How to Know if Software Engineering is the Right Career For You

November 16, 2017

Is software engineering the right career for you? Well, it's dependent on if you have these qualities.

Software engineering is, by all objective measures, one of the best fields to get into today.

The salary is good – $95,000 a year on average, in the United States. Software engineers are highly sought after – developers in in-demand areas often receiving dozens of inquiries a month from recruiters. And it’s a cool job – you get to build the software solutions that power virtually every organization, from the obvious like Facebook or Google, to the not-so-obvious like Ford and GE.

That said, it’s hardly a job for everyone. It is a difficult job requiring employees to work long hours, where a single mistake can mean a massive bug. Regardless of how well it pays or how many job offers you get, if you don’t like it, you’ll remain unhappy (and, frankly, you won’t be that good at it).

So, what type of person does it take to be a good software engineer? Well, after analyzing several studies into the matter and taking the advice of experienced software engineers, we isolated the qualities you should possess if you want to get into the field of software engineering.

1. A dedication to learning.

Software engineering is the opposite of a job where you learn it once and then never have to learn again. More than almost any other function, software engineers need to #AlwaysBeLearning.

There are always new software languages to master and always new techniques to learn. If you aren’t committed to learning, your skills will become antiquated within a few years.

To some people, that’s scary. To others, it’s invigorating to always be on the cutting edge. If you fall into the latter category, you are in good shape.

2. A passion for improving what’s around you.

This, in some ways, is an extension of the first point. Not only must you be committed to always improving yourself, but a good software engineer can't help but think how to improve the world around them.

That’s really what software engineering is all about – constant tinkering. Most software solutions are released as MVPs (minimal viable products). And then they remain in a constant state of beta, where software engineers take user feedback and their own intuition to continually improve it.

3. A logical, analytical mindset.

Writing code is much like writing in general – it’s about using the fewest amount of characters possible to make your point. The best software engineers will write much less code than their peers to accomplish the same goal.

What’s the key to doing that? Having a logical, analytical mindset. That empowers you to take a complex set of instructions and boil it down to its most integral parts. It also empowers you to make decisions based on data and research, as opposed to more emotional ones.

Do you have a penchant for logic games, like riddles or chess or something along those lines? Then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy and excel at software engineering.

4. A sharp attention to detail.

Similar to the last point, coding eloquently means having a sharp attention to detail. Mistakes while coding lead to bugs, which leads to customer complaints and lost revenues.

This doesn’t just apply when actually writing the code. The best programmers feverishly Q-and-A their own code to ensure it’s perfect. If you have that eye for detail and are willing to thoroughly test and revise your work, you have a key quality necessary for becoming a software engineer.

5. The ability to work with others.

Here’s an underrated but critically important skill. Yes, coding itself is often solitary work. But it’s almost always done in the framework of a larger team, making collaboration paramount.

The best software engineering teams maximize the ability of everyone on them by having employees who are both constructive and supportive. No single software engineer could build a search engine like Google, for example. Only a team of incredibly talented engineers, all working seamlessly together, could build such an indispensable product.

Do you possess the qualities listed and are interested in becoming a software engineer? Here are just a few of our Learning Paths that can get you there: