what is a software engineer?

A software engineer works under a branch of computer science. You're involved in the evolution and construction of software. This is related to a computer's operating system (OS) or an application-based program such as a browser or database.

On top of this, you are involved in the creation of programs for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

subject matter experts

Software engineers are subject matter experts (SMEs) when it comes to programming languages and their respective systems. The goal is to generate a program's solid foundation with your engineering skills before the project moves forward. As a result, you produce customised products for different clients.

software engineer tasks

A software engineer needs to work independently, within a team, and with clients. In many cases, you're a part of a group that works on different products for one organisation. Therefore, you regularly need to switch modes to accommodate everyone's needs. Technically, as a software engineer, you perform several tasks:

  • Information analysis from the client
  • Development of data structures and algorithms
  • Software programming
  • Application coding for mobile devices
  • Quality analysis (QA) to debug software
  • Quality control (QC) to test software
  • Implementation and maintenance


software engineers work in many industries

Software engineers are a component of most of today's business sectors. It goes beyond working for a computer company or software firm. These engineers are hired by development organisations to assist customers. You are also hired by manufacturing, finance, and agricultural firms to develop programs that simplify processes within these business sectors.

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average salary of a software engineer

Salaries for software engineers vary depending on the technology of expertise. Nevertheless, software engineers are some of the highest-paid computer professionals due to their high-demand skills. The median salary for a software engineer in New Zealand is $125,000 a year. Those starting in the profession earn an average of $80,000. The upper end of the scale has annual salaries for software engineers at around $147,000. 

factors that affect software engineers' pay

Several elements affect software engineer pay.

One is your commercial experience level. Individuals right out of school or a training program start at a lower rate. However, if you show the proper qualities related to the position, many companies will quickly raise your salary.

Another factor is training and certification. You have to continue learning about new technologies and ways of programming to remain effective.

If you have both training and the capabilities to utilise your knowledge, you will be paid more. However, information technology (IT) professionals like software engineers are in greater need than ever before. Thus, even those right out of school will often receive the median or upper-end pay rates.

A software engineer's programming language and technology of expertise significantly influence their salary. In-demand programming languages include Python, Java, and .NET. However, JavaScript (NodeJS and ReactJS) are increasingly sought after, encouraging higher salaries. 

Experience with cloud technologies (AWS, Azure or GCP) or DevOps will further increase your earning potential as a software engineer. 


male smiling while sitting behind his desk, computer screens displaying programming code.
male smiling while sitting behind his desk, computer screens displaying programming code.

types of software engineer

Generally speaking, there are two major types of software engineers.

  • Application engineers create new software or adapt existing products for businesses and other enterprises. You do this by analysing your clients' needs. Sometimes the application engineer is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the application throughout its lifetime.
  • A systems migration engineer is involved with the development of programs for an organisation's computer systems. In other words, you create logical operations to help devices work together. For instance, you construct application programming interfaces (APIs) that link two machines or different programs. Overall, systems engineers develop items that maintain speed, productivity, and security.

There are several types of software engineers beyond those that work in systems and applications. These include:

  • Video game designer
  • Quality assurance engineer
  • Integration engineer
  • Front-end software engineer, also known as a user interface (UI) designer
  • Full-stack engineer, efficient in UI and user experience (UX) design
  • Data engineer who creates programs that analyse information

Many of these software engineering types flow into one another. For example, a full-stack engineer might also be a video game designer. On the other hand, a business analyst can also be designated a quality assurance engineer to maintain productivity.


working as a software engineer

If you're interested in this profession, it is helpful to have an idea of what to expect. Keep reading to learn more about your duties, the type of work environment, and when you will work.

duties and responsibilities

There are several tasks a software engineer handles daily. Here are a few examples.


Even if you work independently, you'll still need to collaborate with other parties to ensure your development is on the right path. At the start, this is with customers who require computer system programming or productivity applications.

As the project moves forward, you'll collaborate with co-workers, other departments, and management to identify issues and new ideas.

design flowcharts

Improvisation is not the key to good programming. You regularly design flowcharts for clients and management. These display how each program works. Changes are made per the decisions of the other parties.

produce the code

Program development is the crux of your day. You create elegant and simple code based on the agreed-upon requirements. You consult with management or your client if an issue arises and you need permission to create a workaround.

testing and deployment

You are definitely involved in the QA portion of the process. You must debug the software so it operates smoothly. Furthermore, you might handle testing (QC) and deployment if you work for a smaller organisation. Otherwise, this tends to be handled by another team.


