Categories: Career DevelopmentSalaries

Is Software Engineering the Right Career for You?

Image by yaph [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

All over the web, you see these amazing rags-to-riches stories about ordinary people who could barely use their smartphones or who were made redundant and had no marketable skills, who taught themselves how to code and now have fabulous, lucrative careers in software engineering. But evaluating whether software engineering is the right career for you requires you to take a step back and look at the pros and cons of this career path, examining the career progression and outlook, the salary you can expect, and whether you have the right personality to excel as a software developer.

Pros and Cons to a Career in Software Engineering

It’s important to have a balanced perspective when considering a change in career because you need to know what to expect – both the positive and negative. Although you’ll see an awful lot of hype about the awesomeness of life as a software developer, you’re rarely given a balanced view.


Job Satisfaction

If you love building things and enjoy continually challenging yourself, then it’s likely you’ll get a great deal of satisfaction from a career in software development.

Good Salary Potential

Assuming you get a job at a good company, you know what your skills are worth, and you can negotiate, you can expect to bring home a very rewarding salary and benefits package. Our data indicates an average salary for a software engineer is $110k, ranging between $84.7 and $136k. With such a high salary, even for a junior, this career path has impressive salary potential.

Travel Potential

Because good software engineers are in such high demand, there’s always opportunities to travel, getting yourself a job in a country you’ve always wanted to visit. It’s not difficult to find immigration opportunities, for short and long-term posts, all over the world. And, because software engineering doesn’t require licensure or a degree, it’s often easier to work overseas in this role than in many others, including the other engineering disciplines.

Flexibility and Remote Working

Not every software engineering job offers flexible hours or is a remote position. However, it is possible to find remote employment or to work as a freelance software development consultant from the comfort of your home office. This is less likely if you want to work for one of the tech giants like Google or Microsoft, but many startups are happy for developers to work remotely, and some have entirely remote businesses, with no central office.


Continual Learning

Image by yaph CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Tech moves fast. Software development moves fastest. To stay on top of your game, you need to learn new things quickly and on a regular basis. There’s always something new. The world of software engineering doesn’t stand still. Whoever you work for, you’ll have to stay abreast of new automation frameworks, version control systems, programming APIs, languages, and so on. If you love learning, then this con is, in fact, a pro.

Unusual Hours

This one might not apply to everyone. It really depends on the company you work for or the software you build. Just bear in mind that not every developer works regular office hours or sticks to a 40-hour-a-week schedule. Some have to be on-call on a regular basis or need to work the night shift to provide support. Others work far more than 40 hours per week, particularly in the run-up to a product launch.

Sedentary Lifestyle

We all know that being too sedentary is bad for us, but this is often overlooked as a disadvantage to a career in software engineering or any other white collar role. To keep your body in shape, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of a whole variety of diseases, you need to leave plenty of time for exercise in some form before or after work. And, to stave off the long-term risk of musculoskeletal damage and conditions, you’ll need to get your workstation ergonomics just right.

Up Next: Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Software Engineer?

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Software Engineer?

If you made it this far, the list of pros and cons haven’t put you off – kudos! So let’s find out if you have what it takes to be a software engineer…

  • You work well in a group. Remember, even though you’ll spend many hours coding, testing, and debugging alone, you’ll spend just as many hours collaborating with other engineers, designers, testers, and anyone else involved in the project. So you need to be able to function in a group and you need some basic social and interpersonal skills.
  • You have strong problem-solving skills. Software engineering requires a problem-solving mindset. Are you one of those people who sees a problem, even a minor, tolerable issue, and tries to find a solution? That’s the mental framework you need. If your problem-solving approach accounts for multiple factors like budget, practicality, timescale, and similar, you may well have what it takes for a successful career in software development.
  • You enjoy strategizing. This could be strategy in the form of war games – like Warhammer – or Risk or one of the many strategy video games. Maybe you love chess, Civilization, or Starcraft. Whatever your preferred choice, strategy games build logical and critical thinking skills, training you to make informed decisions that account for every variable. Of course, liking strategy games isn’t vital, but it’s a good indicator that you have the right logical and lateral thinking skills necessary for success in your chosen field.
  • You’re creative. Software engineering isn’t all about cold, hard logic. It’s creative – just as much as painting, sculpting, or graphic design.
  • You like to build things
  • You’re motivated
  • You’re passionate 
  • You’re curious
  • You’re disciplined
  • You love learning

What Education Do You Need for a Career in Software Engineering?

What education you need really depends on the job you’re applying for. Not every employer requires you to have a degree in software engineering, although having a degree in this field – or a related one – definitely won’t hurt your application. However, some companies, particularly some of the big players like Apple or Facebook, may request that you hold a computer science degree to be considered for their roles, or may at the very least, give preference to applicants with relevant qualifications.

Having said that, there are plenty of options for self-taught software engineers, bootcamp graduates, and others who’ve taken alternative educational routes. Whatever your educational qualifications, the most important element of landing the software engineering job you really want is to put together an impressive portfolio. Let the recruiters see you’ve put in hundreds of hours of your own time studying and building awesome applications and solving real-world problems.

As a software engineer, you’ll never stop learning. Technologies change, and you’ll need to change with them, taking the time to educate yourself.

Career Outlook for Software Engineers

Software engineers remain among the most sought-after professionals, and there’s no end in sight to the increasing demand. According to the BLS, the demand for software engineers is set to grow by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than most other careers, so the skills gap remains, and good developers can always find work. But you need to hone your skills and be able to demonstrate your engineering prowess in your portfolio and during interviews, as most companies won’t settle for second-rate – they want the best they can find.

What Salary Can You Expect as a Software Engineer?

As previously noted, we use big data to determine the average salary for a software engineer, including equity and bonuses, as $110k per year. Do remember, though, that this varies according to company and location, as well as seniority. To maximize your earning potential, you need to make yourself as job-ready as possible, continually improve your knowledge and your portfolio, and know how to negotiate. It’s also a great idea to take multiple interviews in a short timeframe, as if you get multiple offers simultaneously, you’re in a much stronger negotiating position. And, if you’re lucky enough to get to that position, we’ve got a super-helpful post on how to evaluate compensation packages when you’ve got multiple job offers. We’ve also got a whole series of articles to help you negotiate the best possible salary and benefits package.

What do you think? Is software engineering the right career for you? Do you have an aptitude for solving problems and applying logic? Are you passionate about software and technology? Do you have enough interpersonal skills to communicate well and work with a team? Do you have the discipline and the motivation to educate yourself? If you genuinely think that changing careers to software engineering is the right move for you, take a look at our job board to get a sense of what’s available in your preferred location. Use our cost of living calculator to figure out the acceptable base salary for the location you’re considering. Then, read our guide to educational paths to a job in software engineering to explore your options. And don’t forget to sign up for a free account here at Paysa, where our free tools can help you find the job you want, with the salary you want, at the company you love.


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4-Year Degree vs. Bootcamp vs. Self-Learning for a Career in Software Development

Cost of Living



Author: Katy Willis