How to become a software engineer in the NHS

Software engineers use their knowledge and skills to design, code, test and maintain software solutions that meet business requirements, while providing a great user experience.

Starting your career

Subject choices

At school, there are lots of things for you to think about when choosing subjects. To get into a course that could lead to a career as a software developer, useful subjects include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Computing Science
  • Engineering

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college, or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship in software development could give you the skills, knowledge, and work experience you need to start your career journey as a software engineer.

Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in IT: Software Development.

Modern Apprenticeships

Start or continue developing your career in software engineering with an IT and Telecommunications Modern Apprenticeship.

Find out more about the Modern Apprenticeship in IT and Telecoms.

Graduate Apprenticeships

A Graduate Apprenticeship in software development is a good opportunity to learn the technical, practical and job-specific skills that are in demand. It’s work-based, but you’ll also attend college or university to get your degree.

Find out more about the Graduate Apprenticeship in IT: Software Development.

College and university

You’re likely to need an HND or a degree in Software Engineering or Computer Science. Many Scottish colleges and universities deliver courses in these areas. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Search for college or university courses on My World of Work.

Information about programming boot camps and intensive courses can also be found online.

The role

You’ll find software engineers working in almost all sectors, including the healthcare and social care sectors. Services in patient care, including telecare and home health monitoring, are expanding all the time. In the NHS in Scotland, the demand for software developers is high.

You may work on more than one project at a time depending on the needs and priorities of the organisation. Software engineers usually work in a team with other digital professionals. 

What you’ll do

Tasks include:

  • maintaining and improving current products and systems
  • producing clean, secure, and efficient code that meets required standards and technical specifications
  • integrating software components with third-party applications
  • testing, debugging, and deploying software solutions
  • preparing technical specifications and training manuals
  • researching new technologies that could benefit the organisation.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • analysis
  • collaboration
  • organisation
  • attention to detail

You’ll need to have knowledge and experience of:

  • cloud technologies
  • SQL and NoSQL databases
  • Continuous integration and deployment processes
  • agile methodologies

Who you'll work with

Software engineers usually work in a team with other digital professionals. The delivery team includes these roles:

  • product owner
  • delivery manager
  • solutions architect
  • UX designer
  • content designer

Working environment 

Software engineers work in an office, or remotely.

Did you know?

The National Digital Platform was set up to deliver digital technology that helps to improve the health and wellbeing of over 5 million people in Scotland.

Find out more about the National Digital Platform.

Learning and development

During your career as a software engineer, you could gain additional qualifications, such as:

  • postgraduate degrees, including a master’s in Software Engineering, or a master’s in Computer Science
  • short courses or self-directed learning will provide opportunities to explore and investigate new tools, technologies, systems, and processes

These qualifications will help your career prospects and could lead to more senior roles, such as:

  • lead software engineer
  • technical architect
  • development team lead

Professional bodies

Software engineers can join the following organisations: