Top Software Engineer Skills for Today’s Job Market

Having these talents and technical abilities can make you more marketable to employers.

Computers touch nearly every part of life. For that, you can thank software engineers. Suppose you’re hoping to excel in this industry. In that case, you will need to keep up your software engineer skills since you’ll be responsible for developing, designing, testing, writing, modifying, and debugging software based on specific requirements. To satisfy the world’s ever-growing interest in new and better computer programs, many software engineers will be hired in the coming years.

“The industry evolves quickly, so you have to keep your skills current,” says Anima Anandkumar, professor of computing and mathematical sciences at Caltech.

Although there are plenty of full-time software engineering jobs, it can also be a flexible position, with contracting and freelancing opportunities commonly available and looking to outshine the competition for any of many thousands of software engineer jobs on Monster? You’ll want to focus on developing these core skills.

Computer Programming and Coding

Anandkumar says this is one of the fundamental soft engineering skills. “Computer programming focuses on algorithms, which have become a part of our daily lives,” she says. There are several computer programming languages, and job requirements can vary depending on the position you’re applying for. Coding Bootcamp website Coding Dojo says the five of the most in-demand programming languages are:

  • Java
  • Python
  • C#/.Net
  • Mean
  • Ruby
  • HTML and CSS
  • Python
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Swift
  • C++
  • C#
  • R
  • Golang (Go)

The good news is these skills can be acquired through online courses or tutorials that teach programming languages, says Christine Julien, a software engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin. That may explain why the coding school industry continues to increase.

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Software Development

Software development entails being able to analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs. College students can gain experience in this area by taking relevant coursework and completing an internship at a software company. Julien says that software engineer skills can also be honed by working with natural systems and other high-caliber software engineers.

Software developer jobs are projected to increase by a whopping 22% over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. One driving force behind this rapid job growth is the advent of new applications on smartphones and tablets. Also, more computer systems are being built into consumer electronics.

Object-Oriented Design (OOD)

“For the last 30 years, there has been a powerful push toward programming using object-oriented design,” says David Garlan, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of Software Architecture: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline. This approach involves the process of planning a system of interacting objects to solve a software problem.

Object-oriented design encompasses four fundamental principles:

  • Abstraction
  • Encapsulation
  • Inheritance
  • Polymorphism

If these sound like foreign concepts to you, don’t worry—online courses through Webinkeys and Webinkeys can equip you with basic knowledge of OOD principles.

Software Testing and Debugging

Although many new artificial intelligence (AI) programs focus on automating software testing and debugging, job seekers still need these skills, Anandkumar says.

Indeed, testing and debugging account for a large share of the time and cost of a software project, Julien says. “They’re also skills that become a little more like art than generating lines of code,” she says. Software testing and debugging require you to think analytically about how a system is constructed.

There are software testing and debugging classes online, but “these skills are more craft that require honing through experience,” says Julien. Translation: Testing and debugging software is generally learned on the job.

Problem Solving and Logical Thinking

“These skills absolutely differentiate great software engineers from good ones,” says Julien. Software problems can arise from even the most minor errors, and programmers spend a high percentage of their debugging rather than writing code. Therefore, being able to pinpoint software issues and use deductive reasoning to solve problems is crucial to many software engineering jobs.

Written and Verbal Communication

Generally, software engineers don’t work in a vacuum—many interact with co-workers or clients. Hence, communication skills are top of mind for industry employers.

“One of the important characteristics of a good software engineer is the ability to explain something technical or complex to a layperson,” says Garlan. “You don’t want someone who is going to say, ‘I fixed the problem. Don’t ask me how I did it though.’ You should always be able to clearly articulate what you do.” Communication will also serve you well when a customer has a problem with your company’s software.

One of the best ways to improve your written and verbal communication skills while on the job is to shadow a more experienced software engineer who works with clients or customers directly.

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Interpersonal skills are crucial for software engineers since they often work in teams. As a result, “having respect for others, having the ability to listen, having the ability to accept criticism, having the ability to empathize…those are all important skills,” Garlan says.

As far as learning how to become a better team player, “some [teamwork] skills can be taught, but others have to be learned over time on the job,” Garlan says.


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