How to Become a Software Designer

How to Become a Software Designer: Career Path Guide

Here are the essential steps for becoming a software designer:


1. Excel at calculus, algebra, physics, computer science and design studies in high school

2. Determine if this field is suited to your interests, qualities and traits

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree related to software design/engineering

4. Get an entry-level job after graduation, or while you're a student 

5. Gain more and more experience and progress into leadership roles

6. Keep your skills and education current


That’s the gist of it! Continue reading below to get a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a software designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers, actual job postings, and much more!



What Education Will I Need?

To get hired as a software designer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or a related field. Some employers might require a master’s or doctoral degree, particularly for research or teaching positions, while others may accept years of relevant work experience and proven technical expertise in place of a degree.  


High School: To prepare for this career while you’re a high school student, be sure to excel at calculus, algebra, physics, computer science and design studies. This will serve as excellent preparation for work in this field, and help you qualify for university programs in computer science/software engineering. 




What is a Software Designer?

Software designers are responsible for determining the design choices of software developers, including platforms, coding and technical levels. They must gain a comprehensive understanding of a client’s product needs and effectively communicate them to the software design team. Essentially, they create the blueprints for a software product.


They look at code, graphics, documentation, client and customer needs, problems, aesthetics, technicalities, details and big-picture strategies. 



What Does a Software Designer Do?

Although their duties can vary from job to job, software designers are typically responsible for performing the following duties and tasks:


• Conferring with the client to get an idea of what the software needs to accomplish, and what budget there is to develop it

• Working within constraints to design a product that will function as needed

• Using different types of models to create their “blue print” which will then be passed onto the “manufacturers”

• Developing an initial design and a big picture before the actual coding starts

• Trying different designs at early stages and to discover problems or bugs early on in the development cycle

• Creating the architecture, designing the look and possibly writing clean code for the software

• Discussing requirements with the development team

• Managing the full lifecycle of the design process

• Testing the installation, as well as security and compatibility issues

• Keeping accurate records of the development process, changes and results

• Reviewing the test results and fixing technical problems

• Installing a full version of the software and carrying out quality checks before release

• Maintaining and supporting systems once they're up and running



What Traits Do I Need? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for work as a software designer, you’ll be a standout:


• You enjoy being involved in the entire lifecycle of a project, from inception to completion

• You’re passionate about computing, programming and problem solving 

• You enjoy performing tasks that require precision and attention to detail

• You have initiative, and be proactive about identifying problems and potential solutions

• You have a customer service-oriented approach to projects

• You’re interested in a well-paying career that blends technical skills with creative skills

• You enjoy work that involves being innovative 

• You’re willing to work on complex problems everyday 

• You can take into account a product's efficacy, the customer's satisfaction, and the cost-effectiveness of a product


Success Tip: Because of the rapid evolution of this field, you must be willing to keep your education and skills are current and strong enough to carry you through the many evolving changes in the world of computer systems and software.



What is the Salary of a Software Designer?

Software designers typically earn a salary of $100,690 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience, the amount of responsibility inherent in their job, the size and type of their employer, the region in which they work, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a software designer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education and certification

• Your level of experience

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors


Software Designer Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Software Engineers & Designers” occupational group is $104,555 per year.


Software Designer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Software Developers” occupational group is $100,690 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries are below $57,340, and the highest 10% of salaries are above $153,710. 



Who Creates Jobs for Software Designers?

Software designers are hired on a part-time, full-time, permanent and contract basis by a variety of small, medium and large employers. The most common types of organizations that hire software engineers are:


• Companies that devise embedded software for inclusion in other products

• Companies that develop industrial instrumentation and process control products

• Consulting companies that provide software related services

• Manufacturing companies

• Oil, gas and other energy companies

• Colleges and universities

• Government agencies (at all levels)

• Public and private research institutions

• Software publishers

• Internet-based businesses



Software Designer Jobs

Our job board below has "Software Designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

With experience, you could progress into roles with greater pay and levels of responsibility, such as team lead or senior designer jobs. You could also move into management and executive positions with your company, or set up your own business or become a software design/development consultant.


Success Tip: If you’re willing to constantly learn and improve your craft, then you'll have plenty of career advancement opportunities.



What is the Work Environment for Software Designers?

Working Hours: Most software designers work a standard 35-40 hour workweek, although part-time work is also common, particularly among freelancers and contractors. Overtime, which would include evenings and weekends, would be required on occasion in order to complete projects and meet deadlines.


Work Setting: Most software designers spend the majority of their day in an office environment stationed at a computer terminal or attending meetings. They may be required to travel in order to attend and give briefings and obtain user requirements. 



What are Careers Similar to “Software Designer”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Software Designer”:


• Application Architect

• Applications Programmer

• Network Engineer

• Patent Agent

• Software Engineer

• Toy Designer

• Web Designer



What Are Scholarships for Getting Into This Field? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Software Designer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our “Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a software designer:


• Occupational Profile: “Software Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Software Developers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

• Job Profiles: “Software Developer.” (December 22, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

• Blog: “What is a Software Designer.” Hilton Lipschitz (January, 2010). Noverse LLC. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

• Applicants: “Software Design” (n.d.). Queen’s University - School of Computing. Retrieved February 9, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a software designer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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