Application software engineers design, build, test, modify and maintain computer applications software that allows corporate customers as well as the general public to perform tasks on a computer and other devices easily and efficiently. Applications tailored to meet a customer's specific needs include complex databases, internet- and intranet-based programs, and underlying systems that run the equipment that controls networks. Application software engineer jobs can be found in companies of all sizes and within many industries. The nature of the work itself varies accordingly, yet some core application software engineer skills apply across the board.
Day in the Life of an Application Software Engineer
Many application software engineers work for companies that specialize in computer system design and related services, manufacturing, or software publishers. Others work in the IT departments of companies in other industries. Responsibilities may vary depending on the company size and industry, but on a typical day, an application software engineer may:
- Attend meetings with non-technical management and clients to understand what they need an application to do for their business operation. This may take the form of a strategic planning session with upper management of the engineer's company or with an outside client.
- Analyze user needs and product requirements for designing a software application.
- Consult with technical co-workers about software performance requirements, interfaces and the capabilities and limitations of the system.
- Recommend computer specifications.
- Research existing software that could be used to add features or reduce the cost of the new software application.
- Design, develop and test the new software application.
- Modify existing software to improve its performance or to correct errors.
- Write code and fix bugs.
- Develop and manage software validation and testing procedures.
- Adapt existing software to be compatible with new computer hardware.
- Perform systems analysis.
- Plan and coordinate the installation of software systems/applications.
- Once the application has been developed and tested, discuss software system design and maintenance with clients and non-technical colleagues.
Application software engineers usually work in offices. But other application software engineer jobs can be in the form of consultants, or employees for a specialized software development firm, who may travel to a client's office or plant for meetings or to perform technical tasks.
Important Characteristics for Application Software Engineers
Successful application software engineers typically share some key characteristics. They need to be creative in designing software solutions to meet users' needs. They should also be analytical and detail-oriented thinkers who are able to methodically work through technical issues. The testing and troubleshooting nature of application software engineer jobs requires excellent problem-solving skills. But these engineers must also have good communication and interpersonal skills; this helps them communicate effectively with other technical employees as well as non-technical colleagues and customers when explaining applications and answering questions.
Typical Steps for Becoming an Applications Software Engineer
You can prepare for a career as an application software engineer by following these steps:
- Earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science. This major covers a broad range of topics. Be sure you become proficient in the most commonly used programming languages Java, C and C+. Alternatively, earning a bachelor's degree in software engineering or a related field (such as electrical engineering) may also put you on this career path.
- Complete an internship while in college. You can gain practical, hands-on experience in software development through an internship at a software company. An internship also can give you an opportunity to build a network of contacts that may help you find a job once you graduate.
- Gain knowledge and skills related to your company's industry. If you work for a bank, for example, you should understand finance well enough to understand the bank's computing needs.
- Earn a master's degree if it might help you get promoted at your current company or land a job in another company. Find out what the employer requires and what to specialize in when looking into graduate degrees.
- Stay up-to-date on new developments throughout your career. Computer programming tools and computer languages evolve rapidly, so staying on top of developments — and keeping your application software engineer skills current — is critical to success.
- Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers Computer Society
- Association for Computing Machinery
- Software Developers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm
- Summary Report for Software Developers, Applications, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1132.00