Becoming a Software Engineer: Applications or Systems Software Engineering?

Computers are a critical component of everyday life—both at home and the office. But without software, computers would just be very large and rather useless paperweights. Computer software is a grouping of computer programs, procedures or rules that assist the operation of a computer system. Application software helps the user to perform tasks on the computer, whereas, systems software operates the computer hardware in order to allow the applications software to run.

If you are planning to become a software engineer, now is as good a time as any. Thanks to the rise in reliance on computers, there is a need for highly trained workers to design and implement new software that incorporates all of the latest technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineering is predicted to be among the top 30 fastest growing occupations through 2018.

Applications Software Engineer vs. Systems Software Engineer

Within software engineering, there is a distinction between the application software engineer and systems software engineer. A computer applications software engineer will typically design and construct applications software based on the users’ needs, through the use of various program languages, such as C, C++, Java, PHP, Visual Basic, and Python. Many applications software engineers develop customized applications for businesses and organizations, while some develop package applications and others develop databases.

A computer systems software engineer is generally in charge of suggesting, installing, and marinating the organization’s computer systems, which may include its inventory, ordering or payroll software. Often they are responsible for the implementation of systems security, as well as the internal Intranet system within the organization. Computer systems software engineers could also be part of the companies that sell and install the software, and in this role, they provide technical support in assisting with the customization of the software.

Education Requirements for Software Engineers

Most areas of software engineering require a bachelor’s degrees in computer science or computer software engineering, but degrees in information science and management information systems (MIS) may also be helpful. MIS programs differ a bit from traditional computer science degrees in that they also focus on business and management, as well as computers.

In some cases, applicants with a two-year degree or professional certification, along with relevant programming experience, may be considered for employment. In order to help software engineers stay abreast of the latest technologies, continuing education courses and certification programs are also an asset on top of degree programs.

Organizations with management positions for software engineers are often seeking individuals with a graduate degree, such as the Masters in Business Administration degree with a focus on information technology or a Master of Science in computer science. With the proper experience as a software engineer, you could eventually become a project manager, manger of information systems or chief information officer.

Software Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineering can expect a growth of 32% from the projection period of 2008-2018, with the employment for applications software engineers expected to be 689,900 and that of systems software engineers predicted to be 515,000. Those with both practical experience and at least a bachelor’s degree should find the best opportunities.

The BLS has also reported that the median computer applications software engineer salary was $85,430, with the highest 10% earning around $128,870 in 2008. The median computer systems software engineer salary was slightly higher at $92,430, and the top 10% earned more than $135,780.

Here is a breakdown of the median software engineer salary by industry type:

Computer Applications Software Engineer

  • Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers -$93,740
  • Software publishers – $87,710
  • Management of companies and enterprises- $85,990
  • Computer systems design and related services – $84,610
  • Insurance carriers – $80,370

Computer Systems Software Engineer

  • Scientific research and development services – $102,090
  • Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing – $101,270
  • Software publishers – $93,590
  • Navigational measuring electromedical and control instruments manufacturing – $91,720
  • Computer systems design and related services – $91,610

Getting Educated

If you love working with computers, why not consider becoming a software engineer? Not only is the industry expected to grow, but the average software engineer salary can be significant. To begin your career as a software engineer, start with your education. Check out the various computer schools available on our site, and find the one that best meets your needs.