Software engineer job profile | Prospects.ac.uk (2023)

Software engineers apply scientific and mathematical principles in order to create computer software and solve problems

As a software engineer, you'll work in a constantly evolving environment, due to technological advances and the strategic direction of the organisation you work for. You'll create, maintain, audit and improve systems to meet particular needs, often as advised by a systems analyst or architect, testing both hard and software systems to diagnose and resolve system faults.

The role also covers writing diagnostic programs and designing and writing code for operating systems and software to ensure efficiency. When required, you'll make recommendations for future developments.

Job titles and descriptions in IT are not standardised. Instead of a software engineer, you may be called a systems/software/database/web programmer, engineer or developer, depending on the system you're developing. Alternatively, the programming language you use may become part of your title, such as Java or C# developer. The work of a software engineer can also form part of a multimedia programmer role.

Depending on the organisation you work for, you may have a more defined role and work within a group of IT specialists which can include systems analysts, systems designers and systems testers. Nevertheless, as software engineers often manage the support systems required to effectively run an organisation, the role can also require you to communicate effectively and translate the needs of different teams into systems developments.

Responsibilities

As a software engineer, you'll need to:

  • analyse user requirements
  • write and test code, refining and rewriting it as necessary and communicate with any programmers involved in the project
  • research, design and write new software programs (e.g. business applications or computer games) and computer operating systems
  • evaluate the software and systems that make computers and hardware work
  • develop existing programs by analysing and identifying areas for modification
  • integrate existing software products and get incompatible platforms to work together
  • create technical specifications
  • write systems to control the scheduling of jobs or to control the access allowed to users or remote systems
  • write operational documentation with technical authors
  • maintain systems by monitoring and correcting software defects
  • work closely with other staff, such as project managers, graphic artists, UX designers, other developers, systems analysts and sales and marketing professionals
  • consult clients and colleagues concerning the maintenance and performance of software systems, with a view to writing or modifying current operating systems
  • investigate new technologies
  • continually update technical knowledge and skills by attending in-house and external courses, reading manuals and accessing new applications.

Salary

  • Typical graduate software engineer salaries start from £18,000 a year.
  • The average annual salary for a software engineer is between £25,000 and £50,000.
  • At senior or management level, software engineers can earn £45,000 to £70,000 or more per annum. Bonus schemes may be available.

The exact salary you'll receive is dependent upon the company, location and nature of your employer's business. The highest salaries can be found in the finance, pensions and telecoms sectors in London and the South East.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

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Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm. However, longer hours are often necessary towards the end of projects as deadlines approach, as well as during the testing stage so that systems can be tested when they're not being used. In some cases, software engineers may be required to be on call to deal with problems. This can involve evening and weekend work in a shift pattern. Allowances may be available in these cases.

Self-employment and freelance or contract work is possible as there is an increasing market for contract software engineers with specialist knowledge. Career breaks, on the other hand, may be difficult due to the need to keep technical knowledge up to date in a rapidly changing environment.

What to expect

  • The job involves spending many hours at the keyboard, so high levels of concentration are required. Regular breaks are essential to minimise potential adverse health effects such as eye strain or back problems.
  • The work is mainly office based or in computer laboratories, although full or part-time remote working is becoming increasingly common.
  • Projects may be undertaken alone or in small teams.
  • Women are currently underrepresented in this profession and gender imbalance across the IT industry as a whole is a recognised issue. Steps are being taken to redress the balance. Women who want to work in technology should visit Women in Technology for information and jobs.
  • Depending on the nature of the business, travel within a working day or absence from home at night may be required. This is more likely with consultancy work. More travel is involved in installation and implementation work.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, applicants will be expected to have some technical ability. Having studied one of the following subjects may increase your chances of employment:

  • computer science
  • computer software or computer systems engineering
  • electronics
  • information systems
  • mathematics
  • physics.

Many of the larger graduate recruiters will only employ graduates with proven technical skills and a good degree (2:1 or above) in a computing-related discipline.

Smaller companies generally prefer degrees of a computing, scientific or numeric nature. In some cases, however, graduates with an unrelated degree may be considered if their technical knowledge and enthusiasm can be demonstrated.

