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What does a Software Engineer do?

Software engineers play a key role in creating computer software that powers everything from airline reservation systems to movie editing equipment and the latest cell phone applications. This occupation is expected to be among the fastest growing occupations during the next decade, making it a perfect fit for those who want to use their math and computer science skills in an exciting growth field.

The beauty of computer software engineering is that it can fit into almost any industry. If you have a love for the environment, you could develop programs to track building product recycling efforts, water conservation programs, and carbon footprint usage. Software engineers also work in real estate, financial services, entertainment, and a variety of other industries.

You are likely to use computer science and math skills to create, test and evaluate the technology that runs computers. In some cases, you may customize programs for specific businesses. You should have strong analytical skills and a solid understanding of how to use flowcharts, diagrams, and algorithms.

Bright future for software engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for computer software engineers is expected to grow by 32 percent, much higher than the average. The growth would be fueled by the need for workers to add computer networks, automate accounting systems, revamp inventory control measures, and develop Internet and intranet platforms.

One growing area industry segment is information security. As more people send financial data over the Internet, there is an increased demand for software that can protect computer networks from fraud.

Software engineers in healthcare

Another growing market segment is electronic data processing for the healthcare industry. As healthcare institutions expand, consolidate and acquire other entities, there will be a demand for sophisticated software that can handle billing, maintenance, inventory control, payroll, and other business operations.

Software engineers: Education is key

A bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science, mathematics or software engineering, is a must for anyone planning to become a software engineer. These types of degrees often require courses in programming principles, algorithms, data structures and computer architecture.

Some highly complex jobs require a graduate degree and some background or knowledge of the employer's specific industry. By showing an employer that you also know the ins and outs of international finance, for example, you'll put yourself at the top of the list.

Software engineers also need to stay current with technology, making continuing education and professional development classes a must. The good news is that there are many outlets for this type of education, from employers, community colleges and software vendors, for example.

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