The Ultimate Guide to Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, Software Development and Becoming a Software Developer

Many people think of software engineering as writing code, but that is just one part of this career. This guide will help you with everything you need to know about the world of software development.
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Trying to get a job in the world of software engineering or software development can seem a bit overwhelming nowadays whether you are a seasoned pro who finds themselves unemployed or brand new to the field.

What is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is developing software programs for computers using engineering design processes. 

They may create different computer programs people use on a daily basis, or they may engineer foundational computer systems, also known as embedded software programs. 

Many people think of software engineering as writing code, but that is just one part of this career. 

Software engineers may also design programs, test them and evaluate their performance throughout the development process, called the software development life cycle (SDLC). 

In addition to programming, software engineers must also understand how to create and manage algorithms, how to troubleshoot problems that occur throughout development, and how to accurately gather product requirements from clients so that they can design a solution for the client’s specific or custom application.

What is Computer Engineering?

Computer engineering is conceptualizing and developing physical pieces of technology, also known as hardware engineers. 

This can include anything from computer chips, to actual computers like desktops and laptops, but also any device that uses computing technology and these days there are a ton of those.

 Printers, cameras, video game systems, memory devices and smart TVs are all designed by computer engineers. 

Computer engineers may also work closely with software engineers to develop products that have synergy between physical design and operation.

What is Software Development?

Software development is the process of gathering requirements, specifying details, architecture design, documenting, testing, and troubleshooting involved in creating software applications, software frameworks and software components.

Application development and software design are two other terms for Software development

It is a more creative field than Software Engineering or Computer Engineering, though these career paths often grow near one another. 

Software developers help to create programs for computers and other electronic devices that serve a specific function. 

They research, design, code and document their programs. 

They also test them and fix bugs, typically throughout the life of the product, which include interaction with end users and business clients, 3rdparty vendors and suppliers.

Who is a Software Developer?

Software developers hold a bachelor's degree in computer science from an accredited college or university. 

Now there are also several bootcamp type of programs that help enterprising and hard working people become a software developer in just a few months. 

California is the US state with the most software developers, with the SF Bay Area's Silicon Valley as a major technology hub. In order to have a successful career in Silicon Valley, software developers need to have a unique combination of skills and personality traits including working well with a team and the ability to analyze programs and solve complex problems.

What is the Difference Between Software Engineering and Computer Engineering?

The difference between software engineering and computer engineering is much more apparent than the subtle differences between other development and engineering positions in the tech world. 

Computer engineers work on physical hardware while software engineers work on the programs and the coding language that make them work. Computer engineers are knowledgeable about electronic engineering and design the physical products, while software engineers help to create the programs, databases and other internal codes that keep them running and functional. 

Both positions may be knowledgeable about some of the same topics, including software development and integrating hardware and software, but they diverge at the ultimate job function.

What is the Difference Between Software Engineering and Software Development?

The difference between software engineering and software development is subtle compared to the differences between computer engineering and software engineering. 

Both software engineers and developers work on software codes. They develop, test and debug codes and computer software programs. However, there are definitely some differences. 

Software engineers may also have development knowledge, but developers usually don't touch engineering and of course some similarities. 

Software engineers use scientific engineering concepts - the same ones that other types of engineers, including mechanical or electrical engineers - to develop software. 

Software Developers are more creative in their design as they often work closely with graphic designers who are responsible for creating the entire customer story and designing an experience around the company’s product and how it will be used. 

Software developers can often learn on-the-job and develop on-the-fly. While these two terms may be used interchangeably sometimes, there is a slight difference that mainly refers to the mindset of the position.

What is Software Design?

Software design is the process of creating the graphic user interface for a computer program, and building its components from the end user’s point of view.

It is both the process of conceptualizing the full architecture of a program and how databases and system components will work together as well as the continual improvement of the end result. 

It includes software architecture design or top-level design, which details how the system will be organized upon completion. 

There is also detailed design, which includes more specific information on how each of the components of the software will function.

What is Computer Programming?

Computer programming is the act of telling a computer what to do. Yes, that's right. Computer programmers are rather bossy when it comes to machines! 

Computer programmers (also referred to as embedded programmers or hardware programmers) may create anything from a complex operating system to a simple calculator program. 

The thing that is constant about every program is that they all use a programming language. 

Different developers and engineers may specialize in a specific language including but not limited to C#, C++, Visual Basic and Python. 

The aforementioned languages are all compiled languages, meaning a human writes them, but they must be compiled afterward to get into a format that can be read by computers. 

Interpreted languages like JavaScript and Perl can be read by both humans and computers. 

What is Computer Coding?

Computer Coding is the act of using a software programming language to create an app, system or website. 

Coding is talked about a lot in terms of the fairly recent popularity of the Information Technology (IT) industry. 

However, computer coding is just one aspect of computer engineering, programming and development. 

Coding means using a computer programming language to create an app, system or website. 

Most programmers and engineers are experts in at least one programming language, but often know multiple languages. 

Coding, in general, can create websites and mobile apps, but computer coding specifically refers to the development of computer programs and systems.

What is Software Testing?

Software testing is an important part of the software development lifecycle. 

After everything has been designed, programmed and developed, it must be tested. 

Many computer programs are in a constant state of testing and improvement, proving that the software development process is not done when a product or program is delivered to the public. 

Software testing or software quality assurance process makes sure the program meets the goals and design components planned in the initial software design phase, and that all the software functionalities intended for the program is present and working properly.

History of Software Development and Engineering

The very first piece of software was run at 11 am on June 21, 1948 on a computer that was affectionately nicknamed Baby, but officially called the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine. 

