A software engineerhas one of the most in-demand,lucrative careers in the world. The number of individuals presently employed in this profession, 909,600, is almost double that of any of the other computer careers we reviewed, which makes it our Top Ten reviews Gold Award winner. About 57 percent of software engineers design computer applications, and the remaining 43 percent design systems software.
Software engineers have advanced math skills, which allow them to write complex algorithms required for developing software. Those who design applications build software that will be used by a person without a programming background. Examples of applications include word processors or databases. Individuals in these computer careers may be employed by companies such as Microsoft or Adobe to develop retail software packages. Or they may work instead for a general business (or as a consultant to a general business) where they develop custom, proprietary software or adapt a retail package to meet specific business needs. For example, they may work with the database administrator of a company to provide the foundation for an application to track inventory, billing, payroll, and other company revenue and expenses. They may also work with a web developer to build a program that will be accessed online.
It is the job of these professionals to make user-friendly and efficient applications so that employees can be as productive as possible. Training employees to use the applications should also be straightforward. The software should be designed to cater to skills that end-users already have so that, for example, transition from one system to another is a smooth process.
A systems software engineer works with a variety of specialists such as business professionals, network administrators and network security specialists to develop software to establish, maintain and expand the computer infrastructure of a company. Examples of software you may develop are operating systems, network protocols, device drivers and compilers. All of these kinds of software facilitate the running of applications. Operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS or a Linux proprietary system, run applications on a PC or Mac. Network protocols allow devices to identify and make connections with each other. An example of an internet protocol is HTTP, and a common routing protocol is EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol). Device drivers allow devices such as a digital camera or a flash drive to be recognized by your computer when they are connected. Compilers translate source code in languages such as C++ or Visual Basic into binary code so that it can interact with software built in different programming languages.
A computer programmer, who can be compared to a builder, is closely associated with a software engineer, who is like the architect. Software engineers work with the management of an organization to design software to meet specific business needs, where programmers carry out the programming instructions that engineers develop. However, in the computer industry, the lines of distinction between different career paths have become blurred in recent years. Individuals in these computer careers need to know how to architect, but they also need to know how to program and perform other functions with which they work on a regular basis. It is also helpful if you understand basic business functions, such as the types of information that a business needs to collect and store, as well as how a business makes money.
The range of work of an individual employed in one of many of the computer careers we reviewed depends on the size of the organization for which he works. If you work for a large organization, you are likely to fulfill a more narrow business role, but you are more likely to perform many other functions in a smaller organization.
In addition to working with PC-based systems, a systems software engineer may develop software for other computer systems, such as those found in mobile devices, automobile engines or assembly line equipment.