A software engineer applies engineering practices to software development, and typically handles the overall system design of the software application. While some software engineers also handle programming, these engineers typically hand off the engineered designs to software programmers for coding. Once the coding is complete, they test the software and make sure it performs within the engineered requirements.

Software engineering is divided into several specializations, which focus on a particular software development area. A few of the most common software engineering specialties include:

  • Requirements engineering looks at the overall requirements of software, how it fits into the current system, and whether the code from software programmers meets the necessary requirements. Software quality management fulfills a similar set of duties, although these software engineers may only be confirming the software meets someone else's set of requirements.

  • Software engineering process looks at the software development lifecycle and identifies areas of improvement and optimization. By engineering the development lifecycle itself, this software engineer ensures the entire development process runs more efficiently.

  • Software design covers one of the most common software engineering specialities. These engineers define everything from the software's infrastructure to its interface before programmers start on the code, in order to create software effective for the environment it's getting deployed in.

The typical software engineer has many duties and plays an integral part in the software design and development process:

  • Looks at proposed software development projects and determines whether the guidelines follow sound engineering practices. If they don't, the engineer addresses any problems and provides an updated project requirements list.

  • Creates documentation for the software design and development of the project, which allows the programmers to work effectively and any other engineers working on the project to understand what's going on with the design.

  • Examines business needs to determine whether software can solve existing problems, fix operational inefficiencies, or otherwise optimize work processes. When these areas are identified, the software engineer begins working on a software design document to see whether the solution is feasible with the resources on hand.

  • Software quality assurance and testing sometimes fall in the software engineering realm, especially if the engineer created the original design document.

Software engineers create needed efficiency in software development projects, which ensures the projects fit the needs of the company, stay within the project scope, and tests developed software to confirm it follows the engineering practices laid out in the initial design.

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