The program was written by the early software developer Tom Kilburn and it was basically a giant, slow calculator. 

It took nearly an hour to perform the first calculation programmed. 

These early giant-sized computers were programmed with punch cards. 

The holes in the cards told the computers what to do. Developers created the cards without interacting with a computer. 

The field continued to develop from this moment on, through the decades of the 20th century, leading us to where we are today.

Starting in the 1970s, the popularity of personal computing started to speed of the field of software development. As you can see by the smartphone in your pocket and the laptop in your backpack, we have come a long way from the software that was released on the first PCs back in the 70s. 

The first spreadsheet, word processing and visual design programs were released in the 80s. 

The invention of the internet in the 90s innovation spurred more innovation.

Modern software developers develop programs that create thousands if not millions of calculations per second - a long way from the 52 minutes that Tom Kilburn and his team had to wait for their one mathematical solution. 

In fact, the fastest computer in the world can perform more than 33 trillion calculations per second!

First Software Developers and Engineers in History

The first software developers and engineers were paving the way for all of our modern technology. 

They were at the cutting edge of science and exploration for their time. 

These are just a few of the important figures we remember as forging technology forward in the analog age.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace is often considered the first software developer even though she lived in the 19th century, well before our digital age. 

She was a British Countess who was also an accomplished mathematician. 

Ms. Lovelace was the first person to envision how an algorithm could help a computer perform more advanced functions than just calculating numerical sums. 

She worked closely with Charles Babbage, who conceived of some of the first mechanical machines that were designed to perform calculations via punch cards.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing is another person who lived before our modern age. 

A paper he wrote in 1935 was one of the key elements that led to the development of the entire field of software development and engineering in the first place. 

It is estimated that his important working the field of computing helped to shorten World War II by helping to solve encrypted messages. 

The drama of the situation can be seen in the popular film “The Imitation Game” with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.

Tom Kilburn

We already mentioned how Tom Kilburn's "Baby" was the first to read a software program. 

Most of his other innovations were in the field of hardware, including increasing the speed of massive early computers, and the first random-access storage in computers that allowed them to both store programs and information. 

Software Engineering Industry

The software engineering industry is one of the fastest growing fields today, and the need just keeps on growing. 

IBM relates this boom to the Industrial Revolution that occurred at the turn of the century with factories and automated processes. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry is expected to show 24% growth between 2016 and 2026, higher than most other industries. 

Software engineers are well compensated for their expertise. 

The median salary of Software Engineering in USA is over $100,000 per year. 

Many tech companies provide their employees with other benefits such as flexible schedules, the ability to work from home, in-office snacks and diversions like video games or a ping pong table. 

For Software engineers and developers who at the top of their game, some of these extra perks can mean they’ll turn down an offer and accept another one.

Software Engineering/Development and Internet Industry

The software industry and the internet industry are very tightly connected. 

These days the "internet of things" connects all of our devices to the world-wide-web, the internet. 

There include smart refrigerators, smart TVs and even smart coffee makers, and any other device in your home that can be integrated with your Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant! 

Software engineers are needed to create the programs that make these products work with your smartphone or computer. 

They work closely with internet experts to make sure everything works without a glitch.

Software Engineering/Development and Tech Industry

Software engineering and development are an integral part of the tech industry. 

It might be the most talked about position among those who live in the areas surrounding California's Silicon Valley and also the Silicon Valley of India, the city of Bangalore. 

While there are many other positions that tech companies need like data analysts, salespeople, operation managers, PMs and technical writers, nothing would get done without the software engineers or developers who make the products work the way they should! 

Perks of Being a Software Engineer/Developer

Software engineers and developers get a lot of perks. 

First of all, it is often possible for them to work remotely from home because their work only needs a computer and an internet connection. 

They can work from any location, being the sandy beaches of Guam or the rocky mountains of Nepal. 

As long as they are able to get access to high-speed internet and can get things done, many bosses and managers don't care where it happens as long as it’s done right. 

Additionally, it is possible to get short-term contracts as a software engineer or developer. 

Thus, there are some people who only work part of the year and spend the rest of the time traveling or pursuing another passion or projects. 

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The main benefit of this type of position (Software Consultancy) is that there is a lot of room for growth and opportunity in this industry. 

You can even take on multiple projects at the same time, if you really want to work some extra hours and make much more money. 

Many companies give employees a certain percentage of their working time to work on their own projects. 

Who knows, you might create the next billion-dollar product in your spare time!

What is the Average Software Engineer Salary?

The average salary for a software engineer in the US is $104,463. 

This is much higher than the median US income of $56,516. 

As you can see, becoming a software engineer will be great for your bank account. 

It's a wonderful job for people who have big financial goals to meet like buying a house or putting multiple kids through college. 

Especially if you are considering becoming self-employed, therefore taking on multiple projects at a time. 

You can even hire a junior software engineer to outsource some parts of the project to, so that you can focus on the most important parts, and then use your available hours to seek and find more projects, thus building your business or company’s portfolio. 

What is the Average Software Developer Salary?

The average salary for a software developer is $79,604. 

It is a little bit less than a software engineer but still a good salary for an amazing job. 

The difference speaks to the fact that software engineers often have a more technical background, and might have a bit more schooling, training or certifications. 

Also, you will more often see software engineers continue their education up to the PhD Post-Doc levels.

What is the Average Computer Engineering Salary?

The average salary for a computer engineer is about $84,068. 

This is an admirable income for any job. 

