What Do Software Engineers Do?

In short, web developers create websites.

They build new websites from scratch and modify existing ones, which makes their work both highly creative and deeply technical (Right and left-brained? Yes!). They design, test, and maintain a website's layout and features, as well as program how users interact with it. Any webpage you come across on the internet is the result of these superhumans.

Business-wise, web devs are largely responsible for the "digital face" of a company. Moreover, their work may also affect the financial side of the business. If a company delivers its products or services via a website (like Amazon or Netflix), then its income depends on how its website functions.

The Many Faces of Web Dev

There are three types of software engineeris: front-end, back-end, and full-stack. Though their roles certainly overlap, each requires different skill sets and responsibilities.

Front-end developers create the user-facing side of a website. They decide what users see and interact with. Melding design and programming, they create website layouts, links, pages, images, buttons, search bars, pop-up windows, input fields, and other elements. They also take care of debugging to make sure everything displayed works properly.

Back-end developers are people who make the front-end interact with servers and databases, while their own code stays invisible to users. To make a functioning website, back-end developers make front-end codes, servers, and databases communicate. And just like their front-end counterparts, back-end developers engage in code maintenance and debugging.

If you fuse these two roles, you'll end up with a Full-Stack developer. They have the skills to build a website from the ground up and maintain all of its functions single-handedly.

The Hard Skills

To do this kind of work, web developers rely on a solid foundation of hard skills.

Front-end development expects proficiency in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With HTML and CSS, you can design the visible layout of a website, while JavaScript lets you make it interactive (i.e. program features as videos and search bars.) On top of that, you may use an array of frameworks like React or Angular to build high-quality interfaces, and apply Git to keep track of code versions. Additionally, you might want to master interface design tools such as Sketch or Figma.

Back-end developers, too, need to understand how the front-end part of the website works, but their own job involves a different skill set. As a back-end developer, you'll need to write server-side code using Java, Python, or Ruby, as well as implement environmental layers to interact with the front-end logic, like Node.js, so that servers can process browser requests and fetch necessary data from databases. You'll have to learn how to use various database models (DBMSs) to find or save data and deliver it to end-users. Like front-end developers, you'll need a working knowledge of Git.

The Soft Skills

For software engineers, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. No matter which track you choose, you'll probably be working with a team. Whether that team is full of IT pros or not, make sure you can collaborate with everyone. You should be able to explain where you're at, what issues and needs you have, and what business tasks your tools can or cannot solve.

As you progress, you'll be exposed to new tasks such as assigning work to others, mentoring juniors, and reporting to stakeholders. All of these involve plenty of communication and teamwork, sometimes with people who aren't familiar with IT.

At the same time, independence matters. In a real-life work environment, developers work at their own pace but have to meet deadlines. Completing your share of work and resolving errors on your own (reaching out for support when needed), are critical assets. These require both critical and creative thinking and, of course, good time management. Also, with tech constantly evolving, keeping up with current trends and practices is key for a successful career.

The Salaries

Generally, software engineers are well-paid. As a rule, their pay depends on seniority: according to Career Karma, a junior web dev can earn over $64,000 a year, while a senior position can pay over $108,000. The location also makes a difference -- for instance, web developers employed in the San Francisco Bay Area tend to make more than their counterparts from other states. In addition, pay may vary between companies and industries. A startup might offer hefty bonuses and stock options to their employees, while a local small business is unlikely to have such resources.

Today, software engineering is one of the most in-demand professions across many industries. The growing appetite for digital transformation and expansion of the digital economy fuels this need. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor report, the number of web developer jobs is expected to increase by 13% by 2028. Moreover, since new software engineering tools and technology emerge all the time, there will always be a need for people who can master and apply them.

Is This Path Right For Me?

So, what's the best way to see if this career is for you? Easy —try it out!

Practicum’s Software Engineering program begins with a free 20-hour intro course that gives you a taste of what creating websites and web applications is like. If you decide web development is the profession for you, you can enroll in our full 10-month program!

For more information about data scientist profession, read “What’s Inside: Software Engineering Program.”

In the first three months, you'll grasp the foundations of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, enabling you to produce creative and functional webpages (by the way, that's enough knowledge to take on small freelance jobs!)

Then, you'll move on to applied JavaScript and Object-Oriented Programming to learn how to create truly interactive websites that communicate with servers. This will be followed by a run on React where we'll teach you how to build complex user interfaces, using one of the most popular libraries. The final stages of the course will be dedicated to the basics of back-end development and Node.js.

Over the course of this program, you'll put in 740 hours of practical training and assemble a professional portfolio. With 24/7 access to learning support from tutors, code reviewers, and a community of peers, you certainly wouldn't be on this journey alone. Additionally, you'll have the option to join Practicum's career track where we'll train you to compose a resume and cover letter, present a portfolio, and ace job interviews.

Find out more about the course curriculum and check other details here!


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