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How to become a software engineer

A Modern Apprenticeship could kickstart your career in software engineering. You could also study Software Engineering or Computer Science at college or university to become a software engineer.

What is a software engineer?

In the NHS, software engineers build technology that improves the care and wellbeing of people using health and social care services.

They work in teams with other digital professionals to:

  • produce clean, secure, and efficient code that meets required standards and technical specifications
  • test, debug, and deploy technology solutions
  • maintain and improve existing products and services

Starting your career as a software engineer

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a college or university course that could lead to a career as a software engineer, useful subjects include: 

  • Physics
  • Computing Science
  • Engineering
  • English
  • Maths

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

Modern Apprenticeships

A Modern Apprenticeship will help you get the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to reach your career goal.

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

College and university

To become a software engineer, you could do an HND in Computer Science.

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

Widening access

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.

Degree programme

Universities in Scotland offer Software Engineering and Computer Science programmes at undergraduate or postgraduate level. 

You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

Course search

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

Get to know the role

You’ll find software engineers working in almost all sectors, including healthcare and social care. 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. 

Tasks include: 

  • maintain and improving current products and systems
  • produce clean, secure, and efficient code that meets required standards and technical specifications
  • integrate software components with third-party applications
  • test, debug, and deploy software solutions
  • prepare technical specifications and training manuals
  • research new technologies that could benefit the organisation

You'll need these skills:

  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • focusing
  • sense-making
  • curiosity
  • collaboration
  • organisation
  • attention to detail

You’ll also need to have knowledge and experience of:

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

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

  • product owner
  • delivery manager
  • solutions architect
  • UX researcher
  • UI designer
  • tester
  • content designer

Software engineers work in an office, or remotely.

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 Computer Science
  • short courses or self-directed learning for opportunities to explore and investigate new tools, technologies, systems, and processes

Career progression

Gaining new qualifications and experience could lead to more senior roles, such as:

  • lead software engineer
  • technical architect
  • development team lead

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