How to become a Software Engineer

A beginner’s guide to Software Engineering
Curious about a career as a software engineer? You’re in the right place. Whether you want to end up coding games, or if you’re just asking yourself, What is coding?, we can help. Read on to learn all you’ve ever wanted to know about computer programming. We go into the nuances of software developer vs. software engineer. We discuss the value of enrolling in a free coding bootcamp. We even give you recommendations on programming certifications.

Dive in. Great software engineering jobs await.
The most common Software Engineering questions
Software Engineering jobs
Types of software programming
Want to become a Software Engineer?
Our pitch to you
The most common Software Engineering questions
What is coding?
This is a core question for budding software engineers: what is coding, and how does it work?
Coding, also known as computer programming, is all about writing instructions that can be understood by computers. This is done to get them to perform specific tasks. These tasks can be as small as adding two numbers or as significant as powering AI systems for video games.
In either case, software engineers write a series of logical commands using a programming language that bridges the gap between people and machines. Common languages include Python, Java, JavaScript, C#, and C++. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each has its own rules for how to write it. If you want to learn more about programming languages, check out our recent post.
Coding’s applications are vast. Code powers everything from the apps you use to order food to the Mars rover’s navigation systems. As such, it’s a valuable skill. People who know how to write code are consistently in high demand across diverse industries.
But there is one thing to specify here: computer science vs. computer programming. While they may seem similar, they differ in scope. Computer science is broader. It encompasses algorithms, data structures, database development, and much more. Computer programming, on the other hand, focuses on writing code. In fact, people often define coding as the practical application of computer science principles.
How do programs work?
Programs translate code into action. The exact way this is done can differ among languages, but most work along similar lines.
  • Compilation / interpretation
    This step is about the program preparing the code. Some languages such as C++ or Java need to compile to allow the computer to read the code. Languages like Python and JavaScript can be directly interpreted by the computer.
  • Execution
    The computer reads the code line-by-line and does what’s written. This is shaped by discrete systems such as:
  • Flow controlPrograms often include control structures like loops and conditional statements. They allow the program to repeat operations or make decisions.
  • Input and outputMany programs process inputs and produce outputs. For example, a program might need to know if you’ve pressed a button. Then, once that input is received, the program should do something. This output could be the motion of a character in a video game or a change to a file.
  • Memory managementOften, programs store, access, and change data. Good memory management ensures the program can use data without opening it to outside access.
  • Error handlingThis allows programs to safely deal with unexpected situations. For example, error handling enables the program to close down before a mistake in the code can fry your computer. Then, it can say what went wrong so that a coder can fix the issue.
  1. TerminationThis happens when a program reaches the end of its code or hits an instruction that tells it to terminate. During this step, the program gives back the memory it reserved and does other cleanup.
What does a software engineer do?
In a sentence, software engineers write the code that powers everything digital. This means that their work can be seen in almost every aspect of our lives. From your smartphone to your car, and from medical devices to the latest trendy toys, code is everywhere. Behind all of that, there is a software engineer.
But while writing code is the core of what software engineers do, it is not everything. Like with any job, it comes with other tasks.
Here’s a typical flow for software engineer responsibilities:
  • Figure out requirementsBefore a piece of software is made, the engineer needs to know what it should do. Because of this, developers spend a good amount of time sitting down and talking to teammates and customers. This ensures that everyone’s clear on what exactly the project’s all about and what it should accomplish.
  • Design the approachWhen an engineer knows what the code’s supposed to do, they create a plan. In this phase, they map out what will go where and how the elements should interact.
  • Write and test codeAfter figuring out what to write, the programmers start coding. Using their skills in their chosen language, they create the instructions that tell the software what to do. Once that’s done, it’s time to test. With the assistance of quality assurance (QA) engineers, they find and fix bugs.
  • Present projectsOnce the software is polished, they present it. They show it to their colleagues and customers and demonstrate how it accomplishes what they wanted it to. And if the initial requirements changed, they explain what changed and why.
  • Maintain softwarePrograms are dynamic. Often, they need to be updated. For example, engineers need to tweak smartphone apps when new phone operating systems are released. Because of this, software engineers spend time tending to their code and making sure it is up to date.
What languages do programmers use?
There are hundreds of languages that coders use. Instead of listing them all, we’ll focus on the top five most popular from StackOverflow’s recent survey.
  • JavaScriptThis is the language of the internet. JavaScript is the backbone of online apps, websites, games, and even some servers. It is what makes webpages interactive. In addition, it is a fairly easy language to learn.
  • HTML/CSSWhile they don’t contain programming logic, these two still combine to give websites their content and styling. Along with JavaScript, they are crucial for web developers. Devs use HTML and CSS to give sites structure and style, and they use JavaScript to make pages dynamic.
  • SQL (Structured Query Language)This language has a narrow scope, but when a piece of software needs to save, view, or change data from a database, SQL is key.
  • PythonWidely considered the easiest language to learn, Python is also very powerful. It is the language of choice for machine learning and artificial intelligence. But it also has a wide range of applications — from self-driving cars to video recommendation algorithms.
  • TypeScriptAs indicated by the name, this language is an extension of JavaScript. However, it adds static typing, which makes code easier to maintain and helps with readability. Like JavaScript, it is often used in web development, mobile apps, and some back end services.
What are daily activities for a coder?
Every coding job is different. But here are some things a coder can expect to do day-to-day:
  • Join meetingsGood communication and teamwork are crucial for a smooth development process. That makes regular meetings vital. In fact, coders often start their days with stand-up meetings. These are shorter check-ins that make sure the whole team stays in-the-know about what’s going on.
  • PlanBefore getting to the code, programmers go over requirements. They break down complex tasks into smaller steps and work out the best way to do what needs to be done.
  • Write codeThis is the core of the job. Coders use languages and development tools to translate their plans into instructions for computers. They write clean code that is efficient and readable.
  • Debug and testUsing debugging tools and testing frameworks, coders work with QA engineers to ensure their programs work as intended. If they find a problem, they go back into the code and fix it.
  • Document codeEngineers write comments and notes explaining their code. This will make it easier to maintain down the road. In addition, it will make the code’s logic clearer to other engineers.
  • Participate in code reviewsDevelopers come together to give and get feedback on the code they’ve written. This helps improve quality, reveals bugs early in the process, and fosters teamwork.
  • Research and learnTechnology evolves rapidly. Because of that, many software engineers spend time updating their knowledge of tools and techniques. They explore new tech, read the latest documentation, and participate in online forums.
Do developers work alone or in teams?
It depends on the project. Here are some ways coders work:
  • Solo workOn smaller projects, software engineers might indeed work alone. This gives them freedom and autonomy. This may be how you first start coding if you begin as a freelancer.
  • Pair programmingIt is what it sounds like — two coders working in tandem. Often, one writes code while the other gives feedback and helps make design decisions.
  • Agile / Scrum teamsThis is a way for larger groups to collaborate. Organizing teams this way is popular among tech companies. This approach involves sprints, two- to three-week chunks during which specific tasks need to be completed. During these periods, team members work on the bits of the larger project they’ve been assigned and regularly link up.
  • Distributed collaborationDistributed workforces and remote jobs are now quite prevalent. That means coders might have team members on the other side of the globe. While they still might use an Agile / Scrum approach, more far-flung teams will incorporate additional systems and software to make it easier for people to cooperate no matter where they are.
  • Open-source developmentOpen-source development might be the most collaborative way coders work. Within this approach, a global community comes together to contribute to a project bit-by-bit. Resources are free for anyone to access. Any programmer can submit changes, review code, and join discussions.
Where can I get a job as a software engineer?
Almost anywhere. When people think of tech jobs, they often think of Silicon Valley giants. But software engineers are in demand across the board. For example, TripleTen grads use their skills to help people find therapy, to design bespoke webpages, and to improve the lives of special-needs students.
Outside of tech companies, coders can find jobs in:
  • Financial institutionsSoftware now shapes banking, investment, and insurance firms. In fact, there’s likely a banking app on your phone. A coder wrote that.
  • E-commerce and retailSoftware engineers write the code that keeps online markets, e-commerce platforms, and retail companies running in our digital era.
  • HealthcareCoders write and maintain electronic health record trackers, lab management systems, and medical imaging applications.
  • EducationEver since school went virtual in 2020, EdTech has seen a boom. Coders build new tools that augment what teachers can do.
  • GamingVideo game firms always need coders. They write the code that makes this medium so engaging.
  • EntertainmentCoders write the algorithms that suggest TV shows on online platforms, the editing software that helps tell the shows’ stories, and much more.
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Software Engineering jobs
Software engineer career path
There is no one be-all end-all way to get this job and grow. Some coders go to four-year universities to get degrees. Some never even set foot inside a college. Some teach themselves code, and others join bootcamps.
But all coders start out learning. They choose a language or a focus and get hands-on to apply what they’re studying. Once they feel sure in their skills, they begin with entry-level positions to gain on-the-job knowledge. This intro to the field also shows them how a coding job operates day-to-day.
From there, they can take on more responsibility. Over time, this can lead to a senior role such as project manager, engineering manager, or technical lead. They can even become chief technical officers if they show a knack for inspiring others.
If you pursue the latest knowledge in your field and stay at the top of your game, software engineering can take you far.
Software engineer vs. developer
When we talk about software developer vs. software engineer, it might be hard to know quite what we mean. The terms can be used interchangeably. Still, there are general ways in which the two differ.
  • Software engineerThis job often entails a broader scope. Engineers can be present at various stages of development. They may have a say in requirements analysis, system design, coding, testing, and deployment.
  • Software developerThis role tends to be more specific. Developers are involved in coding and programming tasks. They translate requirements and designs into actual software solutions. They focus on writing code, implementing features, and debugging issues.
Web developer vs. app developer
Here we get into another distinction akin to software engineer vs. web developer or web developer vs. software developer. These two roles differ in focus.
  • Web developerAs the name suggests, this job is all about the web. It focuses on creating websites and web applications that run in browsers. These coders typically use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • App developerIn this role, people write applications that run on your phone or desktop. That means their programs don’t need web browsers to work. App developers tend to use languages such as Swift, Java, and Kotlin.
What is a full stack engineer?
To grasp what full-stack engineer jobs are about, two concepts need to be explained: front end and back end. Simply, “front end” covers the elements a user interacts with and sees. “Back end” handles what the user doesn’t see. Front end development is about crafting responsive designs and user interfaces. Back end development is about building systems that support those user-facing components.
The tech behind both the front and back end combine to make up what’s known as a “stack”. Hence, someone who can work in both aspects is known as a full stack developer.
For the front end, coders typically use languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as libraries such as React, Angular, or Vue.js. These add-ons make it easier to build dynamic user experiences.
For the back end, developers usually use Python, Java, Ruby, and even JavaScript. They augment this with frameworks such as Django, Spring, Ruby on Rails, or Express.js.
Overall, a full stack engineer is a well-rounded coder with a diverse range of skills in tech. These skills allow them to work on all layers of web application development. Their versatility and grasp of both front end and back end technologies make them valuable assets in modern software development teams. Because of this, they are highly employable.
Types of software programming
Website development
Making a website involves more than just one task. For example, tech workers build the user interface and write code for both the front and back end. For the front-end, they focus on creating pleasant and user-friendly interfaces using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. For the back-end, coders craft server-side logic and handle data storage using Python, Java, Ruby, or JavaScript.
Full-stack coders do it all, but often, people specialize. Let’s go a little deeper.
Web app programming
If you’ve ever used the internet, you’ve used a web app. They are the programs you interact with in a browser. Just think of the things you tend to use on a daily basis — social media sites, booking platforms, weather forecast apps, etc. They are all powered by web apps.

That’s what web app programming is all about. Within this field, coders make interactive apps that run on web browsers. They use languages such as JavaScript, Python, Ruby, or PHP. These are then enhanced with frameworks like React, Angular, Django, or Ruby on Rails.

These programs handle user inputs, process data, implement security measures, and manage user sessions. They also engage with data storage, retrieval, and management, and apply APIs that connect front end and back end components.

While web app programming may seem weighted to the front end, it also involves the back end. These apps must mesh with servers, databases, and external APIs.
Back end engineering
As stated above, back end engineering is about the things the end user doesn’t see. The database that stores your login details? That’s part of the back end. The server hosting the site you’re trying to log in to? It’s also the back end. Think of the back end as the scaffolding on which the front end is built.

When coders make the back end, they build the logic, functionality, and infrastructure that support the front end. They also enable the app to interact with databases, external services, and other resources. They use languages such as Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, or Node.js, and frameworks like Django, Spring, Ruby on Rails, Laravel, or Express.js.

Back end engineers work with front end developers, database administrators, and other team members to build robust and scalable apps. Their code is key to powering the core functionality of an app and ensuring its smooth operation, security, and efficiency.
Want to become a Software Engineer?
So you’ve read all about what it’s like to be a software engineer. Now you want to try it out, but you don’t know where to start. That’s where TripleTen comes in. Read on to see how you can start pursuing this great job.
Learn to code
The core skill all software engineers have is coding. If you want to know what language is best or which has the highest salary, we go into that in detail in our previous post. Here, we’re going to show you a few approaches to learning to code.
Computer science degrees
When people consider learning to code, they often think they need a software programmer degree from a four-year university. These schools do indeed give students strong foundations in algorithms, coding languages, and other fundamental concepts. In addition, four-year programs also include classes that provide theoretical knowledge. Combined, this can give grads a good basis for a wide range of technical roles. That’s not to mention the other perks that come with a college education — the degree, the on-campus experience, and the weird classes in unexpected knowledge that can refresh how you view the world.

This does come with downsides, though. The average college education costs $35,551 per year. The average student debt is $28,950. That’s not to mention that many people take on these high costs and do not even graduate. That means they have debt without a degree — the worst of both worlds.

In addition, as computer science changes so rapidly, college curricula struggle to stay relevant. Not only that, but the information taught is often too theoretical. It tends to be detached from real-world uses. Then, once grads start looking for jobs, they realize they have no practical skills or industry experience to put on their resumes.

