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Software engineering as a career option

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This page evaluates software engineering as a career option. It provides information that can help you answer a question of the form Should I pursue a career in software engineering?
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Software engineering can be an attractive career:

  • Salaries are high, with the median software developer making $93,350 per year and some making double that.
  • In contrast with professions such as law and medicine, no graduate work is required. So one can enter into the workforce right out of college (or even earlier) and without graduate school debt.
  • Software engineers have the option of doing entrepreneurship, and can easily switch back and forth between entrepreneurship and more standard employment.
  • The technology sector is responsible for a lot of improvement in quality of life in recent years, so prospects for having a positive social impact are good.


The most common route to becoming a software engineer is to major in computer science as a college undergraduate. However, this is not strictly necessary. According to software engineer Alyssa Vance

"A college degree isn’t necessary, but it can be very useful, since a lot of larger companies will only hire people with degrees (especially if you lack previous experience). If you don’t have a degree, try applying to smaller companies and startups, which have more flexible hiring procedures. Majoring in computer science and having a high GPA may help, but it won’t get you a job by itself, and a lot of places don’t care much."


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median software engineer made $93,350 in 2012. Stanford University reports that Stanford computer science majors make $93,850 starting salaries. According to Glassdoor, the average Facebook software engineer makes $165,795 per year (including bonuses) and the average Google software engineer is makes $145,093 per year (including bonuses). According to 80,000 Hours (based on a a closer look at the Glassdoor statistics as well as interviews), "An engineer at Google can expect to earn about $150-$200 p.a. after 3 years of experience.

Work-life balance

It's been reported that software engineers at Google work about 50 hours per week.