Before starting a job it’s good to know that what you are jumping into has good long-term prospects. A good career is not just about the pay and perks. It should also offer a good work-life balance and keep you balanced.
Software engineering is a good career that offers higher than average pay, job security, fulfilling work, and good career progression. Demand for developers is set to grow by more than 20% over the next decade and the current jobs shortage means finding work is easy.
Developers are in short supply which means they are highly valued and in demand. For those looking to jump into a career in development, there has never been a better time. Tech companies are more innovative than ever and innovations bring about new areas to work in.
Let’s take a look at what makes software engineering a good career and explore the negatives to working in development.
Is software development a good career?
Overall, software development is a good career that offers great pay, fulfilling work, and a clear career path. On top of that, the industry is set to grow significantly and the demand for talented software developers is going to increase.
Software development is the perfect career choice for those of you who want flexibility baked into your working lives. The majority of jobs in software now work on a remote-first basis so you can avoid a daily commute and reclaim some of your free time. Plus, there are high levels of autonomy and you don’t have people looking over your shoulder throughout the day. So, you can often reshuffle your schedule to suit your and your family’s needs.
Generally, software developers are happy and have a good work-life balance. You get to do challenging work that keeps you occupied and in any half-decent company, there are always routes to promotion via senior engineer and tech lead. Aside from all the additional extras around the job, the fact developers get paid a lot of money also makes it a good career choice for most people.
Software engineering ticks a lot of boxes in terms of being a fulfilling career. However, there are some downsides. You spend all day inside and sat down at a desk. If you are someone who wants an active job where you are on your feet, then software development is not a good option.
There are plenty of reasons why you should want to be a software developer, we will explore some now.
Why software engineering is a good career
Software engineering is a good career because it offers great pay, awesome perks, and an interesting workload. You can expect to have your creative itch scratched, always be in demand, and have a large degree of flexibility at work. The rise of technology has made software engineering an attractive career choice.
Let’s first take a look at what makes software engineering a good career and the perks of moving into the industry. What makes something a good career choice is subjective in some sense because everyone looks for different things in their dream job. The criteria below are quite broad but are still incredibly relevant to the software developer role.
1. Job Security
The recession of 2008 made a lot of people weary about their career choices. So many people lost their jobs that a lot of people reconsidered the best long-term options. Good job security gives you peace of mind and allows you to focus on your job rather than worrying about losing it.
Software engineering is the perfect career choice for those who are conscious about job security. The tech industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world and the outlook for the future is bright. It is set to expand rapidly as innovations open even more doors and technology becomes even more part of our lives.
The industry growth is just one side of the coin. There is currently a major jobs shortage in the IT sector, with nearly a million job vacancies. It means after becoming a developer you aren’t going to struggle to find well-paid work, and your job is safe because there is so much demand.
2. Software engineering and salaries
It’s no secret that most people look at potential salaries before stepping into a certain industry. A good base salary helps melt away any financial anxiety and allows you to plan your future. It opens doors and improves your quality of life.
The compensation that developers receive is often cited as a key reason why people want to switch careers in the tech world.
A full-time software engineer in the U.S. earns $97,745 on average. That is more than $25,000 more than the national average of $71,456. America is the tech hub of the world and its developers are among the highest-paid in the world. You don’t even have to go to a tech city like San Francisco to earn way over the average.
In the UK, a senior software developer earns on average just shy of £52,000 a year which is £21,000 more than the national average. Developers working in London can look to double or even triple this amount.
If you are savvy during your salary negotiations then you will be heavily rewarded. Plenty of programmers are earning high six figures. Money isn’t everything but it certainly makes life easier and makes the day-to-day at work more enjoyable.
A career in software engineering provides fantastic perks not offered in other jobs. The rise of startup culture means that you are likely to be offered equity in a company even without that much experience. Typically you’d have to climb to become a C-level employee before that is on the cards.
As part of any standard compensation package as a developer you should expect:
- Gym Memberships
- Life Insurance
- Medical Insurance
- Penson Allocation
Google created the blueprint for the typical laid-back working culture that proliferates many tech companies. The below items may not be a direct perk you’ll see in your pay packet but they help relieve stress and improve motivation, they include:
- Free coffee
- Free snacks and lunch
- Pool tables and gaming rooms
- Flexible working hours
Perks make software engineering fun. They allow you to appreciate your job more and utilize your time away from work effectively.
