, and scalable. They create, analyze, and test code to build new software applications and innovate existing products. 

Some of the specific tasks that software engineers engage in include: 

  • Collaborate with stakeholders to understand requirements for specific projects.
  • Ensure software design is user-friendly and visually appealing.
  • Write clean, maintainable code that can be implemented for its intended purpose.
  • Test, debug, and troubleshoot to ensure final products are functional and reliable.
  • Create documentation to support the development, deployment, and maintenance of the system.
  • Deploy software to various production environments and integrate it with existing systems.
  • Use version control to ensure consistent quality and collaborate with team members.
  • Provide ongoing support and maintenance for software products.

Software Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

While many key tasks that software engineers perform are similar, this field has many roles and responsibilities. Every industry needs software engineers. You could get a software engineer job in medical and health-related fields, marketing, entertainment, or any other area that piques your interest.  

Let’s take a look at some entry-level roles available to software engineers: 

  • Junior software engineer: This role assists senior-level software engineers, and the responsibilities vary by company. Typically, duties may include adding to, maintaining, and testing software applications. 
  • Technical support specialist: This is an information technology (IT) position. Tech support specialists install software and hardware and help maintain network and computer systems. 
  • Front-end developer: This role often falls into two categories: web developers and mobile app developers. Front-end developers for these projects are responsible for building aesthetically pleasing code for the front end of websites and mobile apps while ensuring user-friendliness. 
  • Back-end developer: Back-end developers build and maintain the back-end of websites and mobile apps. This often involves handling databases, security, API integrations, and other back-end infrastructure that websites require. 
  • Junior DevOps developer: This role creates and maintains code to automate routine tasks, assists with infrastructure management, and monitors system performance. 

Has Software Engineering Changed with AI?

AI has taken a revolutionary role in software engineering. It isn’t replacing software engineering jobs but instead is streamlining them. Learning how to become a software developer can be even easier with assistance from AI. 

AI assists with making mundane tasks—both technical and non-technical—more efficient.

AI has even opened doors to new roles and increased demand for software engineers. One such role is a prompt engineer. AI is only as good as the prompts it is given. So prompt engineers in software development train AI programs and create prompts that other developers can use to perform their coding tasks more efficiently. 

What Skills Do You Need as a Software Engineer?

The qualifications for software engineer jobs vary, but many skills will help you on your journey. However, they might not all be what you think. 

Of course, there are the technical skills that you should practice daily: 

  • Coding and computer programming
  • Software testing and troubleshooting
  • Software development

Understanding and being able to use a variety of programming languages is also important: 

Outside of the technical skills and coding languages, software engineers must also be versed in utilizing several soft skills: 

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Time management
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Accountability
  • Emotional intelligence

Software engineers often work on teams and face challenges or ongoing projects in the workplace that each of these skills can help with. So be sure to brush up on these soft skills and be ready to demonstrate them when applying for a job. 

How to Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree: Software Engineer Roadmap

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a degree to become a software engineer. A combination of coding skills and hands-on experience can get you most of the way.

We’ve outlined eight key steps to becoming a software engineer. These steps will help you understand what to learn, how to get into software engineering, and some requirements you’ll need along the way. 

Step 1: Gain foundational knowledge

Start learning coding languages, researching different career opportunities, and learning what you need to start down that path. 

Getting started is often the hardest part. There is a wealth of information out there, so it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are some good resources you can use to start gaining this foundational knowledge: 

  • GitHub
  • Stack Overflow
  • Quora
  • Medium

These resources provide platforms for other developers to share their knowledge, and some of them give you a place to start practicing and developing your coding skills.  We’ve also written a couple of blogs you may find helpful: 

Step 2: Dive deeper

The education required for software developer jobs varies, but you don’t need a master’s degree or extensive higher education to break into the field. More often than not, self-directed education will suffice. 

However, if you’re looking for a good place to start, coding bootcamps are a perfect happy medium between learning on your own and getting a degree. Coding bootcamps are concentrated courses that teach technical skills, encourage collaboration, and help you get some projects under your belt. They generally last three to nine months, depending on the program. 

Step 3: Build projects

The perfect way to start gaining experience as a software engineer or developer is to build projects. Start coding every day. Create projects you can put in a portfolio and showcase your skills as a developer. Here are some ideas for programming projects: 

  • Open source projects: Contributing to open source projects on platforms like Github helps you gain real-world experience and introduces you to collaborative coding environments. 
  • Personal website or blog: Building your own website allows you to showcase projects and demonstrate your skill and expertise in specific areas. Plus, the website itself can be a portfolio item. 
  • Mobile apps: Create apps for iOS or Android with frameworks like Flutter, React Native, or Swift. 
  • Web development projects: Build web applications using frontend frameworks like React.js, Angular, or Bootstrap.

