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What is a software engineer?

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.

Average software engineer salary ranges

In the UK, the average software engineer starting salary is £31,407. This average rises to £44,851 when you become a software engineer, and senior software engineer salaries average £59,173 a year.

Java specialist software engineers can earn an average of £50,375 a year at entry level. Software development managers earn between £48,300 to £72,200, with the average salary being £60,300.

When you progress to software architect, the average salary is £87,000 – and you can expect to earn anywhere between £76,400 and £99,900.

Salaries vary depending on factors such as location, seniority, industry and more. According to our salary data:

  • The average software engineer salary in London is £58,200, ranging from £45,700 to £70,800.

  • In the Midlands and East of England you can earn between £42,700 and £58,600, with the average reaching £50,700.

  • Software engineers in the North receive average salaries of £47,500 – from £37,200 to £57,800.

  • In Scotland, you could earn an average of £45,100 per year. This ranges from £33,200 to £57,100.

  • This year, salaries in the South of England span £44,400 to £60,700, with a £52,500 average.

  • In Wales, salaries start from £40,700 and reach £58,800, averaging £49,800.

Software engineer salary trends in the UK

In 2023 the demand for professionals with expertise in full stack development, automation testing, and DevOps/cloud technologies soared. Employers are having to compete to find the most skilled development and testing professionals, leading to potentially higher remuneration packages. It is also a challenge for businesses retaining their skilled employees, and the need to keep them engaged and motivated is crucial in this competitive labour market.

One way that employers can keep professionals engaged is to embrace new and innovative technologies, as professionals will seek out the chance to work on exciting projects.

It’s also important to offer competitive compensation and benefits packages, provide opportunities for professional development and the chance to upskill, offer flexibility in working arrangements, such as remote or hybrid work, and promote a positive workplace culture that is inclusive and diverse.

Rising inflation and fluctuating interest rates last year have resulted in many businesses needing to closely monitor their expenditure and find more cost effective solutions. The prominence of shift-left testing is one way that tech companies are improving efficiency –
products can be developed quicker and with higher quality, because issues are caught and fixed early. This can save time and resources, and result in better products for consumers. I have also seen a growing focus on automating testing processes to further improve efficiency and speed of development cycles. Professionals who can show how they have undergone efficiency projects such as these will be highly sought after.

It’s hard to predict how the market will change in the coming 12 months, but if
the current trends continue, it’s likely that the demand for development and testing professionals with expertise in automation and DevOps will persist. Staying adaptable and continuously learning will be key for candidates in this field.

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:

  • Computer science

  • Information technology

  • Software development

  • Financial technology

  • Software engineering for business

  • Maths

Proficiency in programming languages is crucial. Commonly sought-after languages include Java, C++, Python, JavaScript, and others, depending on the specific job requirements. 

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 and their salaries

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. Front-end developers’ salaries start at £31,000 and can rise to £65,000 with enough experience and progression.

Back-end engineer: These engineers understand the core elements of the system, integrating with data and email systems, and caches using application programming interfaces. Salaries for back-end engineers average £60,561 across the UK.

Full-stack engineer: This role requires an understanding of both the back end and the front end of the software. Full-stack engineers earn an average salary of £48,960 in the UK.

QA engineer: These professionals create automated tests, methods, and tools to ensure products and processes run smoothly. QA engineer salaries in London average £41,430 a year, compared to £37,683 in the rest of the UK.

DevOps engineer: In this role, professionals increase an organisation’s ability to deliver services and applications faster than traditional software development processes. You can earn an average £60,000 per year in this role, starting from £50,000 a year, and could earn up to £80,000 annual salary with more experience and development.

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. The UK average salary for security engineers is £48,534 – in London, the average is £59,954.

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

Engineers will be expected to write the code that brings the software to life. They use programming languages such as Java, Python, C++, or JavaScript to develop software components, modules, or complete applications.

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 documentation

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.

Continuous learning

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 benefits and culture

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 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 software engineer salary guide

Check out our 2024 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.

Reed salary guide 2024