Of course, the rates do vary from job to job, company to company, location to location, and also as you progress in your career it will be possible to earn a higher salary; and even much higher when/if you choose to go into a management or leadership role. 

The great thing about the tech industry and computer engineering is that things are always growing and changing so there is a lot of room to follow your passion and climb the corporate ladder to success.

Software Engineering Salary

Software Engineering Salary Range

Entry level software engineers can expect to make about $85,629 per year.

This is an amazing entry-level salary compared to many positions starting new employees out at $30,000 or $40,000 per year. 

The upper ranges for the profession can earn upwards of $160,000 per year, if you're still a software engineer. 

If you move into management or executive level work can earn much more than that.

Software Engineer Salary Range by Country

The US definitely has the highest pay ranges for software engineers, but other nations also offer competitive salaries. 

France is at the bottom of the list with software engineer salaries around $43,000, but nearby Switzerland is almost on par with the US, offering salaries at an average of about $85,000. 

In India, the average salary for a software engineer is 727,353 rupees per year which may sound like a lot, but it is actually the equivalent of about $10,000. 

However, that is actually a good salary for India. 

This is the reason that some companies choose to outsource their engineering work to other countries that have a much lower cost of living.

Software Engineering Salary Range by City

San Jose, CA is the city with the highest base salary offered with an average of $122,000 per year and nearby San Francisco is not far behind with $120,000. 

This is definitely where you want to be if you want to make the most money possible. 

Seattle is another major tech hub offering salaries of about $113,000 per year. 

On the lower end is Huntsville, AL which offers salaries around $76,000 and Pittsburgh, PA or Charlotte, NC where general salaries fall around $80,000. 

Some believe that in the cities with a lower cost of living, software engineers are theoretically earning more because their living expenses take up a smaller portion of their income.

Software Engineering Salary Range in Different Companies

It makes sense that different companies offer different pay ranges for software engineers

They all have different budgets and different requirements. 

The biggest and most popular companies are able to offer a more competitive salary range. 

Take Facebook, for example. 

The social networking giant offers a range between $81,000 and $201,000. 

Google also starts at $80,000 and goes all the way up to $223,000 depending on factors like your experience and qualifications. 

Working at the famous innovator IBM as a software engineer could earn you between $49,000 and $163,000 per year, and their main competitor Apple has salaries ranging between $62,000 and $205,000 per year.

Software Developer Salary Range

An entry-level software developer can expect to earn somewhere in the ballpark of $65,000 per year. 

A top-level software development executive can make a whole lot more than that. $269,846 is the top salary for a software development executive, and the median for that position is around $224,000. 

That is a wide range of earning potential throughout your full career. 

Software Developer Salary Range by Country

In a country like India, the average base salary for a software developer is 500,000 Indian rupees which is about $7,000 per year. 

Of course, that is much less than it is in other countries but in India a lower salary in that range is still considered good. 

Chinese software developers earn about 181,000 Chinese yuan or around $28,000 per year. 

Other European countries come closer to US salaries with France around the lowest at about $54,000, and Switzerland nearing the US rates with average salaries of around $121,000.

Software Developer Salary Range by City

Similar to the salaries for a software engineer, the top software developer salaries are found in the SF Bay Area. 

It's a competitive environment where companies are willing to put down the top dollar to secure the best talent. 

In San Jose, CA, developers can make on average $133,000. 

Nearby Oakland offers about $131,000 and San Francisco itself has average salaries of $122,000. Close to the Bay Area is Seattle, WA at around $132,000. 

Those living in places like Chicago, IL or Atlanta, GA will see much lower salaries but also lower cost of living. 

Chicago developers make around $108,000 and those in Atlanta are usually around $96,000.

Computer Engineer Salary Range

As a computer engineer who is just starting out in your career, you could earn as much as $72,000 per year, though entry-level salaries do go all the way up to $104,000. 

If you go into management as a computer engineer could earn as much as $163,000 per year. 

Moving into executive-level work could earn you much more than that.

Computer Engineer Salary Range By Country

The average computer engineer salary in the US is around $84,000. 

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, offer around $69,760 CAD, or about $54,000 USD. 

Australia's median salary is $59,571 AUD, or around $45,000 USD. 

In India, computer engineer salaries range from 100,000 Indian rupees to 900,000 Indian Rupees. 

These salaries range from $1,500-13,000 US dollars. 

As with the professions of software developer and engineer, computer engineers are paid the most in the US.

Computer Engineer Salary Range by City

Again, as with software engineering and development, the SF Bay Area is the place to be for computer engineers. 

San Francisco, CA wins with the highest salaries in the US for computer engineers. 

There, you can expect to make an average salary of $147,000. 

Nearby, those in San Jose make around $145,000. 

New York City engineers may make around $93,000, and those in Chicago have an average salary of $85,000. 

Even though the numbers for some other cities are lower, they are still respectable salaries that can set you up for a great life. 

Computer Engineer Salary Range in Different Companies

The tech giants like Facebook and Google pay their computer engineers the best, but other companies also offer competitive salaries for those who want different work environments. 

Google offers the best salaries on average, at about $124,000 per year. 

There is also LinkedIn and Apple, offering an average of $122,000 and $120,000 per year respectively. 

Micron Technology, a memory and hard drive provider offers on average $82,000 per year. 

As you can see, no matter where you work as a computer engineer, you'll be well taken care of!

Basic Titles and Their Meanings in the Software Development Industry

When you're looking for a job in the software development industry it can become a bit confusing because of all the different job titles. 

Some of the differences are quite obvious while others are a bit more subtle.

Junior Developer

Junior developers are typically people who are just starting out in the industry. It might be your first job out of college or coding bootcamp. 

