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What is Software Engineering?

Alabama is a state that is known for heat, southern hospitality, and its robust football programs. It's also an important economic hub, with an emphasis on shipping and its growth in the manufacturing sector. In recent decades, Alabama has attracted major automobile manufacturers, while developing a strong technology and other sectors. In fact, Alabama's economy is dominated by manufacturing and ranks #23 nationwide in that sector. Meanwhile, other top industries in Alabama include real estate, professional services, education & other social services, and retail trade.

To meet the modern demands of these sectors, Alabama's colleges and universities are working hard to develop some of the nation's strongest information technology departments. These academic programs train students to excel in areas such as networking, cyber security, database technology, and software engineering.

Not only does the state economy have a strong need for technology workers, but the wider southern region does, too. Students from Auburn, for example, often head up the expressway to work as software engineers in Atlanta or Charlotte, where the robust financial sector needs the best tech minds available. To help Alabama's students succeed, the state has worked hard to support computer science programs at all levels including high schools, community colleges, and universities.

When they recruit new faculty, the state’s school’s computer science departments seek out the very best academia has to offer. They want to staff their departments with full- and part-time instructors and professors who will prepare students for the working world. Universities also look for the best research faculty who continue to advance the field when they publish cutting-edge papers that cover all aspects of software engineering.

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Online Software Engineering Education in Alabama

Truth be told, software engineers can start a career with any degree whatsoever. The technology space still places its priority on ability and track-record. However, these days, it is recommended that budding software engineers earn some credentials prior to entering the job market. There are now many outlets for certifications in nearly every programming language and technology. Software engineers should also seek out projects to add to their portfolios.

However, since the field is increasingly competitive, technology students are urged to seek at least a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or computer science. They might also consider adding a concentration or minor in mathematics. Students who have skills in data science may be especially desired by software engineering firms.

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Online Associate Degree in Software Engineering (AS)

A two-year associate software engineering degree from an Alabama community college is a great way to kick-off a career in high technology. Students with this degree will have a solid foundation in programming and other aspects of software engineering. Students are urged to complement their associate software engineering degree with certifications in the languages that best suit their long-term career goals. Most often, students will gravitate to a specific language and can build from that strength.

An associate software engineering degree should be considered as a necessary degree for any tech worker. Even highly talented programmers will benefit, not only from their major degree courses but also from the rest of the curriculum. This is because Alabama community colleges require that they complete the core college curriculum. That means that they'll gain the soft skills which can make a huge difference in their careers. They can also take elective courses in complementary fields including business and mathematics.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering (BS)

Most students will gravitate to a bachelor’s software engineering degree rather than an associate degree, which offers a more robust education in the field. Alabama college students can take advantage of their four years in college to dive deep into software engineering projects, programming languages, and complimentary topics. One chief advantage to a four-year degree is the possibility of gaining experience while still learning.

Most will want to complete at least one internship along the way. An internship offers students the opportunity to spend time in a high-tech start-up, if not an established technology firm. There are many opportunities available for internships in Alabama, but many will seek internships in Atlanta, Charlotte, or even Seattle. There is yet another option to gain experience, and that's a co-operative degree. In this option, students take every other term to work in a firm as a full-time employee, with full-time pay. Co-op programs take longer to complete but they result in a robust resume upon graduation.

Online Master's Degree in Software Engineering (MS or MC)

A master's degree is becoming more and more vital to anyone's career. This is increasingly the case in the technology space because the field is becoming ever more competitive. While in the past, a worker with one or two languages under their belt could write their own ticket, these days, technology workers need to show a more well-rounded and in-depth set of credentials. A master's software engineering degree shows employers that the student is highly motivated while also demonstrating deep knowledge of specific topics such as data science, video game creation, or front-end development.

While a master's software engineering degree is a terrific way to take a career to the next level, there is another option. A dual MBA program can pair a business degree with software engineering and is a perfect way to launch into upper management. Software engineers may also use the MBA as an opportunity to learn more about what business people need in their careers. When a technology worker is able to competently communicate with their business-minded cohorts, their value increases immeasurably.

Online PhD Degree in Software Engineering (PhD)

A doctorate degree is highly valued in the technology sector because the field is becoming increasingly complex and demands ever-more insight and knowledge. Software engineers can focus their doctoral degrees on software engineering, but they might also pursue fields such as mathematics, computer science, or cognitive science. A technology employee with doctorate work in artificial intelligence, for instance, will be in very high demand in the job market.

