The Skills that You Need to Hone to Become a Software Engineer

Software engineering jobs are expected to increase in demand by 25% over the next decade.
Trevor English

Software Engineering is one of the top jobs of the 21st century. It's likely one of the fastest ways to a six figure income, in the U.S. at least, and it can be a skill set that can take you a variety of different pathways in your career.

Getting a job as a software engineer is also a particularly interesting process because this career specifically is much more skills and potential based than it is formal education-based. That's to say you can get a promising job as a software engineering, in many cases, without a formal education. 

So, if you want to become a software engineer, let's take a look at a few of the things you should probably start doing to set yourself up for success.

Learning a programming language

One of the first steps to becoming a software engineer or even just evaluating whether it's the right career path is learning a new programming language. Programming is the bulk of what software engineers do on the day to day, so if you don't like it or just can't seem to get good at it, you might want to choose another path. 

Breaking it down elementary style, a programming language is just a language that computers understand that can give it commands to execute certain tasks. There are hundreds of programming languages that exist, around 700, but there will be a core subset that are used commonly in the industry

Here are a few of the core languages that you might want to look into. 

  • Java
  • Javascript
  • Python
  • C++
  • PHP

Picking any of these languages to start learning will give you a good background of what a software engineer does on the day to day. If you just want to get a taste of coding that can quickly be turned into an actual project, another good set of languages to learn are HTML and CSS. HTML is the basis of web publishing, and learning it can be as simple as downloading a WordPress or other website plugin.

All that said, picking your first programming language to learn can make or break your enthusiasm for the industry. You'll want to research each one, figure out their respective applications, and determine which one can be used for projects most interesting to you. 

As far as how you actually go about learning a programming language, you have a few options. There are tons of free courses online that will teach you how to code in highly useful and practical ways. Learning through these programs will require that you be self-motivated though. If you need something more structured, there are plenty of software engineering programs at universities around the world. 

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Once you know how to code in at least one language, you can start picking up the other crucial skills to being a software engineer. The first being software development.

Software development

Software development is the core means of what software engineers do. It means analyzing, designing, testing, and developing software to meet the needs of a user or customer. You can gain this experience as you're just learning in structured classes or by finding a software development mentor that can give you practical projects to work on. 

It's expected that in the next decade, software developer jobs will increase by 25%, so learning this skill can be a killer in the job hunt.

Software debugging

Writing code would be simple if you never had to fix any errors you made or solve issues that arise down the line. Debugging software is as core component of a software engineering role, and it can be frustrating to do if you don't know the best method to carry it out. 


Software debugging is a highly analytical task in determining how a system flows together and where errors might be arising. There's no easy way to learn debugging, rather you can think of it as more of an artistic craft within the realm of software development. Each software engineer will have their own methods that work best for debugging. It's a skill you'll have to hone as you write more and more software.

Logical thinking

If you want to become a good software engineer, you need to have a firm grasp on logic and how it works. Software engineers generally have good math skills, but mathematics really isn't the core. Sure there are numbers involved in coding, but understanding the logic behind a program or coding language is essential to succeeding in the industry.


Moreso than ever, software engineers are having to work in highly collaborative teams and deliver and iterate on projects with clients. Effective technical communication skills are highly important in excelling in the realm of software engineering. Specifically for hire-ability, you'll want to hone your communication skills to be better than average. 

At the end of the day too, the better your communication skills, the less back and forth you have to do with the client or other members on your team.

Along with communication comes the ability to work well on a team. This means being able to collaborate effectively without getting offended if someone shoots down your idea. It also means knowing how to shoot someone's idea down without offending them.

Getting better at working on teams is largely developed by, well, working on teams. As you work in teams, you'll want to focus specifically on what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and how you can improve. More times than not, working on teams in the most effective manner won't come naturally.

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