They are generally considered to have less than three years of experience. 

Even though the term "junior" makes it sound like it's for total beginners, this entry level position still offers solid pay and usually has all the benefits of full-time employment with a tech company like health insurance, paid time off and other perks.

Senior Developer

Senior developers have more experience than junior developers. 

They may specialize in certain processes or programming languages. 

At the senior level, you may be expected to help with project oversight or even employee management, but that will be made clear in the job description. 

One thing is clear -- senior software developers are well compensated for their experience and expertise.

Lead Developer

A lead software developer is similar in many ways to a senior developer, except that they are expected to be part of the leadership team on a project. 

They are more than just a developer with a certain level of experience. 

If you want to be a lead developer you should work well with a team, and be comfortable mentoring developers with less experience.

Product Manager

A product manager does not necessarily have to be a software developer, but they are integral to the development process. 

In the software industry, it is definitely helpful for product managers to have a software background. 

They oversee everything relating to the development of a product, in this case, software. 

PMs are present in any type of industry that creates a product to sell. 

As a product manager, you will act as the middle person between the sales team and software developers to make sure that customers get what they want in a timely manner.

System Administrator

A system administrator is more of an IT person who maintains the systems that keep developers going. 

In a larger company, there will be several people in this role, each with a different area of specialty. 

A smaller company would probably just have one system admin. 

Overall, a system admin cares for the hardware and software that developers and engineers use to do their jobs, so they are integral to the development process.

Chief Technical Officer (CTO)

Much in the way that a chief financial officer is in charge of all the finances for a company, a chief technical officer(often abbreviated to CTO) is in charge of all the technology. 

CTOs have a lot of experience and education, and can guide the company with technological leadership. They may pick the specific tech products used by developers, develop methods and systems for efficient product development and strategically plan anything tech related for the future. 

Best Industries for Software Engineering Career

You may think that the best industry for a software engineering career could simply be described as "tech," but that is far too simplistic! 

With tech as an everyday part of our lives, every single industry needs software developers and engineers. 

Healthcare is an amazing field for those who really want to feel like they are making a difference. 

Healthcare software engineers can expect to earn on average $90,000 per year, and will have a long, steady career since there is a lot of need. 

Another promising industry for software engineers is in digital security. 

The average cyber security engineer earns about $138,000 per year. 

Everyone needs security these days, from the government, to defense companies and basic technology firms. 

Best Companies to Work For as a Software Engineer/Developer & Perks

Most software engineers and developers agree, working at a big tech company is a dream. 

The best companies are willing to spoil hard-working employees.

Facebook is often considered the No. 1 company for employees. 

They believe in providing everything their employees need to make them happy. 

Free lunch and snacks all day, affordable health insurance with low co-pays and four months of both maternity and paternity leave for new parents are just a few of the things that keep developers and engineers happy.

Free gym & SPA access, tech device, clothing and more are also some other perks. 

At Google, every single meal is free; there are on-site gyms and fitness classes, employees get regular massages and are encouraged to have a fair work/life balance. 

They also offer employees tuition reimbursement for furthering their education, a big help to your overall career.

Free gym & SPA access, tech device, clothing and more are also some other provided perks at Google. 

Many tech companies, like HubSpot, offer unlimited vacation and time off. 

When you have been with the company for five years, HubSpot also offers a 1-month long sabbatical. 

As long as employees get their work done, they don't care what they do with their off time. 

Best Companies to Work Remotely as a Software Developer/Engineer

One of the major perks of becoming a software engineer or developer is that your work can almost always be done remotely. 

You can travel the world and still get your paycheck.

Github is one of the best remote companies to work for as a software engineer. 

The company provides tools you will need to improve their projects. 

They help to pay for your home office, and even help pay for a co-working space if you choose to use one. 

Github also furnishes remote engineers with a new laptop every two years.

Adobe is an innovator in the tech world. 

Sure, they started out with the now defunct Flash, but in present day they have an amazing suite of products that are used in industries from film & TV to publishing to web development. They support remote and flexible employees, and those who like to work from home report they are a great company to work for.

DataStax is a company that prides itself on having a team scattered all over the world. They are a software company offering different tools like a graphing program, analytics and developer tools. In fact, on their careers page they boast that living far from the Santa Clara, CA company headquarters is no problem at all, followed by a list of far-flung locations of many of the employees.

Software Engineering/Development Education and Training

Until fairly recently, the only option for becoming a software engineer or developer was through traditional college and graduate school. 

However, now there are several "boot camp" type of programs in which people who are looking for a career change can learn development in as little as 6 months.

How to Learn Software Engineering

Many software engineers have a degree in computer science. If you don't have one, don't despair because many do not. 

Despite the amazing career opportunities, only a small percentage of college students study computer science. 

Computer science degrees do offer students the foundation of mathematical thinking and technical knowledge they will need to have a long-lasting career as a software engineer.

However, many have become engineers with self-directed learning by choosing a coding language and learning it in their spare time or by trying a coding boot camp. 

How to Learn Software Development

Learning to become a software developer is a bit less dependent on a degree than an engineer. 

Many have learned to code through free and cheap online tools like Harvard's CS50s, Hackerrank and more. 

Software developers are often self-taught even if they have a formal education. 

That's because you must always expect to be learning something new on the job. 

The learning process never stops, making the job is perfect for those who have an analytical mind. 

Studying computer science in a formal setting, going to a coding boot camp or studying in your spare time are all valid options to learn software development.

Software Engineering Schools and Degrees 

Bachelor of Software Engineering

A bachelor of software engineering is an undergraduate degree that lays the foundations for a career as a software engineer. 

It is usually a four-year degree that shares some similarities to a bachelors of computer science. 

It diverges because a B.SE. focuses more on coding and learning software architecture and design than a CS degree.

Masters in Software Engineering

A masters in software engineering is an advanced degree. 

In order to enter a M.SE. program you may need a bachelor of software engineering or computer science. 

Some programs do cater to "career changers" by offering the opportunity to learn the basics at an accelerated pace before launching into more advanced coursework. 

In general, you will have to take the GRE test to go to a US graduate school, and have a bachelor's degree in any subject.

How to Get Software Engineering Degrees

Getting a software engineering degree does take some time and effort. 

You will need to apply to schools, and once you are in there will be work to do. 

However, if you're genuinely interested in the topic at hand, it will be fun to learn all about software engineering. 

You can go to school part time or full time, and you can even get your degree through an accredited online program.

Best Software Engineering Universities in the World

The best universities to learn how to become a software engineer are mainly located in the UK and the US at institutions that have a long history of technological innovation.

Stanford University, located in Silicon Valley itself has a legendary output of incredible research projects and new technological ideas.

University of Cambridge in the UK is well known for historic contributions to society. The college was founded in 1209, has a stunning 114 libraries and was attended by many of the great thinkers past and present. It claims Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Steven Hawking as alumni.

The University of Toronto in Canada is another wonderful school with a history of education in computer science and software engineering. It is overall ranked the No. 1 university in Canada, so it's no surprise their software engineering program would be top notch.

Best Software Engineering Universities in the USA

The best software engineering universities are the ones that have well-established departments, connections to important industry internships and knowledgeable, experienced professors.

One of the best schools for those very reasons is San Jose State University. 

It's right in the heart of Silicon Valley so students can easily put their skills to the test while they are still studying at university. 

Nearby Apple has over 1,000 graduates of SJSU as employees. 

Even better is the public school's in-state tuition is rather affordable compared to many options.

Penn State is another solid choice. If it was a private college it would most likely be considered an Ivy League. 

The engineering department is well known the world over for excellence, and the software engineering degree is no difference. 

The department has amazing research capabilities and facilities, and many graduates of the program now work for top tech firms.

For those who want to stay away from the coastal regions, University of Texas Dallas has a wonderful software engineering degree program. 

The school is extremely well funded so it always has the most advanced equipment and facilities. 

They also offer a way to take graduate courses at the undergraduate level to facilitate faster acquisition of a master's degree in the field. 

Best Software Engineering Universities in Canada

As previously mentioned, The University of Toronto is definitely the No. 1 school for Software engineering in Canada, but there are several other popular choices for those who wish to go elsewhere.

University of British Columbia is a well-funded school that offers a lot to software engineering majors at both the undergraduate and graduate level. 

The school is known for helping students get internships with their strong connections to the industry.

Waterloo is often thought of more in terms of the European battle that shares the name, but Waterloo Ontario offers a whole other type of historical importance. 

The area is home to more than 1,000 tech companies that form the area known as the "tech triangle." 

Due to that, the University of Waterloo is an important hub for Canadians who want to break into software engineering.

McGill University in Montreal is a great place to study engineering. 

Their undergraduate programs are numerous and allow you to focus in areas including video games, but their graduate program in software engineering is truly flexible and lets you study exactly what you want to learn about.

Best Software Engineering Universities in the UK

The University of Cambridge has already been mentioned as a top location for studying software in the UK. 

There are several other schools in this small country that will give you a more than quality education in the field.

The University of Oxford, Cambridge's official rivals, are also a top spot to study many subjects in the UK, but especially software engineering. 

It was founded in 1096 and like Cambridge has served as the school of choice for many of the world's important thinkers throughout history. 

It has been the school of choice of three British prime ministers and US president Bill Clinton. Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founders of the internet, also studied here.

Imperial College, London is another top spot to study software engineering. 

It is well known for its focus on the sciences in general, and in the digital age their software engineering program is definitely up to par.

Best Software Engineering Universities in Europe

Europe is a big place, and there are many fine educational institutions in each of the 28 countries that make up the EU. 

While Silicon Valley is the hotspot for technological innovation the world over, each country in the EU also has its own software contributions to make.

ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has a long history of technological innovation. 

The school has a close relationship with many of the tech companies like IBM and Microsoft. 

Although the CS department was formed comparatively recently in 1981, the program is considered one of the best in the world.

The University of Edinburgh in Scotland is another UK choice. 

The area has one of the largest tech industries in the UK outside of London and offers students amazing opportunities. 

Although it is the 3rd top school in the UK for software engineering, it is close behind Oxford and Cambridge.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School) is another educational Swiss Institution. 

It is so important to the field of software engineering that it is the place where the Archimedean Oath originated. 

That is a special oath that some engineers follow to state that they will try to work for good causes and do their best to help people.

Best Software Engineering Universities in Asia

Asia is an amazing place with a lot of cultural diversity. 

Many companies choose to have offices there due to affordable costs and plentiful talent. 

Getting an education in software engineering at an Asian university is a good idea for many.

Tsinghua University is one of China's premier institutions. Located in Beijing, it is near the hub of China's technological innovation. 

Asian employers know that Tsinghua's strength is in its technology department, making it a perfect choice for hopeful software engineers in Asia.

Tokyo Institute of Technology or Tokyo Tech as it is affectionately called is also in a city of technological innovation, giving software engineering students an advantage. 

There is both an undergraduate and graduate program in "information and communications engineering" here.

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is also a great option for students who wish to study in Asia. 

The school is well known for it's focus and high-quality education in tech and has a great department known as information and communications engineering focusing on both hardware and software engineering.

Best Software Engineering Universities in Middle East & Africa

Just as everywhere else in the world, the Middle East and Africa have many opportunities for tech-savvy software engineers. 

These areas are not exempt from having exemplary educational institutions to attend for a high-quality tech education.

Stellenbosch University in South Africa is well known for its high-quality research and facilities. 

The software engineering program is in the computer science department and allows students to focus on exciting topics like engineering for mobile networks or robotics.

The computer engineering program at the University of Cairo was started in 1991 and was the first program of its kind in Egypt. 

There is a long list of possible specialties and focuses including software engineering and programming languages.

King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia is one of the premier institutions in the Middle East. 

They offer courses in computer science, IT and information systems, giving future software engineers and developers a lot to learn. 

Software Engineering Courses

If you go the traditional route of getting a degree from a university, there are several things you can expect from software engineering courses including a strong background in mathematical foundations such as algorithms and discrete math. 

There will also be classes focused on specific programming languages and a strong focus on applied labs where you will get to practice your skills.

Bootcamp courses have a similar focus, except instead of being part of separate courses over a number of years it is all sandwiched in to a few months. 

It is quite intense but when you come out the other side a software engineer it could all be worth it!

Software Development Courses

Software development courses at universities focus a bit less on the mathematics side and more on the technical and practical side. 

You will get to put your creative mind to the test by learning about software architecture and how to create programs that really work. 

Many courses offer the ability to specialize in one language, but a lot of developers choose to learn more than one to give them a wide range of skills.

Similar to software engineering, bootcamp courses in software development offer a similar education over a shorter period of time. 

Most programs are around 6 months and they may be part time or full time. 

It is a fabulous way to get started in a new career without having to spend years getting a second degree.

Software Development Online Courses

Many who wish to learn software development as a new career or secondary skill to add to a resume use online courses. 

There are both online classes at the university level and professional online certifications from services like Coursera

In some cases, like at Full Sail University, you can get an entire degree in software development online in a little over 2 years. 

Other courses, like one offered at the UC Berkeley Extension offer professional certificates. 

Still others, like those found at Microsoft's Virtual Academy are simply for those who want to learn and dip their toe in the water of software development. 

Some of the programs, like MVA are free, while others are about the same price as regular college courses.

Software Engineering Online Courses

Similar options are available for online degree sand certificates in software engineering. 

These courses offer the same type of education to in person schooling. 

The main difference is that you won't have a teacher in your presence to talk to. 

You may have to wait for them to get back to you about a question you have on the coursework. 

However, online classes are very convenient because they allow you to work at your own pace and typically you can keep a job while doing it. 

Harvard Extension, Udemy and EdX are great places to start your online software engineering education. 

Free Software Development Courses

Some resources for software development are totally free. 

Most of them require you to at least set up an online account, but that is not much output in exchange for free knowledge from experts. 

In the online realm CodeAcademy, Coursera and Khan Academy all offer free courses and tutorials in the basics of software development.

If you're more of an in-person learner, General Assembly offers some free classes on basic software development topics in the SF Bay Area. 

Plus, many bootcamps offer deferred payment courses. 

That means you only have to pay for it when you get a job. 

C4Q is a unique school in that you don't pay anything to attend, but when you get a job after you will pay 12% of your salary to the school for 2 years. 

It's really a small price to pay when you consider the cost of a traditional college education.

Software Development Methodologies

There are several traditional methods used in software development. 

Many companies will specify which ones they use in a job description. 

Each methodology can offer a different path to similar results. 

Here are some of the most popular ones.

Agile Software Development

Agile development is a bit of a buzzword these days. 

This dev style is frequently used in a startup environment. 

It leads to teams that can quickly adapt to a changing and tumultuous arena. 

Work is divided up into small sections for teams to attack, and each version of a product is released in a usable format. 

All future updates address any bugs or improvements needed from previous releases.

Extreme Programming

This development style sounds like it might have you coding while you are parachuting from a plane, but the extreme factor is simply the degree to which this methodology elevates everything programmers find important. 

Those who follow XP have frequent updates to existing products, code in pairs and put simplicity and ease of use over all else.

Lean Development

Lean development takes a cue from successful manufacturing practices put in place by major corporations like Toyota. 

Lean development seeks to produce the best product in the shortest amount of time with as little waste as possible. 

Lean developers take the position that decisions should be made as late as possible in the development process so that developers will have all the information they need. 

Waterfall Model

The waterfall model was the very first software development methodology. 

It differs from more modern strategies because it does not allow for open-ended situations. 

Each development phase has to be fully completed before another one can begin. 

That is why it is called a waterfall. 

Each step cascades down to the next one until you have a finished product.

Software Development Process

There are many different steps to the software development process depending on the methodology used, however, most methods do have at least some similarities. 

In each case, developers must conceive the requirements for the project and set out the architecture for the product. 

In a waterfall model project, this may be a longer process and no development would start until it was complete. 

In an agile or lean project, development can start before the architecture is fully complete. 

You may discover something new about how the architecture should be set out by seeing how things work in a practical environment.

After development, the product will need to be documented and tested. 

Documentation is usually performed by a technical writer and testing is often done by a QA analyst. 

Finally, the product or feature will be ready for release. 

Again, with an agile team many of these steps may be happening simultaneously on different features of a product.

Software Development Life Cycle

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a specific framework that most software developers follow. 

It is a cycle because as previously mentioned, software products are never just static. 

Even when they are released to the public or to a client they are always open for improvement. 

Developers must fix bugs and update for security fixes. 

A developers job is never done! 

There are six stages to the development process:

1. Planning - Usually done by the more experienced members of a team. They take information from all departments and start to analyze what types of requirements this product will have.

2. Defining - Project requirements are spelled out and approved by client or management.

3. Designing - Developers work together to define the product architecture based on the information gathered in steps one and two.

4. Building - It isn't until step four that development actually begins. Here is where you will finally get to use your coding skills and build something practical that people can actually use!

5. Testing - Quality assurance and making sure everything works as planned is an extremely important part of the process.

6. Deployment - Product is released and maintenance starts. For any new features and improvements, go back to step one and start all over again!

Popular Software Development Languages

Naming the most popular programming language is a completely impossible task. 

People have their preferences and reasons for them. 

The most popular languages can be used in many ways. 

For example, Swift, Apple's specific coding language is towards the mid-range of popularity, while Java tops most lists, because it can be used on any platform.

Java is a programming language that was first developed in 1995. 

Now, more than 20 years later we are at the ninth version of Java. 

Even though it is so popular, some programmers have their complaints about it. 

However, it remains in use because it is fast, somewhat simple and is an industry standard with which many are familiar.

C is an early programming language that was developed in the 1960s and 70s. 

As it was one of the first languages, many developed after this follow similar guidelines. 

The one downside is that C must be converted into a format for a computer to read after being created by human hands. 

C++ is a "superset" of the C language first created in the late 1970s that remains popular to this day. C# is a C based language built specifically for the Windows platform.

Swift is gaining popularity as a programming language. 

Apple developed it specifically for all of its platforms including iOS for mobile devices, MacOS, WatchOS for AppleWatch and tvOS for AppleTV. 

With a proprietary language for their proprietary products, anyone who wants to work on Apple products needs to learn Swift!

Easiest Software Development Language

The easiest software development language to learn may be a subjective choice, however, the experts do have some recommendations.

Python may be one of the easier languages to learn. 

It is one that was created in the name of simplicity and the tenets of the language insist that "readability counts," which is helpful to new programmers. 

The clean philosophy of the language lends itself to newbies learning quickly.

While expert users of Java do have their complaints, many will admit this is probably the programming language that has the most learning resources available both in traditional learning institutions and online. 

Thus, it may be the perfect choice for beginners. 

Must-Use Popular Basic Software Development Tools

The tools you use as a developer can really help you or hinder your success. 

Here are some of the most basic tools you will need to get your career as a software developer off the ground.

An Editor

A great code editor is indispensable, especially when you are learning. 

They offer different options for colors and views, allowing you to color code different elements and spot mistakes easily. 

A good editor will work seamlessly with your FTP allowing you to easily update files and see your results as fast as possible. 

Some suitable options for this include, a completely open source product, or Sublime Text which is free for personal use (ie, learning, fun non-commercial projects) but requires a purchase for commercial use.

Version Control

Version control or source control is a way to make sure that multiple developers working on the same project do not overwrite each other's code. 

Certain options, like Github, are great for free, open source version control. 

The downside is that Github is not private. 

The other more private option often recommended is BitBucket

Another way to achieve version control is through a tool that can merge code. 

WinMerge is a perfect option for those developing on the Windows platform, and MeldMerge works well for others.


When you are working as a software developer, you may focus more on the technological aspects of the job, but teamwork is important. 

Working well with a team can help to make your career long and fruitful, and that starts with good communication. 

Slack, Asana and Trello are three of the most popular project management and communication tools used in the tech community today. 

Become familiar with them so that when you're hired you'll be ready to go!

Famous Software Engineers/Developers and Their Stories

Bill Gates

Most people know Bill Gates as the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world. 

Bill was a very smart kid. 

So much that his parents worried that he wasn't social enough. 

They made the decision to send him to a private school where computer classes were an option. 

This was in the 60s and 70s when access to such technology was a rarity. 

Together with his high school friend, Paul Allen, Bill Gates created a program to monitor the traffic patterns of Seattle, a scheduling program for his school and even a payroll program for the company who gave the computers to the school. 

After acing the SATs with a score of 1590 out of 1600, Bill went to Harvard University in 1973 to study pre-law. 

However, he dropped out after two years, choosing instead to work on a computer project with his old computer friend from high school, Paul.

In 1975, Microsoft was formed. 

By 1979 is was already grossing $2.5 million per year. 

Paul Allen stayed with the company until 1983, when cancer forced him to resign. 

At that time, Gates was still a developer, checking all programs and code before it was sent out.

Throughout Microsoft's history there have been many controversies and many successes. 

His rivalry with Steve Jobs, Apple's founder, stems from allegations that he copied many details for the first version of Windows from Apple's first graphical user interface. 

Despite this, most would agree that Bill Gates has changed the world with software and computing innovations and his charitable non-profit organization the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is the iconic developer who founded Apple computers, a company that rose to popularity alongside Microsoft. 

He is well known for his impeccable attention to detail, inventions that have changed the world and characteristic black turtleneck uniform.

Steve was given up for adoption as an infant by two college students. 

His adoptive parents lived in Mountain View, CA, now a major center of technological innovation. 

Jobs was the type of student who may have been too smart for school. 

He was often bored and restless. 

His teachers wanted him to skip to high school as early as fourth grade, but his parents did not think this was a good idea. 

In his school years he loved playing with computer hardware. 

After graduating high school, he tried college but dropped out after six months. 

He had a short stint working for Atari, but then left to go travel the world.

