A software engineer is a professional who designs, develops, tests and maintains software systems and applications. They apply engineering principles and techniques to create efficient and reliable software solutions that meet specific requirements.
Software engineer salary trends in the UK
In 2022, talent demand was particularly prevalent in areas where top-quality candidates were in short supply, including DevOps, cloud and front end.
The development and testing industry alone has seen an average salary increase of 12.6%, highlighting the strong demand for professionals in this area.
On a national scale, the top three roles seeing the biggest salary increases over the past year are software development managers (21.2%), manual test analysts (20.4%) and front-end developers (20%). However, not every role is experiencing the same growing demand, with automation test analysis and software architects seeing 4.3% and 1.5% salary decreases respectively.
Software engineer salaries have seen a steady increase, at £54,400 in 2019/20 at the start of the pandemic, rising to £57,300 a year later and £66,100 by the end of the enforced lockdowns in 2021/22.
It’s a testament to the reliance the world had on technology during this period, the continued developments that continue to propel society into new ways of working, and the emergence of AI.
In 2023, software engineers can expect an average salary of £69,500, according to Reed.co.uk data.
The development and testing market has always been more candidate-driven than most and it was no different in 2022.
Due to the nature of the market, professionals now have higher salary expectations, and many businesses are having to match this demand to secure top talent.
We often see organisations turn entire recruitment processes around in a week, so they don’t lose out to faster competitors. Businesses looking to recruit should consider the factors that are most important to development and testing professionals. Remuneration is always a top priority, but they also look for companies that can offer exciting technologies and greenfield projects.
The best qualifications for software engineers
Do you need a formal education for a career in software engineering?
A bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field is often required. Many employers offering software engineer careers with higher salaries will require proven technical skills and a qualification in a computer-related subject.
You could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:
Software engineering for business
A strong understanding of data structures and algorithms is essential for designing efficient and scalable software solutions.
Knowledge of various testing methodologies and tools, including unit testing, integration testing, and automated testing frameworks, is important for ensuring software quality. For roles involving web applications, familiarity with web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and web frameworks (e.g., React, Angular, Django, or Ruby on Rails) is beneficial.
Types of software engineers in the UK
There is more than one type of software engineer - each software engineering role has its own unique skill sets.
Front-end engineer: This role involves developing the user interface, the aesthetics and layouts, and ensuring the system works in different browsers, devices, and operating systems.
Back-end engineer: These engineers understand the core elements of the system, integrating with data and email systems, and caches using application programming interfaces.
Full-stack engineer: This role requires an understanding of both the back end and the front end of the software.
QA engineer: These professionals create automated tests, methods, and tools to ensure products and processes run smoothly.
DevOps engineer: In this role, professionals increase an organisation’s ability to deliver services and applications faster than traditional software development processes.
Security engineer: These specialists focus on ensuring the systems are impenetrable to hackers. As a security engineer, you will create systems, methods and procedures to test the software for security flaws, including ‘white-hat’ ethical hacking into your own systems.
Key software engineer responsibilities
Software engineers are responsible for researching, writing, and designing new software and developing upgrades across multiple platforms, systems and industries.
You will be required to identify any issues with existing software and create fixes with the user and business in mind.
The role involves collaboration and communication with coders, graphic artists, sales and marketing teams, project managers and other professionals.
Some key responsibilities and tasks typically include:
Analysis and design
Software engineers work closely with stakeholders, such as clients or project managers, to understand the requirements and objectives of the software project. They analyse user needs and design software solutions to meet those needs effectively.
Coding and development
Testing and debugging
Software engineers are responsible for testing their code to identify and fix bugs or issues. This includes unit tests, integration tests, and system tests in addition to debugging to verify that the software functions correctly.
Software engineers create documentation that describes the software's functionality, architecture, and usage guidelines to help other users understand the software.
Collaboration and communication
The role often involves collaboration with other engineers, designers, and stakeholders to ensure the smooth development and integration of software components. Effective communication skills are crucial for understanding requirements, discussing technical solutions, and resolving conflicts.
Maintenance and updates
Software engineers maintain and update existing software systems. They address bug reports, implement enhancements, and ensure the software remains compatible with evolving technologies or platforms.
Due to continuous technological evolutions, software engineers need to stay updated with the latest trends and developments through continuous learning and professional development activities.
It's important to note that the specific responsibilities of a software engineer can vary depending on their role, the organisation they work for, and the nature of the software projects they are involved in.
Software engineer: most desirable benefits
In recent times more focus has been placed on culture, and since the normalisation of working from home, another important factor for people is work-life balance.
Organisations should strive to provide their staff with opportunities for flexibility and good company culture, on top of a good salary, if they want to attract, secure and, most importantly, keep the best talent.
With more companies opting for a hybrid working model, businesses are now competing UK-wide instead of just locally.
Economic uncertainty is going to be a key driver in how the recruitment market will look this year. While the cost-of-living crisis impacted much of the UK economy, it didn’t appear to slow down the development and testing market, but it’s difficult to predict how this will play out as we head through the second half of 2023.
As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, there has been news of professionals in some sectors opting out of their pensions in a bid to save money. While software engineer salaries are typically generous, it is worth checking the contributions you’re expected to make. Always speak to a financial advisor before taking any action that may impact your pension.
Download our free technology salary guide
Check out our 2023 technology salary guide. It provides detailed insight into current salary trends across the country, so you can make an informed decision about your next career move, or alternatively use it as a benchmarking tool.