Graduates in non-computer-related subjects may consider taking a postgraduate IT conversion or technical postgraduate course. Many employers will also look for evidence of continuing professional development (CPD) outside of the classroom. Project programming experience can be used as evidence during the application process to show that a candidate is technically adept and also has effective problem-solving skills.

An HND in a computer-related subject may improve chances of entry and candidates with substantial systems development experience may be considered.

Entry without a degree or HND is unlikely, although it may be possible after gaining considerable experience in systems development as an assistant.

Skills

You'll need to show evidence of the following:

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  • knowledge of computer systems and technologies
  • technical competency
  • the ability to communicate with clients, colleagues and management to explain complex issues clearly and concisely
  • a meticulous and organised approach to work
  • a logical, analytical and creative approach to problems
  • thoroughness and attention to detail
  • business skills and commercial awareness
  • the ability to work both in a team and alone and to manage your own workload
  • career motivation and a willingness to continue to further your knowledge and skills
  • an ability to learn new skills and technologies quickly
  • an awareness of current issues affecting the industry and its technologies.

Work experience

Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in computing and is regarded favourably by employers. Gain experience through course-related placements, opportunities to work shadow or a year in industry.

Employers

Software engineers are employed in a range of sectors.

  • specialist IT firms - such as IT consultancies, large IT providers, software development, internet providers and training firms; organisations that use IT software, systems and equipment, including retailers, law firms, business intelligence and market research organisations, education providers, the armed forces, the public sector and voluntary sector organisations.
  • manufacturing industry - including automotive, navigation, telecommunications, manufacturing and construction companies.
  • financial services - including global investment banks, financial/banking organisations, security market specialists and the pensions sector.
  • public utilities - covering energy and water supply, energy extraction and transport.

Depending on the setting software engineering may be offered as part of a wider role, so look beyond the job title.

Consultancy is another area where software engineer jobs arise. The role may include other elements, such as analysis, implementation and support. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a growing part of the IT industry and may also have opportunities.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies such as Henry Nicholas and Michael Page commonly handle vacancies.

Professional development

It's vital to keep up to date with changes and developments in the industry, which may involve using your initiative and taking responsibility for updating your technical skills and knowledge. Software engineers will often take ownership of their training needs, particularly in smaller organisations where they may not be managed by someone with technical IT knowledge.

Large graduate employers often offer a structured programme, where you'll gain experience in a number of team-related projects in different work areas. Most companies offer ongoing training, either in-house or via external courses.

If you're a freelance contractor or employed by a smaller company, you may need to consider the cost and time implications of taking responsibility for your own training.

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You can complete courses to obtain a variety of software-specific certifications, likeMicrosoft Learning, CertifiedScrum Master (CSM) and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). These courses can be expensive but are recognised throughout the industry and can enhance your career prospects when combined with experience.

Other professional qualifications are available through BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT). BCS Professional Certificates come in foundation, intermediate, practitioner and higher levels. BCS can also help by providing information and guidance to members on recognising and planning learning needs and developing areas of expertise.

Up-to-date information on training and relevant industry-recognised qualifications is also provided by the Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP).

To further your career progression, you may consider training in areas such as business, management and finance.

Career prospects

There are different levels of software engineering and promotion is usually dependent upon both ability and experience.

An entry-level post typically involves working under supervision, formulating the scope of, and objectives, for systems and designing code. After around three years, you may progress to preparing detailed specifications from which programs may be written and be competent to work at the highest technical level.

A senior software engineer often supervises the activities of a team of developers for a large project or several smaller projects. This usually requires a minimum of five years' experience.

Progression is mainly into management via team leadership and project management roles, or to designer/consultant via technical specialisation. Transfer between organisations for advancement is often possible.

Software engineers are specialists and may remain within one organisation, and frequently in one role, for much of their working lives. However, others expand and develop their roles to the extent that software engineering becomes part of a much wider role in positions such as technical writing, IT training and education. They can also move on to the role of software architect.

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Both BCS and IAP provide up-to-date information and advice on career development.