When he returned, Jobs and his technologically savvy friend from high school, Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computers in 1976. 

They had to sell their favorite possessions to fund the initiative. 

By 1980, the company was worth $1.2 billion. 

Apple has created so much innovation with the iPod, iPhone and AppleWatch, thanks to Jobs and Wozniak’s vision as software developers and product engineers. 

Steve Jobs passed away in 2011 from pancreatic cancer.

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie is famous for creating the C programming language and working with Ken Thompson to create Unix, the basis for Apple's MacOS. 

Though he did not achieve the same superstar fame as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, he is probably the most well known for his actual development skills, compared to the other two who are known for product design, marketing prowess and general innovation.


He was always a smart kid and attended Harvard University in the early 1960s where he first learned about the University's new computer system. 

After graduating his fascination with technology never waned. 

He worked at MIT in the computer labs, helping to develop the most advanced technology of the era. 

After a while, he went to work at Bell Labs, where he worked with Ken Thompson on "microcomputers" AKA what we now think of as just a computer. 

In the early 70s, the pair created Unix, the foundational operating system that is still in use today.

After that breakthrough, he developed the C programming language because his experiences with "machine learning" languages were so poor. 

He wanted to create something that would be easy for people to learn and use. 

After these accomplishments, he enjoyed a career full of honors. 

He passed away just a week after Steve Jobs.

James Gosling

James Gosling is a well known Canadian software developer who is still in the industry today. 

He created the ever popular programming language, Java, in 1991 while working at Sun Microsystems. 

He stayed with the company until 2010 when he left after the company was acquired by Oracle. 

He expressed dissatisfaction with the acquisition. 

After that, he worked for Google for a few months before moving onto the role of Chief Software Architect at Liquid Robotics for six years. 

Most recently, he changed to the position of Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services in 2017.

Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds started programming computers when he was only ten years old. 

He studied CS at the University of Helsinki in his native Finland, but noticed he did not like the operating system on the computer he bought to help him in his studies. 

He preferred Unix, but the computer was running on MS-DOS, so he created Linux - a version of Unix that could run on a PC. 

He offered his OS for free and opened the source code so many developers could contribute. 

To this day, it is completely free which makes it an attractive alternative to expensive Windows and MacOS set ups. 

However, using Linux requires a bit more technical acumen, perhaps the reason why it is preferred by software developers and engineers. 

Best Software Engineering/Developing Movies for Geeks

When it comes to tech movies, developers are often shown as dark magicians who can make wonderful or terrible things happen with just a few lines of code. 

We know reality is much different than that. 

However, that doesn't mean it isn't fun to watch a movie where the engineers are the superheroes!

The Social Network shows the controversial story of Facebook's founding. 

This movie was so good that it was nominated for eight Academy Awards. 

The movie balances the technological aspects of founding such an important service, and the legal and emotional ramifications that Mark Zuckerberg faced in the years following Facebook's initial success.

The Matrix is a classic hacker/sci-fi movie. 

Neo is a hacker who discovers that the world is actually The Matrix and finds out who is really in charge. 

The hacking scenes are bit unrealistic, but you have to suspend your disbelief and take in the special effects which were groundbreaking at the time of the movie's release.

War Games is another classic hacker movie. 

It's about an innocent nerdy teen who hacks his way into sensitive government data but doesn't realize it's not a game, and the safety of the world is at stake! 

Since it's from 1983, the tech is more than a bit dated, but it's still a fun watch.

Best TV Shows for Software Developers and Geeks

There are plenty of moments on TV shows that show software developers and nerdy people, but it is rare to have a whole series devoted to the topic. Here are a few that might pique your interest!

Silicon Valley is a hilarious dark comedy that follows a team of developers through the start-up process. 

The show has been lauded for showing, with levity, the difficulties of creating a new product, getting funding and all the other trials and tribulations that come with the world of Silicon Valley.

CSI Cyber was a somewhat short lived CSI franchise. 

After just two seasons it was cut off. 

It followed a team of cyber detectives investigating internet related crimes. 

There are lots of fast hacking scenes and high pressure moments for those who love a bit of adrenaline.

Halt & Catch Fire is an imagined version of what could have been going on at a software company in the early 80s and 90s. 

It follows software developers as they race to come up with improvements to personal computers and get online in the early days of the internet.

Best Software Engineering/Developing Books for Geeks

Of course, the best software engineering and developing books for geeks might be a how-to guide or a book all about learning a programming language. 

But, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? 

So here are some software developer fiction book for those evenings when you're ready to curl up with a good read.

The Last Question is by the incredible Isaac Asimov. 

It is a short story that really makes you think. 

Humans have created a super computer that is supposed to know everything and keep asking it how to avoid the heat-death of the universe. 

The answer and outcome will shock you.

The Laundry Files is a series of books by Charles Stross that imagines what would happen if instead of summoning files and programs, computer programs could summon otherworldly beings - and not all of them friendly. 

It's a riveting re-imagining of what coding could be, and perhaps an important reminder of the power developers could wield.

The Difference Engine is a thrilling book that takes place in the 1800s. 

It stars some real life innovators in computer science of the era - Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. 

The story diverges from reality because Babbage never did successfully create his mechanical computer, so it is more of a reimagining of what could have happened if he did.

Ready to Start Your New Career?

Now that you know the ins and outs of software development, software engineering and computer engineering, it's time to get started planning your new and exciting career! 

Enroll in courses, read books and talk to developers and engineers, recruiters and hiring managers in your area to get the ball rolling, and you'll be well on your way to a great career with plenty of growth opportunities and a wonderful future.

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