Career Paths

The two careers in computing that I most contemplate are becoming a software engineer or an application developer, with the most appealing of the two being a software engineer.

Software engineers have a certain appeal to me for their visible results and focus on creativity. A quick Google search of the job tells you that a SE must “design, execute, assess, and troubleshoot software programs and applications.” Being a software engineer means being more than just a software engineer; instead, you must be an artist, a conceptualist, an efficient-ist. Companies like Google and Apple hire those who can do all of these well, and then the opportunity arises to make products that literally touch millions. A broader and more impactful role seems so much more fulfilling in my eyes.

And of course, the pay is good: $45,000 to $60,000 per year, and with added experience and knowledge, it can rise to $75,000 to $80,000 per year. With the only requirement being a BS in Computer Science and knowledge of languages such as C, C++, and Java, the ratio of debt to income is fairly low, which would lead to much desired financial security later in life. My job would also be more than a paycheck machine; I would love to work at Google where the office is also a playground, and the company works like a team. I would have many offices around the world to choose from, and if I needed a break – let’s say, in London – for a week, I could take it.

Being an app developer also has its slew of differences. First, instead of focusing on the C language of programming, I would need to learn a lot more about SQL and various web interfaces. Seeing as right now my education is already focusing on Java and the C family, it seems that this would be a more difficult route. Being an app developer would mean that I most likely lose a lot of the extra pluses that are not directly related to computing that being a software engineer would provide. Still, for the same BS in Computer Science, the average annual pay would start at $70,000. Despite this pay, I would have to work in an environment that I’m not sure I would like.

Philosophically, I feel like I am more of a worker who wants to have time to work on my own projects and take my abilities into many realms. I want to be able to make real projects that integrate into the company’s platform and the user’s experience. Being an app developer does not sound so freeing. Quick searches of the job yield phrases such as “analyze code optimizations,” “test data,” and “utilize databases.” Computer science is great, but diversity is the spice of life. Unless I could find a job as an app developer that offered for a lot of freedom to enter other domains, such as it seems software engineers are able to do, I would be willing to take a lower pay for a more enjoyable career path.

I guess I want to be able love everything, with computer science at the core. Maybe I am a Googler at heart.

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2 comments

  1. I definitely agree with your sentiments on software engineering – one of the really nice things about doing a wider range of tasks is that it mixes up one’s work with variety, keeping it fresh and enjoyable. Basically, as you have said, a more enjoyable career path is easily worth a bit less pay, as when you have fun working, it’s not really “work” anymore. And even then, you might make more money working at a lower paying job you like, as you might like it so much that you work more hours than you would at the higher paying job you don’t like. But make sure to explore around too – that’s one of the great things about internships – you can try new things outside of your top choices for companies and jobs, and perhaps discover that you like something else more. For the companies in particular, a lot of different businesses have a very similar company culture to Google, with lots of perks, a laid-back environment, etc. So don’t worry too much about one specific company or branch of software development, as there will be lots of other opportunities which are very similar.

  2. It is indeed interesting to see how you juxtapose the two seemingly similar career paths to the public eye and broke down the differences in the prerequisites. Whilst I would have preferred if you had written in a more neutral perspective for the blog post to be more informative to others, it is a pleasure to be able to share your preferences with the readers, and I am sure people who have similar working impetuses as you do will be more aware of the direction they want to take after their educational endeavours.

    Royston

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