These are only a few of the many types of projects you can start building. We recommend building projects in areas of interest you want to pursue as a career.  

Step 4: Get certified

Beyond obtaining software engineering experience and education, specific certifications can demonstrate your skills and give you an edge with potential employers. Most coding bootcamps offer certifications as part of their courses. 

A few additional certifications that can help you stand out include: 

Mimo offers subscription-based courses for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, SQL, Swift as well as career paths in Front-End, Full-Stack, and Python development. With our affordable pricing plans, you can get certified in each of these areas.

Step 5: Create a portfolio

A portfolio showcases your past work and skills to potential employers. Your portfolio should show a variety of projects that demonstrate the range of your technical proficiency and problem-solving abilities. 

Be sure to include the following in your portfolio: 

  • Code samples
  • Technical documentation
  • Roles in projects
  • Technologies used
  • Your problem-solving approach
  • Results achieved

We recommend creating a publicly accessible portfolio to share when applying for jobs. 

Step 6:  Network & apply for jobs

When you have the skills, portfolio, and experience to demonstrate your skills, you’re ready to begin the hunt for a software engineering job. 

Networking is a great first step. Talk to people in your personal and professional networks. Find out if any of their companies are hiring entry-level developers. It’s always easier to get a job when you know someone (or even when you know someone who knows someone). 

Also, be sure to build out your LinkedIn profile. Hiring managers often look to LinkedIn to (1) prove you’re a real person, (2) get a read on who you are as a professional, and (3) review your experience and qualifications for the job. 

After that, you can start applying for jobs! 

Step 7: Prepare for the interview

Software engineering interviews are different from typical job interviews. Hiring managers want to gain insight into how you code, what your foundational understanding is, and what kinds of questions you ask during a project. 

A software developer interview often involves a hands-on project during the interview. 

It’s important to understand that you may not know exactly how to perform the task the interviewers are asking. More often than not, particularly for entry-level positions, they want to see that you ask questions, are willing to learn, and can adapt when provided with new instruction. 

Step 8: Keep improving

While a lot in coding and software development has remained the same for decades, a lot has also changed. It’s important to keep up with innovations in the field and take the time to engage in continuous learning activities, like additional courses, new projects, and even reading blogs. 

Many companies also encourage and sponsor courses, workshops, and additional training for software engineers to continue learning and advancing in their field. 

Software Engineer Career Path Progression

One of the best things about becoming a software engineer is the potential for career growth. There are so many opportunities to develop and progress in your career as a developer. 

Let’s take a look at a general example of a career path for a software engineer: 

Years 0-4

You may start as a Junior Software Engineer. This is an entry-level position where you’ll receive instruction from senior engineers on how to build client projects or add on to internal projects. During this time, you’ll gain experience and learn new skills. 

Years 3-6

After a few years, you can move into a Senior Software Engineer role. You may be a team lead, mentoring junior engineers and providing task instructions. You may also be more involved with high-level company projects and even take the lead in some of your own projects. 

6+ Years

From there, you could move into an Engineering Manager position where you manage people and coordinate their projects, or you could move into a Principal Engineer position where you utilize more technical expertise in projects. 

10+ Years

With several years under your belt in various software engineering roles, particularly if you’ve moved up into management positions, you may have the opportunity to become a VP of Engineering. VPs organize teams, oversee budgets, and manage and supervise projects from a high level. 

15+ Years

At this point in your career, you could become a Chief Technology Officer, overseeing engineering and other tech-related departments and working to improve the business from the tech side. 

This is just one example of many career paths open to you as a software engineer. Many engineers also opt for less traditional career paths and focus on freelancing and project-based jobs. Your career all depends on your preferences and the lifestyle you want. 

How Much Do Software Engineers Make?

The median pay for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers was $124,200 per year or $59.71 per hour in 2022. However, your salary as a software engineer will depend on your location, where you’re at in your career, and whether you’ve chosen to freelance. 

Here’s a table highlighting the base salary ranges for entry-level software engineers (0-1 years experience) across various industries in the United States: 

Salary Range (per year)Industry
$46K – $80KAerospace and Defense
$54K – $89KAgriculture
$46K – $80KArts, Entertainment, and Recreation
$40K – $68KEducation
$65K – $96KFinancial Services
$46K – $70KHealthcare
$58K – $92KInformation Technology
$60K – $88KInsurance
$45K – $72KLegal
$54K – $80KManufacturing
$46K – $80KPharmaceutical and Biotechnology
$53K – $84KPersonal Consumer Services
$51K – $81KReal Estate
$54K – $93KTelecommunications
Source: Glassdoor

Many companies also provide cash bonuses, profit sharing, or commissions that increase these salary ranges by several thousand dollars annually. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelancer salary for software engineers is $104,863 per year or $50 per hour. Some individuals report making $100-$250 per hour as freelance developers with more experience. 

Choose The Right Software Development Course

Whether you want a more traditional, full-time career path or to work independently as a freelancer, the right software development course can help you land the jobs you want. 

Mimo’s Full-Stack Developer career path helps you master the skills of a full-stack developer in six months. With flexible hours, guided projects, and AI tutor you’ll be well on your way to start your software engineering career.  Get started today! 


Review these frequently asked questions to learn more about how to become a software developer or engineer. 

Is it hard to become a software engineer?

It is not hard to become a software engineer. If you know how to read, write, and use a computer, you already have the foundational skills to learn how to code. Most computer languages are just abbreviated versions of natural languages.

Many people get overwhelmed by the vastness of software engineering and the number of programming languages available. But with the right courses, you can become a coding master in no time. 

Learn more with our blog: Programming: Is it Hard to Learn? 

What is the best programming language to start with for a beginner?

The best programming language to start with ultimately depends on your goals and interests. 

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are great for beginners who want to dive into website and mobile app development. Python is a good starting point for those who are more interested in working with data science and data sets. 

What’s the difference between a software developer and a software engineer?

Software engineer and software developer skills frequently overlap. So, learning how to become a software developer is similar to the roadmap for becoming a software engineer. 

Software developers are a more specialized subset of software engineers. One way to differentiate the two is to consider software engineers as those who design solution-oriented systems and frameworks, while developers use their skills to refine and execute programming tasks for the system. 

Most people use the two terms interchangeably though, and it won’t be the end of the world if you do too. Software engineers and developers work in tandem on many of the same projects, and their collaboration is what ultimately matters. 

How long does it take to become a Software Engineer?

The time it takes to become a software developer or engineer varies from person to person. Some people choose to attend a four-year university and get a bachelor’s degree. Others learn how to become a software engineer without a degree through coding bootcamps, online courses, and self-led learning, which can take less time. 

So, how long does it take to become a software engineer? That’s up to you and your goals. If you want to streamline your learning, try a development coding boot camp, which can take up to nine months compared to the years it can take to get a degree. 

How important are internships in building a career in software engineering?

Internships are great training for software engineering careers. They provide opportunities to develop your skills further and learn from senior-level developers. Plus, they give you experience that you can leverage to get the jobs you want. 

Internships are also generally easier to apply for and get into since they don’t require years of experience. You can look at internships as a stepping stone from your education to the career you want—however, that doesn’t mean that an internship is 100% necessary to get into a software engineering career. 

How can I become a software engineer after completing Mimo’s career paths?

Mimo’s career paths provide the perfect transition to getting a job as a software engineer. Our career paths offer career services to help you choose companies to apply to, polish your resume, and prepare for interviews. You’ll also become skilled in GitHub and finish the course with a personal portfolio that you can share with potential employers. 

From there, you just need to start networking and applying for jobs in your desired field. 

What are the prospects for software engineers in the next decade?

Software engineers and developers are in high demand. The need for software engineers is expected to increase by more than 25% over the next several years. And, with advancing technologies like AI and machine learning, companies need developers more than ever to help adopt these systems and integrate them into their workflows. 

Learning how to become a software developer or engineer will set you on a fruitful career path with many opportunities lying in wait. 

Do software engineers get paid less if they don’t have a degree?

This really depends on the company. Some companies do place more stock in software engineers with degrees, but this is becoming less and less of the norm. 

According to CourseReport, coding bootcamp graduates and college graduates earn similar starting salaries. 

Pro tip: When applying for jobs, take a look at the employee bios of those in positions that you want. See if they obtained their education through college or bootcamps. Companies with bootcamp graduates likely have more comparable pay between them and their college-graduate peers. 

Can I become a software engineer if I’m already older?

Yes! Anyone at any age can become a software engineer. The requirements for software engineers have nothing to do with age. It’s all about continuous learning and growth. 

What do you need to be a software engineer? A can-do attitude and an aptitude to learn something new. If software engineering piques your interest, whether you’re 18 or 85, we say go for it!

POSTED ON MAY 21, 2024

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