4. Interesting and Challenging Work
A lot of developers fall into their line of work because they love coding and picked it up as a hobby. Usually, it starts as a few personal projects that spiral into learning a language and eventually picking up a full-time gig.
There is a reason that developers generally have such a high job satisfaction and even finish work to go home and code some more. The work is interesting and challenges you just enough to keep on your toes.
Each day brings about different problems to solve which if perfect if you like to continually improve. It’s hard to get bored when new issues present themselves and require clever or novel approaches.
People often cite boredom or a lack of challenge as the key reasons behind wanting to switch careers. With a career in software engineering, there is always something to pique your interest.
Learning to code is a journey that never really ends. Once you have mastered the back-end you can switch to the front-end and start again, or vice-versa. There are always plenty of opportunities to learn by taking on projects that interest you.
5. Flexibility in a software engineer’s career
Software engineers are generally given a lot of flexibility to go about their day. The amount of flexibility will be determined by the company you work for and their culture. But generally, you can expect a relaxed dress code, flexible working hours, and to manage your own time.
A project sets out the demands of the dev team but you can manage your time around the different tasks that need to be completed. With the right company, you will also be allowed to mold your working hours around your schedule. That includes working late so you can drop the kids off at school, or starting early to get away for an appointment.
Plenty of software engineering roles are now being advertised as remote. It means you can work for a company halfway across the country. Or only go into the office a couple of times a month. The nature of development work means that you don’t all have to be sat in an office together. Remote working is an enormous time and money saver that simply isn’t an option in other career paths. It opens up a wider pool of jobs for your career long-term and generally empowers the workforce which improves motivation.
I’ve personally found the flexibility of being a software engineer incredible. I’ve moved countries and cities, all while still working for the same company. It gives you a sense of freedom.
6. Creativity and fullfilment
Working in an unfulfilling job can make people feel they have chosen a poor career path. Doing something that gives you a sense of accomplishment is crucial for long-term happiness in a role.
Software engineering allows you to scratch that creative itch. You constantly create and build products that provide a sense of achievement. Fixing things that were broken is immensely rewarding.
The variety in your workload means there are always different ways to solve problems and express yourself creatively. Bringing a set of requirements to life and having a tangible product at the end of it helps build confidence. A career in software engineering is perfect for those who enjoy being involved in a project right from the start and seeing things through to the end.
Why software engineering is a difficult career
Not everything is rays of sunshine and rainbows. There are some challenges to a career in software engineering. It can depend on the organization you are part of but some programmers find their work stressful.
Software engineering can be difficult because you spend a large portion of your time working alone. You are also quite far removed from business decisions and have little control over your workload. For some, constant learning can be too much, especially as you progress into the latter stages of your career.
Let’s explore the challenges of being a software engineer and some potential reasons to avoid it as a career choice.
For those of you that enjoy a lot of interaction with others, software engineering may be challenging. You work with your team and have meetings. But a lot of your time can be spent writing code on your own. Putting together a new feature involves concentrating for large periods with the distraction of talking to others.
A lot of programming jobs have gone remote-first now too. So the likelihood is that you won’t even have an office to go to most of the time. If you are not careful loneliness can creep in and make the job unenjoyable. It can seem like a big deal to video call a colleague just for a chat during work but it can help build your team’s culture and make you feel part of something.
Working alone is not a hard and fast rule of development though. Junior developers pair up with more senior developers and work on problems together all the time. As you climb the ladder you will code a lot less. The number of meetings you have will also increase so the time spent alone decreases.
The development team is in charge of creating products that fit the requirements laid out by the business. In large companies, you can be quite far removed from the reasoning of these business decisions. It means that your focus as a developer can be quite narrow and you may not get a clear idea of the bigger picture.
Bureaucracy can also cause a stranglehold and delay key decisions from being made while certain stakeholders are away. Sometimes you are prevented from using your initiative because you don’t have sign-off on a new project or feature.
If you are a big picture thinking or like stick close to where the decisions are made then software engineering could be quite trying. The size and culture of the company you work for will impact how close to the decisions you are. Some companies have a largely open and democratic decision-making structure. While others are more top-down authoritarian style. No way is right or wrong just make sure to pick a company that works for you.
Many software engineers love their career choice because they get to test and try new technologies, and are constantly learning. Personally, I get bored easily and this is an element of the job that attracts me the most.
However, if you aren’t keen to keep up with new trends in technology then it’s unlikely development would be a good career for you. There are always improvements and innovations to keep you busy. However, if you don’t keep up with what the jobs market is demanding you may become stagnant in your career. It is hard to jump into a higher-paying job if you don’t have the skills they require.
After a couple of decades of making sure you are up to scratch the entire process can become draining. But luckily there are plenty of public sector roles or jobs at non-tech companies that use older technology. It means there will always be work but it just may not be the highest paying or at the cutting edge.
As we discussed business decisions are often made a few levels above your development team. It means your workload can sometimes be out of your control. If a new feature needs to be shipped as soon as possible and you also have to fix some existing bugs, things can get hectic.
If you are at a startup the workload can be astronomical. They need to ship an MVP but keep staff costs low, so fewer people do more work. Agencies can also drive their staff pretty hard when a client delivery deadline is coming up.
It’s important to be open and honest with a potential employer at interview time and set their expectations. Software engineering doesn’t have to be a stressful career, you just need to communicate your boundaries effectively. Or work at a company that respects your work-life balance. The good thing is regardless of what you do, there is rarely a dull moment in software development.
Is software engineering a good career for the future?
Software engineering is a fantastic career choice for those looking for something future-proof. The industry is set to grow by a fifth over the next decade and the world is becoming even more reliant on technology.
We have seen an enormous boom in technology usage over the last three decades. But the reality is that many areas are still in their infancy. Web development is almost unrecognizable from the field it was twenty years ago. We have exciting changes in automation, AI, data science, and security systems.
People will be doing jobs in a decade or so that don’t even exist today. Software engineering is a truly exciting field with almost limitless potential. Not only does it continue to pay far above the average but it also remains an incredibly important part of society.
All other engineerings fields will eventually come to rely on software engineering as technology expands into every industry. Civil engineers no longer do their drawings by hand or make calculations manually. Everything is done via specialized software put together by programmers and data scientists.
The barriers to entry are also lower now than they have ever been. Going to college helps but plenty of companies employ self-taught programmers wanting to switch careers. Putting together a small portfolio of work and getting your foot in the door can open a whole new world after a few years. For anyone who has hit a dead-end in their current role and wants to broaden their horizons I highly recommend learning to code.
Even if you don’t end up going full-time it’s still a valuable skill to have and a fun hobby to have on the side.
We’ve put together a short quiz that will help you determine with a career in software engineering is for you.
Is software engineering a stable career?
Software engineering is an incredibly stable career that is highly sought after. The U.S. is nearly a million IT workers short so they are in massive demand. The tech industry is booming and shows no sign of letting up as it creeps into every aspect of our lives. With this growth comes more opportunities for stable careers.
A tech job ticks all the boxes in terms of stability. It is well paid with set hours and a good work-life balance. Unlike transportation or manufacturing, technology has its best days in front of it. It will begin to play an even bigger part in our lives and with this will come to the creation of jobs.
The best thing is that every company uses technology in some manner, so there is an industry for everyone to work in. Whether it’s a big multinational or a small family-owned restaurant, every company needs to use the services of a programmer at some point.
Generally speaking a career in software engineering is recession-proof. People are always going to be needed to develop the next batch of technology that will propel us forward. Sure some jobs creating HTML websites may disappear. But that is a good reason to move into a more technical software development role. HTML and CSS-type jobs have been clawed at by page builders like Wix which has tried to replace developers.
Your best bet to remain in a stable developer job is to keep up to date with the latest technology and never lose your curiosity,
Figuring out the correct path is one of life’s greatest challenges. Picking a good career in software development can change your circumstances for the better. It opens doors to a fulfilling and stable career that is likely to stand the test of time. Not only will you be well compensated but you’ll be intellectually stimulated throughout your working life
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.