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From Beginner to Pro: A Guide on How to Become a Successful Software Engineer

There are different methods to learn software engineering in Singapore. The four most common ones are: obtaining a degree in Computer Science; self-learning; bootcamps; and postgraduate programmes like diplomas and Master’s degrees.

Written by
Kai Yuan Neo
Last updated
August 18, 2023
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Here are some things to consider when thinking about signing up for a coding bootcamp to learn coding and programming, or to kickstart your career in software engineering.

From Beginner to Pro: A Guide on How to Become a Successful Software Engineer

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A Guide on How to Become a Successful Software Engineer

This article was contributed by Rocket Academy’s founder and CEO, Kai Yuan Neo. He completed his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science at Stanford University. He started Rocket Academy because the world still lacks software engineering talent, and people that had not studied Computer Science but wish to become software engineers have few good ways to do so.

Coding. It’s everywhere! Every single one of the digital experiences we enjoy is the result of code. As we navigate through our increasingly digital world, it's hard to imagine a single day without the power of coding. From the apps on our phones to the software that runs our cars and even the websites we browse, every digital experience we encounter is the direct result of code. With such a pervasive influence, it's no wonder that software engineering has become one of the most sought-after and exciting career paths of our time.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced programmer looking to take your skills to the next level, this guide will provide you with a clear roadmap to becoming a successful professional software engineer. So, let's dive in and explore the exciting world of software engineering together.

Image credit: Freepik

What is a software engineer?

A Software Engineers is someone who uses their knowledge of programming languages and computer operating systems to design and develop software. In addition to building their own systems, software engineers also perform software testing, improve, and maintain software built by other engineers. Software engineers know how to use the right programming languages, platforms, and architectures to develop everything from computer games, data science to network control systems. Software engineering is the science of building software systems, products, and applications.

When you hear the term "Software Engineer," what do you imagine? For most people, it's someone hunched over a computer, typing away code to solve intricate problems -- an individual who is committed to continuous learning and staying current with the newest technologies to develop cutting-edge software solutions.

The responsibilities of a Software Engineer include:

  • Designing and maintaining software systems
  • Evaluating and testing new software programs
  • Optimising software for speed and scalability
  • Writing and testing code
  • Consulting with clients, engineers, security specialists, and other stakeholders
  • Presenting new features to stakeholders and internal customers

These career paths offer exciting opportunities for growth and development, with the chance to work on cutting-edge technologies and solve complex problems for companies at the forefront of the industry.

Software engineer job outlook

In 2022, salaries of software engineers in Singapore surged 7.6% to an all-time high, according to an annual tech salary report The Straits Times Mar 8, 2023)

As Singapore continues establishing itself as a leading technology hub in Asia, there are ample job opportunities in the IT and software industries. Thanks to continuous investments from venture capitalists in technology startups and global tech companies, there has been an increase in demand for skilled software developers in these fields.

Software engineer salary

In response to this demand, software engineer salaries have seen significant growth, with entry-level professionals receiving a 22% increase and experienced professionals seeing a 32% increase.

If you have career goals in the field of software engineering in Singapore, below are some of the most in-demand career paths to consider:

  • Data Scientist
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Cloud Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Full-stack Developer
  • Java Developer
  • Python Developer
  • Cybersecurity Engineer

How to become a software engineer

Build a strong foundation

A strong foundation is very important in the process of becoming a software engineer. The basic concepts you learn at the very beginning will follow you all the way through your career. 

The software engineering field presents promising job prospects, with a multitude of opportunities available to become a software engineer. If you are an aspiring software engineer, the good news is that there are various paths you can take to break into this dynamic field. 

There are various ways to become a software engineer, including obtaining a computer science degree, attending coding bootcamps, or independent study. Below, we'll explore these paths to give you a better idea of how you can start your journey to becoming a software engineer.

Pathways to a software engineering career

College education

A bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science is the conventional route for becoming a software engineer. However, due to the high cost of tuition and the lengthy four-year degree program, some people are exploring alternative education options.

According to QS Ranking 2023, 3 Singaporean Universities are ranked in the world's top 50 colleges in Sciences. The cost of studying in Singapore is around SGD 25,000 and 40,000 SGD. Compared to the cost of pursuing engineering in the US, especially from a top university like Stanford or MIT, where annual fees can top $50,000 annually.

College is a great option for many aspiring software engineers, but it may not be the best fit for those with a bachelor's degree or who are not interested in a four-year educational commitment.

Coding bootcamp

Software engineering bootcamps are becoming popular as they focus on developing skills that employers seek, offering a fast track to well-paid positions. While traditional degrees provide a broader education, bootcamps offer a streamlined and practical approach, making them a viable option for those seeking a quicker path to enter the field.

According to an Indeed Survey,

  • 72% of employers think bootcamp graduates are just as prepared for their jobs as candidates with computer science degrees.
  • 99% of employers who have hired a coding bootcamp graduate say they would do so again.
  • At the same time, 98% of employers would like to see more regulation of coding bootcamps.