This is not to say that college is a bad choice. If you are interested in higher education for reasons beyond future employability, the degree is likely still worth it. If you’re focused on learning to code to improve your career prospects, there are other ways that are cheaper and more employment-focused.
Coding tutors
Often, people choose to learn with online coding tutors. Programming tutors can be found on freelancing websites, and often their lessons can be very affordable. Sessions can be arranged according to the learner’s schedule, and different tutors can cover different languages or technologies. This can make tech knowledge very accessible for learners. In fact, if you’re looking for a good resource, here are the best YouTube channels for Software Engineering students.

However, tutors tend to only focus on one aspect of getting a job in tech: the hard skills. Other key things such as resume and interview prep are not in their purview. In addition, when students finish their time with a tutor, they may not have anything to show for it in their portfolios. That’s not to mention that tutors can vary wildly in quality and competence. Sifting through a sea of freelance coding teachers can be a job in and of itself.
Software Engineering Bootcamps
Software engineering bootcamps are the way to learn coding for career-minded people. They focus on giving students useful knowledge and experience to get them the new career they’re searching for. Because they are staffed by industry experts, these programs can teach the latest versions of the most in-demand coding languages.

These bootcamps are shaped into two- to three-week sprints. During this time, students are given tasks to complete in cohorts, but how they approach the tasks is up to them. This reflects how work is done in the tech industry, meaning grads leave bootcamps more prepared for a new career. In addition, they are placed among a robust community that can support them in whatever way they might need.

But the education at bootcamps extends further. In addition to the hard skills in coding, these programs often include sections dedicated to career prep. This includes guidance on building a strong resume, advice on negotiation, mock interviews for practice, and more. Not only do grads leave bootcamps with knowledge of code. They also gain the ability to clearly communicate their skills to hiring managers. This is why many bootcamps feel confident enough to offer guarantees — if students don’t find a job in their new field within six months of finishing the program, they get their money back. Sound too good to be true? Check it out for yourself.

In fact, there are even free coding bootcamps out there. For example, there is one all about SQL, the language techies use to get programs to talk to databases. It’s a skill in high demand, and you can start your journey in tech with it without paying a cent. Find out more about it here.

And if you want more insight on getting a tech career, check out our previous post here.
Software engineering certifications
There are many certifications for software engineers. Often, these programming certifications center on one technology or one field. They are not crucial for coders just starting out. However, software engineer certifications can give techies a leg up later in their careers. There are tons of coding certifications out there, but we’re going to focus on five.
Here’s a list of what we think are the best certifications for software engineers:
  • AWS Certified Developer - AssociateOffered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this certification validates expertise in developing and deploying applications on the popular AWS cloud platform.
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer AssociateThis certification demonstrates proficiency in designing, building, and deploying applications on Microsoft Azure, a widely used cloud computing platform.
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud DeveloperThis software engineering certification confirms skills in developing, deploying, and managing applications on the Google Cloud Platform.
  • Certified Scrum DeveloperThis computer programming certificate offered by the Scrum Alliance validates knowledge of Agile methodologies and software development practices. It demonstrates the holder’s proficiency in Scrum principles, collaboration, and delivering high-quality software.
  • Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE DeveloperThis software engineering certificate showcases expertise in Java development, including core programming concepts, object-oriented design, and proficiency in Java SE technologies.
Depending on how your coding career pans out, one of these may be more relevant than another. It's worth noting that software developer certifications alone do not guarantee career success. Practical experience, continuous learning, and staying informed on industry trends are all vital.
Software engineering job placement
Learning to code is crucial. But on-the-job experience is equally as important if you want a tech career. That is where coding job placement comes in.
At TripleTen, this takes the form of externships. During externships, learners at the end of their studies join real-world projects. This gives them the chance to get hands-on experience before they even finish the program. Students see how tech works day-to-day as they develop websites for companies battling plastic pollution or even help a company make key high-level marketing decisions.
The skills gained are invaluable. For example, students engage in real-world code reviews. This teaches them how to give and get feedback in a professional environment. Down the line, communication skills like these make them stand out to hiring managers.
Whatever shape it comes in, job placement should be at the top of your list when looking for a good bootcamp. After all, you’re most likely not joining a bootcamp just for fun. You want the program to help revitalize your career. So choose one that is career-focused. Find out more in our post here.
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Our pitch to you
So what is coding? More than you might think. Software engineers write the computer programming that defines our lives. They are the ones coding games and building apps.
Our software engineering bootcamp can make you one of them. Software developer vs software engineer? The choice is yours. You’ll gain hands-on experience that can get you employed in no time, and you’ll be ready to pursue later programming certifications.
Check us out here or dive into our free coding bootcamp. And if you want to see what job is right for you, take our career quiz.
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