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FAQs

Is IT hard to get a software engineering job in the UK? ›

1.1 Work experience and technologies - difficulty

Honestly, it couldn't be easier these days with all the available vacancies and shortage of qualified employees. If you have much needed experience in your field (at least 2 years for mid-level developer roles), there shouldn't be a problem with landing your dream job.

Is there a shortage of software engineers UK? ›

There were more than two million UK job vacancies in tech last year, more than any other labour area, but an industry coalition says nearly 12 million workers lack essential digital skills.

How in demand are software engineers in the UK? ›

Software development is one of the most in-demand professions and the UK is a great place to start your career if you want to work in that field. The average salary for a software developer ranges from £30,000 to £90,000 per year.

What is the ideal job profile for software engineer? ›

Their role includes analyzing and modifying existing software as well as designing, constructing and testing end-user applications that meet user needs — all through software programming languages. The role also focuses on the complex and large software systems that make up the core systems for an organization.

Is UK a good place for software engineers? ›

The United Kingdom has the most competitive and advanced computer science, software engineering, and information technology fields in Europe. There are around 2,000 software companies in the UK and about 100,000 people working in this field. The UK has a prestigious reputation for computer science.

Which software skill is most in demand in UK? ›

Five of the most in-demand UK tech roles for 2022
  1. Project manager. According to a recent report, 22 million new project management opportunities are predicted to emerge before 2027. ...
  2. Cybersecurity analyst. Cybersecurity is more important now than it has ever been. ...
  3. Cloud architect. ...
  4. Software developers. ...
  5. DevOps engineer.
7 Jul 2022

Why are UK software salaries so low? ›

One reason software engineers get paid less in the UK is that many UK-based companies are recruiting from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, which can be much cheaper than hiring an employee from America. The lower cost of living in the UK also plays a significant role in this pay gap.

Which engineer has more demand in UK? ›

Chemical engineers are also among the highest paid engineering fields in the world, with experienced candidates earning more than £54,000.

Which engineering is most in demand in UK? ›

Design and development engineers

There is a current average of 22,063 roles available in the UK, according to Indeed and Reed at the start of April 2022. Greater London has seen the biggest demand for this type of engineer with 12,399 design and development engineer openings, 56.2% of all vacancies across the UK.

What is a good software engineer salary in UK? ›

The average salary for Software Engineer is £58,169 per year in the London, United Kingdom Area. The average additional cash compensation for a Software Engineer in the London, United Kingdom Area is £8,475, with a range from £1,610 - £44,620.

How much is a software engineer paid in UK? ›

Average £68,829 per year.

Which software language is in demand in UK? ›

More than 750 new job postings for software developers go live every day in the UK, with JavaScript leading the demand for programming language skills among employers.

What do you think are 3 qualities of a good software developer? ›

Scalable Path founder Damien Filiatrault has identified 7 qualities that will mark you out as a great programmer.
  • Positive Attitude. A great programmer is ambitious and eager to do their best. ...
  • Good Communication Skills. ...
  • Time and Task Management. ...
  • Quick Learning. ...
  • Technical Experience. ...
  • A Good Team Player. ...
  • End-User Focus.
17 Jun 2021

What are the ideal top 3 traits of a software engineer? ›

What Makes a Great Software Engineer?
  • Quality #1: Experience and Intuition.
  • Quality #2: Attention to Detail.
  • {Quality #3} Quick Self-Learning, Flexibility, and Adaptability.
  • {Quality #4} Productivity, Planning and Time Management.
  • {Quality #5} Curiosity and Love of Learning.
  • {Quality #6} Business Sense.
19 Aug 2021

Are software engineers paid well UK? ›

According to hackajob, starting pay for software engineers is 64 percent above the national average – ranging from £25,000 (c $29,200) for those in their very early career to a salary of £137,000 (c $160,45) before bonuses and shares on the upper end.

Which IT field is best in UK? ›

Highest paying IT jobs in the UK
  1. Software architect. National average salary: £72,323 per year. ...
  2. Data warehouse architect. National average salary: £66,025 per year. ...
  3. Data scientist. ...
  4. 4. Development operations engineer. ...
  5. Java developer. ...
  6. Mobile developer. ...
  7. Front-end developer. ...
  8. Database administrator.