Software engineers with a PhD also have other options available, especially in academia. With a PhD, a software engineer can land a tenure-track position with an Alabama college or university. While we mostly think of academics as lecturing students, a PhD can also work as a research faculty member who only focuses on software engineering and computer science matters. They may have graduate students working alongside them as assistants but not necessarily as students. PhDs who pursue work in colleges and universities can also pick up side work as consultants for firms elsewhere in Alabama or the nation.

Become a Software Engineer in Alabama

Given the utter ubiquity of technology in our lives, many students are interested in becoming software engineers. Many young tech lovers first become infatuated with the idea of building their own video game. In fact, this is a terrific way to get started in software engineering. There are free and cheap tools available on the internet that allow students to dive into the core logic of programming while building fun and shareable video games. Young tech lovers are urged to team up with like-minded friends to build games.

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With that in mind, many high school students take their spare time to learn programming languages using free or cheap learning resources. They should also look into taking computer courses through their high schools. If they are lucky, there may be a STEM high school nearby that offers computer science as a concentration area. In fact, a motivated high school student can build an impressive resume and portfolio without spending much more than the cost of a desktop computer, a few books, and perhaps an online course or two.

However, it's vital to aim toward a college degree. During the final years and days of high school, Alabama students should look for the software engineering degree program that suits them the best. Alabama has many terrific programs to offer, including many that are online.

Students who are eager to dive into the working world might first consider an Alabama community college with a robust software engineering program. When seeking out a degree, no matter the level, Alabama students should look for the best accreditation. A regional accreditation from a CHEA-approved agency should be the minimum standard. However, a program with ABET certification should go to the top of the list. ABET is nationally recognized for excellence.

Software engineers should review their career goals and pursue degrees accordingly. It's also imperative that they pursue certificates in the languages and technologies that are most pertinent to their work. For most employers, a long-held certificate can mean as much or more than an academic degree. However, a robust portfolio of successful projects may go just as far or even farther in the job market.

Careers for Software Engineering Graduates

  • Software Engineer:
    These technology workers work on either the back- or front-end of a piece of software. This means that they either develop the core drivers of the software that enable it to work efficiently, or they develop the user interfaces which most of us identify as the software itself. Because of this, engineers need to be proficient in multiple languages that pertain to their specific career focus. The best engineers will have knowledge of both sides of the software development process so that they work well together.
  • Web Developer:
    These tech workers are often confused with web designers. In fact, there is a good deal of overlap between the two. However, web developers are concerned with the back-end of a web site. They ensure that the site loads quickly and efficiently and that certain aspects, such as a search function or other database interfaces, work well. Key languages for a web developer might include PHP, Python, Java, Perl, JavaScript, and SQL, among others.
  • Information Security Analyst:
    The world of Infosec is increasingly important to both business and government. Hackers are constantly striving to break into all sorts of systems for the purpose of theft or chaos. Security analysts continually review their firm's cyber security systems and protocols in hopes of staying a few steps ahead of the bad guys. They also continually research new ways that black-hat hackers are using to crack into systems.

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  • Computer Programmer:
    This job description is somewhat outdated, but it is still in use. Computer programmers write computer code using one or more languages. Some computer programmers are called upon to merely troubleshoot existing code, while others are asked to write whole new applications from scratch. Programmers can work in offices where they hold regular office hours, attend meetings, and maintain a lifestyle much like any other worker. However, others work as remote tech workers from any spot on the globe.
  • Database Administrator:
    Nearly every firm relies on its database to store customer data, marketing figures, and more. Database administrators are often vital to the firm's operations. Administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of the database. They may be in charge of overseeing who has permission to access certain aspects of the database and how data should be entered in. And they also maintain and upgrade the database using SQL and other related languages.
  • Game Developer:
    Video games are a huge industry. Game developers often choose their favorite platforms and video game genre for their careers. Many go to work for established video game companies, such as EA Games, but many more strike out as independent game studios. Game developers need to be skilled in programming languages, art, and the intricacies of game development in general. Independent game developers also need to be savvy when it comes to marketing and fundraising.
  • Web and Digital Interface Designer:
    These computer scientists do the work that most of us are most familiar with. They are responsible for working with the back-end software developers to design the face of the software. Thus, they are responsible for things like choosing the color, size, and placement of elements on a screen. Their job is to ensure that the software is accessible to the public audience who uses it.

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