Software engineering is the application of engineering to software. It involves a methodical, quantifiable and disciplined approach towards the development, operation and maintenance of software. One of the relatively younger disciplines of engineering studies; it has broken the shackles of treating software as just computer programming. The responsibility of software engineers lies not only in programming but in developing algorithms, analyzing and solving problems.

In the United States about 857,000 jobs are held by software engineers. Their largest population; around 29 percent is in the computer systems design and related services industry. Financial institutions, insurance companies, software publishers, federal agencies, computer manufacturers and enterprise management companies also employ software engineers. Approximately 17,000 computer software engineers work independently as consultants and the remaining are employed with nascent organizations or large firms.

In terms of both salary and opportunities, software engineering promises to be the second fastest growing segment. The estimated projected increase in the employment of software engineers over the 2006 to 2016 period is 38 percent. Approximately 324,000 new jobs will be created. As businesses continue integrating newer technologies to maintain the competitiveness of their products; the need for more complex software is growing. Various industries; such as biomedical, defense, telecommunications, networking, etc; will continue needing help in new-age software. Jobs will also be created due to those who move into managerial roles or leave the field.

In 2008, the salary of the middle 50% of software engineers was between $64,560 and $99,630. The lowest 10% earned less than $50,430, and the highest 10% earned more than $142,810.
Given below is the median annual salary data of software engineers in the industries which have their highest concentration:

Software publishers: $84,560
Computer systems design and related services: $78,850
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $78,850
Management of companies and enterprises: $78,580
Insurance carriers: $74,230
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $97,220
Scientific research and development services: $97,180
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing: $93,420
Computer systems design and related services: $84,660

Fresh graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree were offered an average starting salary of $62,330. Those with a Masters degree had an average starting salary of $67,870. A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science had an average starting salary of $59,660, while that of a Masters with the same specialization averaged $65,790. A new Ph.D. grad whether with a computer engineering or computer science specialization had an average starting salary of $88,840 nationwide.

The median salaries for software engineers as per the years of experience are given below:
Less than 1 year: $49,422 – $66,826
1 – 4 years: $54,273 – $72,398
5 – 9 years: $64,270 – $85,856
10 – 19 years: $72,917 – $99,375
More than 20 years: $78,205 – $105,047

Advanced degrees fetch premium incentives. Almost 40% of employers offer either a starting bonus or a performance-linked bonus to a newly recruited software engineer. Most companies base starting salary calculations on the ranking of the school from where the engineer has earned his degree. Larger companies pay higher salaries. Engineers who specialize in a niche area can command more than those who are general programmers.

There will never be a dearth of software engineering jobs for professionals with strong systems analysis, programming skills, interpersonal and business capabilities.

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