Find your work people. Download our app.

Career Paths

Top Software Engineer Skills to Impress Employers

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Top technical skills you need as a software engineerSoft skills for software engineers 

Guide Overview

Understanding the importance of software engineer skills

Software engineers require a broad range of hard and soft skills to perform their duties effectively. Besides having technical skills to create robust software that can work across different platforms, software engineers also need to be able to collaborate with other professionals and lead a team. Having these vital software engineer skills can help you deliver results for your employer and clients and contribute meaningfully to team efforts. We discuss the various skills you need to excel as a software engineer in this article.

Top technical skills you need as a software engineer

Here are some of the most important technical skills you will need in a software engineer role:

Data structure and algorithms

In most software companies, one of the most important criteria for employing software engineers is proficiency in data structures and algorithms because these two concepts are vital for the software development process.

Being knowledgeable in data structures allows you to organize data so that it is applicable for solving real-life challenges. It also allows you to create problem-specific software, keep your code clean, and optimize your products for improved user experiences. Learning about data structures and algorithms, including arrays, trees, and linked lists can help boost your employability.

Programming languages

Software engineers must also be proficient in at least one or two major programming languages for employers to consider them professionals. The programming language you specialize in can depend on the software you want to create or the industry you want to enter. For example, some industries rely on Python to create software packages while others depend on JavaScript.

Other popular programming languages include HTML/CSS for creating websites, Ruby for web-based applications, and TypeScript for content management systems. Whatever you do, make sure you have an in-depth knowledge of the programming language your prospective employer uses.

Operating systems

There are several types of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. As a software engineer, you need to know the basics of operating systems to be able to create applications for the machines that rely on a specific OS. For example, when designing a new application, you have to consider how the OS allocates memory to client software, how to resolve conflicts, and interoperability with other operating systems.

It is important to have a good understanding of the mechanisms of Linux, because it is the most common operating system most programmers work on. For mobile devices, learn how to work with Android and iOS.


A good understanding of databases is also essential for software engineers because they are a vital aspect of software and applications development. Common database administration functions you will likely encounter include how to create, update, store, modify, and insert records.

Whether you are working with an organization’s records or upgrading their security, you will need to be adept at working with their database. SQL is the industry standard for database management. Practice writing rudimentary SQL queries so you can work effectively with different databases.

Source control

Software engineers and other programming professionals use source control to manage and store their code. Git is a popular source control tool that allows software engineers to collaborate and share different versions of their code with other people, who can then modify, update, and insert their own code in your own. Learn how to become proficient in Git and Github to give yourself an edge over other candidates.


After creating software products, programmers subject their code to a variety of tests to discover bugs and vulnerabilities that can affect performance when clients use the application. A successful software engineer must be conversant with the different testing frameworks for diverse programming languages.

Learn the basics of unit testing, integration testing, and system testing so you can catch deficiencies in your team’s work before submitting to clients. Being proficient in testing not only makes you more attractive to employers, but it can also help you negotiate for higher salaries.


As a software engineer, it is vital to have a good understanding of networking basics because about 80 percent of your projects will have a network component. Most applications are based on the client-serve model, so your work must be able to connect users (clients) to the server to gain access to the software.

There are several protocols involved in the networking layer. If you skip any of the steps or your application does not provide the right gateways for clients to query servers, it will be almost impossible for the software to work as intended. Learn about the OSI model and how networking helps to fuse the hardware and software aspects of computing together.

Encryption and cryptography

As the internet advances, so do the tools of cybercriminals. As a software engineer, you must be able to provide the most sophisticated security systems to safeguard the information of the people who use your software. Encryption ensures that only a person with a specific key can have access to a system or network.

Cryptography is used to secure databases and protect data transmission over a network. Knowing how to implement encryption and cryptography protocols shows employers you can protect their vital information and can increase the chances of getting hired.

Cross-platform software

Cross-platform software development is the process of designing software products to function across different operating systems. For example, an application with cross-platform capability may function seamlessly on Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS devices. Designing software to work across multiple platforms can reduce production costs and boost user adoption. It is a high-demand skill that can endear you to employers.

Software development life cycle

Software engineers must be knowledgeable about the software development life cycle (SDLC). SDLC encompasses the process of conceptualizing a software to its deployment and maintenance. It is important to have a deep understanding of the steps in the SDLC to be an effective software engineer. The phases of the SDLC include:

  • Project requirements and analysis
  • Feasibility studies
  • Project design
  • Project implementation and coding
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance and improvement

Whether you are the team lead or a coder, you must know what to do at every phase. Having a good grasp of the software life cycle can ensure help you create products that meet client requirements.

Integrated development environment (IDE)

Software engineers must be adept at using IDEs to write, modify, compile, run, and debug their code. There are specific IDEs for different programming languages. For example, Python developers use Jupyter, Spyder, or PyCharm while Java programmers use NetBeans and IntelliJ IDEA to make their work faster.

Being proficient at using IDEs not only makes your work smarter, but it can also make you more productive as a software engineer, which are great attributes employers look for in their employees.

Text editors

As a software engineer, you must know how to use text editors effectively. Regardless of your experience level, learn how to use the different text editors such as Visual code, Brackets, Atom, and Notepad++ and their keyboard shortcuts to make your work faster and more professional.

Soft skills for software engineers 

Here are common soft skills you need to excel in the workplace as a software engineer:


Besides core technical skills, communication is one of the most important software engineer skills you need to work effectively with other people. As a software engineer, you must have excellent reading, writing, and speaking skills. You need to be an exceptional communicator to collaborate, build relationships, provide and receive feedback, and work with management and clients to deliver projects to requirements and on schedule.

Active listening, body language, and the ability to ask and answer questions are all forms of communication skills you will need to perform effectively in a software engineer role.


As a software engineer, your job will usually involve working as part of a team, either as the lead or as a team member. You must be able to use the strength of the collective to achieve common goals. That means being able to delegate effectively and providing and accepting feedback and using the information to improve results. You also need to be respectful of other people, have a democratic mindset, discuss work issues with your team, and help each other succeed.

Attention to detail

Coding requires high levels of attention to detail; otherwise, you can end up with a product full of bugs. As a software engineer, you must be precise and have a critical eye to discover problems quickly before they become serious issues.

You need to be thorough when going through code to ensure that your work adheres strictly to project guidelines. Being detail-oriented also means you should be able to test your work for integrity and the ability to anticipate problems so that you can take preemptive measures to avoid delays.


Software engineers usually have to work simultaneously on multiple projects, which makes it important to be good at multitasking. Being able to multitask will allow you to handle several projects at the same time, manage your time effectively, and work under tight deadlines without compromising quality.


Software engineers must have a logical process for solving problems. You must be able to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with your code, resolve the problem, and document the steps you took to find a solution. Solving problems requires being a good questioner, having a critical mind, being creative, innovative, and patient.

There are several technical and soft skills you need as a software engineer to find a job and excel in your role. Use this guide to learn about the various software engineer skills to complete projects, collaborate effectively, and help your organization or clients move closer to their objectives.

Related Career Guides