You have the responsibility of troubleshooting the code when a problem arises. This is particularly true if a first-level response team, like a customer service desk, can't fix the problem.

work environment

Originally, software engineers worked in an office environment. Since you handled multiple tasks at once, you were provided with a desktop or laptop computer with multiple screens. This gives software engineers an expanded view to examine all angles of a program.

Furthermore, the computers themselves contained larger central processing units (CPUs) and memory to handle the compilation and testing of large programs.

growing opportunities for remote work

This environment has changed, especially after the events of the 2020 pandemic. Many software engineers now work remotely. Thus, your setups vary greatly. One person can work on a single laptop screen while others have multiple screens installed in a home office.

work schedule

Software engineering is an international need. Although you're based in New Zealand, the schedule might reflect the hours of operation for a client in Europe or Asia. 

Generally, software engineers come in between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and work until 4 or 5 p.m. Usually, companies deter people in this profession from working more than nine hours a day to prevent burnout. Still, software engineers work late or on weekends to complete a project.

There are rare occasions when people in this profession need to work 12 hours or more. This occurs for approaching deadlines or if program-related issues result in a loss of an organisation's productivity or income.


education & qualifications

Logistics and analytics are critical to a career as a software engineer, and so is a knowledge of system programming, application coding, and IT in general. Thus, to get a foot in the door, a level 5 degree in computer science or information technology helps. At the minimum, this gets you into an entry-level position.

On the other hand, a bachelor's degree is what companies normally request when they hire software engineers. A master's degree in software development or computer science, along with additional certifications, increases your salary. Additionally, it allows you to pursue sub-genres of software engineering. These include information security, research, or management. 

In saying that, the type of formal education is not the focal driver for landing a data engineering role. Employers favour and seek candidates with commercial experience.

skills & competencies

Becoming a software engineers isn't as hard as it once was. As long as you have the proper education and the skills to back it up, you should be ready to go. Nevertheless, there are still some skills and competencies you might need to add to your portfolio.


Certifications aren't mandatory to pursue a career as a software engineer. However, they are highly recommended if you want to enter the sector's sub-categories. For instance, you need to complete security courses if you want to work on programs and applications that deal with IT protection.


Similar to certifications, experience isn't necessary to enter the software engineering field. Nevertheless, the more programming knowledge you provide to a recruiter increases your chances of being hired. If you are between jobs, it's best to keep up your skills and current technology through freelancer, part-time or voluntary experience in case something comes up.

colleagues talking inside an office room
colleagues talking inside an office room

FAQs about working as a software engineers

What does a software engineers do?

The objective of a software engineer is to create programs and applications. These are used for computer systems as well as personal and professional productivity. Furthermore, a software engineer is in charge of mapping out the needs of your management or a client to develop well-working code. Sometimes, you're also in charge of implementation and troubleshooting.

What is required to be a software engineers?

A level 5 degree in computer science or information technology is recommended. However, you have a better chance at obtaining a senior position if you have a bachelor's or a master's degree. The latter is required if you want to pursue positions in data analysis or management.

Is being a software engineers a good job?

Yes, it is an incredibly desirable job, and it will continue to be this way for some time. It's the right profession for someone who likes to apply logic to issues to create solutions or improve on existing ones. Similar to other creative opportunities, a software engineer position allows you to see your work in operation.

Do software engineers get paid well?

Yes, you get paid quite well. Even an entry-level software engineer makes approximately $80,000 per year. The median salary for a software engineer is $125,000 a year. This can increase if you move into management or another specialized sub-genre.

Is the work of a software engineers hard?

The level of difficulty for a software engineers depends on the type of person you are and the type of programming you do. However, with the proper amount of study and practice, software development isn't hard. What might be painful is troubleshooting an issue or creating an immense program. Still, there are plenty of software engineers out there to give you a hand.


working with randstad as a software engineers

If you're ready for the challenge of developing programs for various IT devices, the software engineering field is extremely rewarding. Though it takes a good deal of mental agility, the reward of helping others be more productive is a positive return on investment. Find the Randstad branch nearest you and contact us.

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