Self-directed learning

Considering self-learning to become a software developer can be an appealing prospect, especially with the abundance of resources available online. However, it's important to recognise that software engineering is a complex field that requires time, effort, and dedication to master technical skills. The promise of high salaries and quick success can be enticing, but it's important to approach self-learning with realistic expectations and a willingness to put in the work.

Self-learning can be a great way to develop computer software skills and gain knowledge, but it's crucial to have a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding of computer applications. Building this foundation often requires formal education or structured learning programs, such as coding bootcamps, online courses, or tutorials.

It's also important to note that the software engineering field is constantly evolving, with new technologies and trends emerging regularly. Keeping up with these changes requires continuous learning and staying current with industry developments.

Gaining experience

To excel in the field of software engineering, gaining programming experience and participating in software development projects is just as crucial as obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree. 

Beyond formal education, enhancing your coding skills through internships, volunteering, personal projects, and other opportunities can help you build a strong professional portfolio and stand out during the job search. Building your coding skills outside the classroom will help you enhance your resume and professional portfolio and stand out during the job search.

Here are some steps you can take to start:

  1. Develop a strong foundation in maths and computer science: Start by taking courses in maths, computer programming, algorithms, and data structures. You can take these courses online or at a university.
  2. Develop a portfolio of projects: Construct personal software products, work on open-source projects, or initiate your own personal projects to obtain practical experience in software development. This will allow you to demonstrate your expertise and programming skills to potential employers.
  3. Participating in internships is a critical component of the path towards becoming a good software engineer. By applying for positions at tech companies or startups, you can gain practical experience in programming, software design, and project management. Supplementing internship experience with software engineering programs such as coding bootcamps or online courses can position you for your dream job in software engineering.
  4. Stay up-to-date on industry trends and emerging technologies: Keep yourself informed by following industry blogs and joining online communities. To gain practical experience as a software engineer, it's essential to continuously update your knowledge and skills in the ever-evolving field of computer science and information technology. 
  5. Make connections: Attend conferences, industry events and meetups to network with other professionals. These connections can provide valuable insights into the field and potential job opportunities. Who knows, you might even have the chance to meet your future employer at these events.

Frequently Asked Questions on how to become a software engineer

Is software engineering right for me?

Is software engineering the right career choice for you? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Your interest in problem-solving and creating things with technology.
  2. Your willingness to learn and adapt to new technologies.
  3. Your ability to work well in a team.
  4. Your passion for staying up-to-date with industry trends and advancements.

If you possess traits such as logical thinking, an inquisitive nature, and a passion for utilising software engineering principles to solve complex problems, pursuing a career in software engineering may be an ideal path for you to gain a deeper understanding of the field and develop innovative technology solutions.

How long does it take to become a software engineer?

The time it takes to become a software engineer can vary depending on one’s educational background and the path you choose. Becoming a software engineer can take different paths with varying durations. Pursuing a traditional path by obtaining a computer science degree takes around 4 years, while a coding bootcamp or self-study route can take several months to a year or more to complete. However, regardless of the path you choose, continuous learning is crucial to becoming a proficient software engineer since the industry is constantly evolving. This is particularly important for entry-level software engineers who are starting their software engineering career path.

What programming language should I learn first?

Python and Javascript are two of the most in-demand programming languages software engineers use. Programming languages have different applications, properties, and uses, all of which have value in a software engineering career. As a general-purpose programming language, Python is among the most versatile and powerful languages. Python's readability and concise structure make it a popular choice for beginner, intermediate, and expert programmers. ​​With applicability in front-end and back-end development, JavaScript is widely used in the development of web applications. Web users encounter JavaScript while playing games, making presentations, and during comparable interactive activities.

Are software engineers in demand?

Singapore is one of the world's information technology hubs. We can refer to Singapore as Silicon Valley in Asia. Multinational companies (MNC) such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and TikTok have development centres in Singapore. Aside from that, numerous local and global IT firms have development centres in Singapore. As a result, the number of IT/software jobs in Singapore is relatively high.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, there are around 92,000 IT and software professionals in Singapore, which accounts for about 2.5% of the total workforce. However, since this number includes various fields, the number of actual professional developers is likely smaller. lists over 6,800 software job openings, indicating a high demand for software engineering skills. With a limited pool of local talent from universities, the job market has become even more competitive.

 Final thoughts to ponder

Code is all around us. It's the magic behind our digital world.

Software has become a central part of our lives. From using apps on our phones to playing video games and tracking workouts on our watches, software is everywhere. Consequently, there is a growing demand for individuals with the skills to create the source code that powers these devices.

As technology advances, there is no better time to pursue a career in software engineering than now. Singapore, along with many other countries, offers an abundance of opportunities for individuals with a passion for programming and an interest in innovation. With its rapidly evolving industry and unprecedented surge in software engineering developments, Singapore is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating places to embark on this fulfilling career path.

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