How to become a software engineer

Software engineers are a critical part of the software development market. It is an important position that is beneficial both for the person involved and the software development company they work for. 

Software engineer is a slightly different title to software developer, if you need a further explanation of this difference you can read about it in our relevant guide. When we are referring to a software engineer in this blog, we are talking about a specialised role of software engineering that demands a certain high-value skillset and works within larger teams in general. 

Let’s discuss the many ways in which you can become a software engineer in the UK. 

First up:

The uni route

The most popular first step to becoming a software engineer is attending a relevant course at university. There are many university courses in the UK that offer paths into software engineering and software development. In fact, the range of courses that allow transition into this career path is often more varied than people may think. Degree titles can include:

  • computer science/computing
  • information technology (IT)
  • software development/engineering
  • software engineering and professional practice
  • creative computing
  • immersive computing
  • financial technology
  • software engineering for business
  • maths

University degrees also typically include a year’s placement in your chosen industry. This means you will spend a year working as a software engineer in an established company. Experience is often the best way to learn and so this is a very valuable option within the university experience. 

Graduate and conversion schemes 

The options for studying software engineering don’t just include undergraduate degrees. There are more and more graduate and conversion schemes available for people who have previously studied something else and now want to transition into the world of software engineering. 

This means it is easier to change careers later in life and it is never too late to pick up software engineering as your chosen career. 



Apprenticeships are a great way to learn and get paid at the same time. If you think a paid learning situation would be better for you and your current life position, apprenticeships can be a very worthwhile option for you. Luckily, there are quite a few options for software engineering apprenticeships and related roles in the UK, some positions you can apprentice include: 

  • Data analyst
  • Cyber security technologist
  • Network engineer
  • Software tester
  • Software developer/software engineer
  • Business analyst

The self-taught/online courses route

In our digital era, there is more information available online than ever. You can learn pretty much anything online and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home – and software engineering is no different. 

There are lots of self-teaching courses and bootcamps available for software engineering online. They come in varying price brackets and some are more comprehensive than others. It is worth noting that studying in this way typically requires additional experience and a solid portfolio before you can apply to jobs with established software development companies.


Additional certifications and specialisms 

After any of the above routes into software engineering, it will be critical to undertake additional certifications and training in certain specialisms. Software engineering is a difficult role and it is one that requires long-term and committed learning. To stand out from the crowd in any job application, you will need more than just one form of learning experience. 

Even when in a software engineering job, you will require additional certifications from time to time to keep up to date. 


Projects and portfolios 

Creating your own projects and building your portfolio are both essential practices in becoming a software engineer. Software engineering is a highly practical skill and so to land any position, you will need to demonstrate your practical skills. This is particularly important if you haven’t taken the typical university route. 

This is where you can get really creative. There is a whole world of software engineering waiting to be played with and experimented with. Make yourself stand out in the market with unique and high-quality projects and portfolios. 

Gaining experience 

The best way to become a great software engineer is to learn on the job. Work-based experience is the most valuable in such a practical and skills-based job. If you can gain experience by joining a great software development company, you will see your skills skyrocket over time. Connecting and networking with others, learning from your mistakes, and watching experts at work will all help you to finetune your skills and help you become the best software engineer you can be.


Continued learning and development 

Working in tech requires a commitment to continued learning and development throughout your entire career. In the digital world, things are always changing and advancing, which means your skills need to do the same in order for you to stay in touch. 

Any software engineer worth their salt will be engaged in long-term learning and development, in whatever form that may be. Whether it is internal work-based training or external courses, diplomas, or certificates, continual learning is encouraged for engineers of all ranks and experience levels.

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