Computer Software Engineer

Introduction

Computer software engineers analyse, design, create and test computer systems and software. They also write software programs to meet a client's need or to solve a particular problem.

Also known as

  • Engineer, Computer Software
  • Software Engineer

Work Activities

Computer software engineers are involved in all the stages of developing a software product. They aim to meet a specific need or to solve a particular problem.

This could involve analysing an existing system, setting out how a new system would work and the features it might have (its specification), and designing the new system.

At the start of a project, computer software engineers develop their knowledge of the client's business and their particular needs and problems.

Next, they work with their clients to agree on important issues such as the hardware and software they need, costs and deadlines, as well as setting out a proposal for what the finished software product should be.

Computer software engineers (usually working in a team on larger programs) will then begin to write the program or programs. They will then test the program for bugs (faults), correcting any problems that they find.

They may train their clients to use the new program or system. They're also likely to train any people who need to know how to support and maintain the system, for example, computer support services engineers.

Computer software engineers may write instructions or manuals to go with the software they have developed.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

As a computer software engineer, you need:

  • To enjoy solving problems.
  • A logical, methodical approach to your work.
  • To pay attention to detail.
  • Commitment to seeing projects through from start to finish.
  • A high level of technical expertise.
  • To be willing to keep up to date with changes in technology.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Written skills to present proposals and reports to clients, and to write instructions and manuals for the programs.
  • Strong communication skills to train clients how to use new programs.
  • Good understanding of the nature of a client's business activities and their IT needs.
  • To work well on your own and with others in teams.
  • To be well organised and work well under pressure and meet deadlines.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

Salaries for computer software engineers vary, depending on employer, role and responsibilities.

The pay rates given below are approximate.

Computer software engineers earn in the range of £22,500 - £28,000 a year, rising to £35,500 - £44,000. Higher earners can make around £55,000 a year.

Hours of work

Computer software engineers usually work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with occasional late evenings when required to meet deadlines.

Where could I work?

Employers are firms in the aerospace, computing, instrumentation or telecommunications industries. Other employers are information technology consultants and software or systems houses.

Opportunities for computer software engineers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Universal Jobmatch website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering/computing recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

An Advanced or Higher Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start.

Most computer software engineers have a degree, foundation degree or HND in a subject such as software engineering, electronics or computer science.

Employers are increasingly interested in well-rounded graduates, and it's possible to combine software engineering with other subjects.

Some people have postgraduate qualifications in computing, in which case their first degrees needn't be in computing subjects.

It's essential to check prospectuses carefully to make sure the course you choose is appropriate to the branch of engineering you want to follow.

Training

Some graduates join graduate training schemes, which offer structured training and experience.

Depending on their level of entry, computer software engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.

To register as a CEng or an IEng, you must join a relevant, professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council, such as the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.

UK-SPEC and the engineering institution you've joined can tell you which qualifications are accredited or approved towards CEng or IEng status. Your engineering institution will also advise you on, and process, your application.

Routes to CEng status include completing:

  • An accredited honours degree in engineering or technology, plus either an appropriate Masters degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution, or appropriate further learning to Masters level.
  • Or, an accredited integrated MEng degree.

Routes to IEng status include completing:

  • An accredited Bachelors or honours degree in engineering or technology.
  • Or, an HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering or technology, plus appropriate further learning to degree level.
  • Or, an NVQ level 4, which has been approved by a licensed engineering institution.

However, you can still become a CEng or an IEng if you don't have these academic qualifications. Further information about the assessment process can be found in UK-SPEC.

Progression

Depending on their qualification, software engineers can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of projects and teams of engineers.

Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.

Qualifications

To get onto an Advanced or Higher Level Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least five GCSEs at A* - C, including English and Maths, and possibly two A Levels.

The usual entry requirements for a degree in software engineering are:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above
  • A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C or above
  • Maths, science or IT subjects are normally required at A level
  • English, Maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C or above.

Other qualifications, such as a relevant Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted. Check prospectuses carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

Most colleges will consider applications from older candidates who don't have the usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.

The University of Central Lancashire offers a degree in Computer Engineering, by part-time study.

London South Bank University offers an HNC and HND in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, via part-time evening study.

Distance learning

London College UCK offers an HNC and HND in Electronic/Electrical Engineering, via distance learning.

The University of Portsmouth offers a degree in Electronic Systems Engineering, via distance learning.

Training

Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship for study at higher education level is available through the larger IT, engineering and manufacturing companies.

Funding

Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from some research councils, especially the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Statistics

  • 8% of people in occupations such as computer software engineer are self-employed.
  • 4% work part-time.
  • 26% have flexible hours.
  • 3% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

Queen's University Belfast

Irish enquiries

Website: www.qub.ac.uk

The Tech Partnership

Skills for business and information technology

Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR

Tel: 020 7963 8920

Email: info@e-skills.com

Website: www.e-skills.com

Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU

Tel: 020 7565 7900

Website: www.insidecareers.co.uk

BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT

Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA

Tel: 0845 3004417

Email: custsupport@bcs.uk

Website: www.bcs.org

Big Ambition

Email: bigambition@e-skills.com

Website: www.bigambition.co.uk

Bring IT On

Irish enquiries

Website: www.bringitonni.info

Guardian Technology

Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU

Tel: 020 3353 2000

Email: tech@guardian.co.uk

Website: www.guardian.co.uk/technology

Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group

Email: ner@vmgl.com

Website: www.engineerjobs.co.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181

Email: consult@scottishengineering.org.uk

Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH

Tel: 028 9182 2377

Email: info@etcni.org.uk

Website: www.etcni.org.uk

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Address: Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY

Tel: 01438 313311

Email: postmaster@theiet.org

Website: www.theiet.org

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000

Website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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