The Challenges of a Software Engineer

While it’s true that the engineer is also a programmer, and there are some design duties included in the core job functions, there are also some very fundamental, critical differences in the manner in which software engineers, programmers, and designers complete their work. Many engineers would also argue that there is a marked difference in the quality and performance of the products they produce as well.

Software engineer jobs take a more formal approach to the process of programming software. The manner in which engineers complete their work is much more similar to traditional engineering processes than it is to software programming or designing methods.

Software engineers are often involved in the most complex of design or programming activities. Though every day, run of the mill programs can be designed by less skilled folks, many programs can’t be trusted to just any old programmer.

For example, programs that control important processes – especially in circumstances where human lives may be lost if an error occurs in a program – are primarily the realm of highly skilled software engineers. After all, you don’t want the software that runs a key piece of medical equipment or that which drives the operating system of a nuclear submarine to fail.

This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of design engineer jobs with which incumbents must constantly contend. They are tasked with ensuring the smooth and efficient operations of incredibly complex and sometimes frightening processes with computer enhanced systems.

Design engineers are tasked not only with creating a software program that will serve the basic needs of a business, organization, or other client, but they must also foresee the potential pitfalls associated with the program as well. They must be able to grasp the technological concepts of the methods or practices with which the program is intended to interface and design the software appropriately for the highly technical, and often potentially dangerous, environment in which it will be used.

Although the average programmer or designer may be able to afford a few minor glitches, for those working in design engineer jobs, there is often no such thing as a minor glitch. Of the software fails, the consequences can be great. The pressure that design engineers face on a daily basis is tremendous for this very reason.

Software engineers also face some other unique challenges in the IT world. They must often complete a lot more paperwork than most IT professionals. Once again remaining true to the engineering trade, software engineers will draft designs, test them for quality, integrity and performance, and will frequently redesign them several times before moving from paper or prototypes to the real deal. In fact, many of those who work in software engineer jobs will spend as much as 70 – 80% of their time dealing with paperwork and only 20 – 30% actually writing code for the software itself.

What is the Difference Between a Software Engineer and a Computer Programmer?

The terms software engineer or computer programmer may be confusing to the average computer user. Most of us associate computer programs with the generic term ‘Software’. To us it may seem that the terms are interchangeable. That is not so. The role played by a software engineer is significantly different from that of a computer programmer. Before learning what the difference between a software engineer and a computer programmer is, let us see what is meant by the term software engineering and how it relates to computer programming.

Software engineering is a rigorous approach to development, maintenance and testing of software. These are engineers who must be knowledgeable about software requirements, design, development, maintenance and testing. They must be well versed with the tools and methods used for the development process as a whole. It is thus a convergence of the fields of computer science and systems engineering with a great deal of project management added for good measure. They are expected to have technical skills in addition to managerial skills.

A computer programmer on the other hand, is required to develop, test and maintain code that is to be run on the computer. He is responsible for converting the specifications provided in the software requirements definition phase into working code for the computer. Computer programmers are involved with design and maintenance of websites too. They should be proficient in analysis of programs. They are required to collaborate with manufacturers in developing new methodologies for software with evolution of hardware. Training, documentation and generation of reports are also tasks that should be handled by a computer programmer.

We can observe that the skill set required by a computer programmer is a subset of the skills expected from a software engineer. The computer programmer is a specialist in some areas covered by software engineering. A software engineer is in charge of the overall software development process and is expected to improve the reliability and maintainability of this complex process. A software engineer may have a team of computer programmers working under his supervision. 

Software Engineers Are in High Demand

Imagine a futuristic world powered by the science of software engineering. With the touch of a button, a pet dog can be fed when its owner is out of town. One day, the television screen will not only be in HD, but will pop out entirely making a 3-D image. These amenities and more can be accomplished by the sweat and blood of a software engineer. A major in software engineering is the strongest path a young person can take, whether the individual wants to make a difference in the world or just wants a handsome paycheck.

As technology advances, so does human civilization. By becoming a software engineer, one can take part of this ongoing project. The use of software can be seen everywhere from our cell phones to our microwave ovens. Almost all aspects of our daily lives are affected by technology. The televisions we view, the iPods we listen to, and even the water dispensers on our refrigerators are all using some sort of software. Not only does the software make life easier, but the use of software can save lives. The software for the modern day Doppler radar has helped rescue thousands of lives by detecting tornadoes in advance. Working in this field of engineering will allow one to make a difference in lives now and in the future. As long as electronics exist, there will always be a place for a software engineer.

A major in software engineering not only leads to a meaningful profession, but a job that is in high demand and might offer a grand paycheck. According to Student Scholarships, it will be the second fastest growing profession in the years 2006 to 2015. There were over 337,600 jobs available in 2007, making software engineering the largest branch in any type of engineering. As other companies become more technological, the need for software engineers will continue to grow. Also, according to PayScale, the median starting salary is a whopping $63,979 with the median national salary being $68,080. When it comes to getting a job with a four-year degree, there is no better pay than that of a software engineer.

Living life to the fullest can definitely be fulfilled by being a software engineer. Whether it’s by impacting the world or by living a materially satisfying life, there is no doubt that software engineering is useful to both the society and to the individual who majors in such a field.