If you are interested in computers and proficient in working with software, becoming a software engineer sounds like an attractive career choice. But many prospective students ask: What does a software engineer do on a daily basis?

As with most professions, the answer depends on the software engineer’s company and job description. However, there are certain common duties in most software engineer jobs. Understanding them can help professionals decide if they want to enter a Master of Science in Computer Science degree program and concentrate on software engineering.

What Is a Software Engineer?

A general description of a software engineer is someone who writes, maintains, tests, and debugs software that instructs a computer to do tasks. They convert instructions into code that computers understand. Some of the most common coding languages include Java, JavaScript, and Python.

Software engineers who earn a master’s degree typically move upward in an organization, gaining more computer architecture and systems responsibilities. They may also focus on leading teams of engineers on large projects and mentor young engineers.

What Does a Software Engineer Do Day-to-Day?

Whatever their specific job, software engineers focus on creating software that solves challenges for consumers and businesses. They spend much of their workday either writing code or overseeing teams that write code.

Writing code involves creativity and long hours of intense concentration. That is why many coders wear headphones to block out external noise (and signal others to leave them alone). Software engineers design each piece of a system or application, planning how to fit the pieces together. With testing, they determine if the program is functioning properly. They also document every aspect of a system or app for future reference.

A software engineer typically participates frequently in stand-up meetings, part of the Agile approach to project management and software development. Developed in the tech field and since adopted in other industries, Agile makes software development more efficient and gets products to market faster.

According to a Coding Nomads chart, software engineers spend the most time doing the following tasks every day. In descending order of time spent, they are:

  • Software design and coding
  • Brainstorming and collaboration
  • Administrative tasks
  • Waiting for tests to complete
  • Waiting for builds to complete
  • Environment management

Skills Needed for Software Engineers

The online job site Indeed.com also provides an overview of software engineers, highlighting some of their typical goals and the skills required for the job. In addition to the technical skills needed to succeed in design and coding, software engineers motivated to advance up the organizational chart should also work on their soft skills.

For example, one important task for software engineers is collaborating with other computer scientists on projects. That makes the ability to work well on teams important for engineers.

Software engineers working as managers may also present projects to stakeholders who are non-computer scientists, making communication skills important for leadership roles.

All these skills used in combination pay off. The national average salary for software engineers reached $114,270 in May 2020. In Massachusetts, the average salary is $119,790.

Merrimack College’s MS in Computer Science

Merrimack College offers a Master of Science in Computer Science, Software Engineering Concentration. Led by an experienced faculty and designed to give software engineers the skills required to become leaders, the online program is open to students with or without computer science experience.

No prerequisites or coding experience is required. Neither is a GRE or GMAT score. Students in the program learn software design and documentation, database principles, systems and languages, and advanced programming concepts.

Merrimack College’s computer science programs are ranked among the nation’s best in providing value for students. For those interested in software engineering, the college’s online program can provide an important step in fulfilling their career ambitions.