Which city is best for IT jobs in UK? ›

Best UK cities for tech jobs
  • London.
  • Manchester.
  • Edinburgh.
  • Reading.
  • Bristol and Bath.
  • Birmingham.
  • Brighton.

What skills are in shortage in the UK? ›

We'll expand on a few top jobs on the list:
  • Nurses. The UK has faced a nurse shortage for a long time. ...
  • Pharmacists. Pharmacists were also added to the UK's Shortage Occupation List in 2021. ...
  • Engineers. There are also plenty of engineering jobs on the shortage occupation list. ...
  • Secondary education teachers. ...
  • Graphic designers.

Which field is best for future in UK? ›

Best Subjects to Study in the UK based on the Shortage Occupation List 2022
  • Civil Engineering.
  • Mechanical Engineering.
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
  • Design and Development Engineering.
  • Production and Process Engineering.
  • Programme and Software Engineering.
  • Chemical Engineering.

Where in the UK is IT hardest to find a job? ›

Middlesbrough

Do people negotiate salary in the UK? ›

Many employers will be happy to negotiate with you. Indeed, they may respect you for having the confidence to ask. And as long as they can afford it, think you're worth it and are making reasonable demands, employers will often agree to pay you more.

Are salaries higher in US or UK? ›

The average US salary is higher than the average salary in the UK. The discrepancy in salary rates comes from various factors, including the cost of living, healthcare systems and mandatory benefits. Salary rates also change based on gender, age and industry (or type of work).

Are IT jobs well paid UK? ›

This article will look at the highest paying IT jobs for those starting out.
...
Top 7 Tech jobs with the highest starting salaries in the UK.
S NoJob TitleAverage starting salary
1Dev Ops Engineer£40,000
2Software Engineer£35,000
3Python Developer£35,000
4Data Scientist£31,000
3 more rows
21 Jun 2022

What degree pays most UK? ›

The highest paying degrees in the UK
  • Dentistry.
  • Medicine.
  • Veterinary medicine.
  • Chemical engineering.
  • Economics.
  • Physics and Astronomy.
  • Law.
  • Architecture.
2 Nov 2022

Which IT jobs are in demand in UK 2022? ›

We have put together some of the top IT and Tech Jobs in 2022.
  • Software Engineer. Software Engineers are responsible for creating and maintaining software applications. ...
  • Cloud Architect. ...
  • Software Developer. ...
  • Project Manager. ...
  • DevOps Engineer. ...
  • Java Developer. ...
  • 7. . ...
  • Business Analyst.

Which engineering has best scope in UK? ›

Some of the best engineering courses in UK are:
  • Civil engineering.
  • Electrical engineering.
  • Chemical engineering.
  • Mechanical engineering.

Which job has most opportunities in UK? ›

Top 10 Jobs in Demand in UK for the Next Decade
JobsMedian Pay (in £) Per YearProjected Growth
Statisticians92,27035.4%
Physical therapist assistants59,77035.4%
Information security analysts103,59033.3%
Home health and personal care aides27,08032.6%
6 more rows

Which engineering field has the most job opportunities UK? ›

The most in demand engineering jobs for 2022
  • Quality Engineers. Quality Engineers work to ensure that manufactured products are made to a high standard. ...
  • Electrical Engineers. ...
  • Civil Engineers. ...
  • Mechanical Engineers. ...
  • Renewable Energy Engineers. ...
  • Automation & Robotics Engineer. ...
  • Project Engineers.

Which job has more scope in UK? ›

Business Management Professionals

Operations management, recruitment, customer service, etc., are some of the jobs that are in demand in this industry. The following are the top demanding jobs in the UK, along with their National average salary: Operations Manager – £41,981 per year.

Which country pays lowest salary to software engineers? ›

Below is a sample list of countries with the lowest salaries for developers. As you can see, developing countries like Nigeria pay the lowest at $7,255/year.
...
The best-paying countries are the US, Israel, and several European countries.
CountrySalary
Nigeria$7,255
8 more rows
1 Jul 2022

What is the highest paid job in the UK? ›

  • Study in UK.
  • Top 6 Highest-Paying Careers and Jobs in the UK. Aeronautical & Aerospace Engineering. Medicine. Law. IT, Computer Science, Big Data & Analytics. Finance, Investment Banking & Risk Management. Sales and Marketing.
13 Sept 2022

How much does an IT person earn in the UK? ›

The average salary range of an Information Technology employees is 49,567.53 GBP per year. Junior Information Technology employees typically earn half this. Senior and management salaries can be double the average salary or more.

What is a good software engineer salary in London? ›

The average salary of a Software Engineer in Greater London Area, GB is £93,248. While there is no minimum salary for a Software Engineer in the Greater London Area, GB, the average salary is £93,248.

Is software engineering stressful? ›

It is not uncommon for a software engineer to have a myriad of programming tasks with strict deadlines. As such, they spend long hours at work and the chronic stress level ultimately makes them highly prone to burnout.

How much does a junior software engineer make UK? ›

Average £63,673 per year.

How many software engineers are needed in the UK? ›

466 thousand programmers

Which coding language pays the most UK? ›

The UK has the largest tech market in the world, representing 31% of the global total.
...
Average salary by programming language in the US & UK.
LANGUAGEAVERAGE SALARY FOR SKILL IN THE UK (£)AVERAGE SALARY FOR SKILL IN THE US ($)
Java£38,000$89,000
JavaScript£32,000$80,000
Ruby£37,000$89,000
C++£39,000$86,000
9 more rows

What is the fastest growing language in the UK? ›

Japanese has overtaken Welsh as the UK's fastest-growing language in 2021, reveals research conducted by Duolingo.
...
Research included:
  • Spanish remained the UK's most popular language, followed by French, German, English and Italian.
  • Korean, Russian and Chinese all showed significant increases in new learners.
6 Dec 2021

What is your strength as a software engineer? ›

Great developers are team players with good communication skills, a positive attitude, and a good grasp of the collaborative process that goes behind the building of a product. Key interpersonal skills that a software engineer needs: Collaboration skills.

Who is the most famous software engineer? ›

Ten Famous (or Infamous) Software Engineers
Software EngineerDegree HeldApplication
Paul BuchheitBachelor's degree in computer scienceGmail
John CarmackNoneDoom, Quake
Dave CutlerBachelor's degreeWindows NT
Max LevchinBachelor's degree in computer sciencePayPal
6 more rows

What strengths do you need to be a software engineer? ›

How to Become a Software Engineer: Software Engineer Skills
  • The ability to analyze complex technical information.
  • The ability to analyze business requirements and assess impact within the existing database architecture.
  • Good research skills.
  • Be an excellent problem solver.
  • Have experience building software applications.

Which language is best for software engineer? ›

Python and C++ are two of the best programming languages for software development, though each language has its ideal uses. Python is versatile in its practical applications; developers often use it to power artificial intelligence, machine learning, web, and development.

Which software is in high demand? ›

Python, SQL and Java are the most advertised software skills. We've counted the number of times each language appears in a job vacancy at Indeed. This ranges from around 2,500 outstandings job postings with Golang at the bottom to 84,000 outstanding postings for Python at the top.

What are the most valuable skill of a software engineer? ›

Top Software Engineer Skills for Today's Job Market
  • Computer Programming and Coding. ...
  • Software Development. ...
  • Object-Oriented Design (OOD) ...
  • Software Testing and Debugging. ...
  • Problem Solving and Logical Thinking. ...
  • Written and Verbal Communication. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Find a Home for Your Software Engineering Skills.

What personality type is good for software engineer? ›

The top MBTI personality types found in software engineering careers are ISTJ and INTJ. The ISTJ is known as the Inspector, and the INTJ is known as the Mastermind. Both types are introverted (meaning they recharge best on their own), analytical, and prefer clear direction or rules.

What kind of person makes a good software engineer? ›

The average Software Engineer tends to be pragmatic, reliable, and very organized, and may take a long time to analyze things before making a decision. The average Software Engineer tends to be confident and insightful, enjoying deep discussion to understand a particular issue.

What are the five qualities of good software? ›

The common requirements that all software applications must satisfy to be successful: user experience, availability, performance, scalability, adaptability, security, and economy. All seven qualities are important, but if you get the user experience (UX) wrong, nothing else matters.

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