Here’s how to become a software engineer after doing mechanical engineering:
You can try applying for jobs right away.
If you aren’t making it past initial interviews, then consider expanding your programming experience with an entry-level programming job, boot camp, or additional degree.
Once you can demonstrate proficiency with programming, mechanical engineers make good software engineers.
So if you want to learn all about your pathways to becoming a software engineer with an ME degree, then this article is for you.
Let’s delve into it!
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How Do You Switch From Mechanical Engineering to Software Engineering? (4 Pathways)
This is an interesting career transition.
If you’re asking about switching from electrical engineering to software engineering, you can probably just apply for jobs and have a good chance, especially if you already work in programming-heavy areas of electrical engineering.
Mechanical engineering is a little less steeped in coding, programming, and software development.
But, it’s still an engineering discipline.
The truth is that some people apply for software engineering jobs as mechanical engineers and get hired.
So, the path for this career transition will depend heavily on you and the skills you already have.
I’ll take you through the most common successful transition paths.
#1 Applying for Jobs
The most important thing to understand is that it is possible to be hired for a software engineering job while you only hold a mechanical engineering degree.
The fact is that some amount of computer science and programming inevitably comes up in mechanical engineering.
On top of that, many of the fundamental concepts of engineering apply to software engineering.
Things like design philosophy, efficiency, testing, management, and ethics are applicable across both disciplines.
That’s why software development companies have been known to hire mechanical engineers for software engineering positions.
All of that said, the transition is not guaranteed.
There will be people with software engineering degrees applying for the same positions, along with computer scientists and electrical engineers, both of which are arguably more qualified.
So, if you don’t get hired right away, then you’ll want to take transitional steps, and there are three options that are likely to work. Keep in mind that you can combine these options as you see fit.
#2 Coding Boot Camp
If you aren’t getting hired right away, then it’s probably because you can’t demonstrate strong enough expertise in programming and coding.
While software engineering extends beyond these concepts, they form the core, and you have to have strung coding fundamentals.
A lot of aspects of mechanical engineering are light in the coding department, so if you want to hone your programming skills, you can consider going through a bootcamp.
It’s a lot shorter and more affordable than getting a full software engineering or computer science degree.
You can also focus on self-learning if you want.
The real point here is that taking time to improve as a programmer can help you transition into software engineering.
#3 Programming Jobs
There are a lot of programming jobs that are easier to get into than software engineering positions.
They typically pay less, but they’ll get your foot in the door.
With some experience working directly in programming, you can flesh out your resume and develop some of the skills that you will need as a software engineer.
You will also make contacts in the software development world, and you might even be able to work your way up within a company.
The thing to know is that, in general, you’ll have a better time landing these jobs as a mechanical engineer, and they make for a great stepping stone into software development.
#4 Degree Path Options
You can also go back to school and get a degree in software engineering or computer science.
It’s hard to say which is more beneficial.
People with both degrees are regularly hired for software engineering jobs.
You can almost consider software engineering a branch of computer science.
Regardless of what you pick, you can get the degree, and it will certainly help your prospects.
If you get a job as a programmer while you go back to school, you’ll really be hedging your bets and maximizing your chances of a successful career change.
How Hard Is It to Get a Software Engineering Degree as a Mechanical Engineer?
As I said before, it’s not always essential to get another degree.
But, if you want the degree, or if you’re switching majors, then there are things to know.
I’m writing this from the perspective that you have already finished a mechanical engineering degree.
If you’re switching majors, then you can make adjustments based on how much of your ME degree program you have completed.
With that said, getting a second engineering degree is almost always easier than getting a second degree in any other field.
You already know a lot of the fundamentals, and a lot of your credits will apply to the new degree.
But, the transition from mechanical engineering to software engineering is still substantial, and you can expect it to take years.
The good news here is that a mechanical engineering degree covers a lot of stuff needed for computer science and software engineering. (From now on, I’m only going to reference software engineering, but the ideas will hold true for computer science as well.)
All of your math and science requisites should be covered by your mechanical engineering degree.
That includes your “wider world” credits in areas like history and English.
Additionally, software engineering has crossover classes with all of the other engineering disciplines, like ethics and management.
You’re covered for that too.
Basically, as a mechanical engineer, you’re halfway to a software engineering degree or better.
That said, you’re probably looking at a two-year average to get an undergraduate degree in software engineering.
Many of the core courses are sequential, and you’re looking at a total of 15 to 20 core courses to graduate.
These will be classes that you were very unlikely to take as a mechanical engineering student.
On top of that, you have to do a senior design project.
You’re already familiar with this concept, but the Capstone work you did in mechanical engineering is unlikely to count towards a software engineering degree.
The skills are too different.
How Does a Mechanical Engineer Get Hired as a Software Engineer? (2 Things)
Now you know some ways that you can pursue the transition.
No matter how you go about that, eventually, you have to apply for a job and survive an interview.
How can a mechanical engineer become hireable in this new field?
In addition to the concepts mentioned above, there are two important things that will really help your chances.
First, you need to build a portfolio.
I’ll explain that in more detail in a moment.
You also need to take advantage of networking opportunities.
Let’s look at both ideas a little more closely and see how a mechanical engineer can really prepare for a successful career transition.
#1 Build a Portfolio
This is one of the most important things in software engineering. Hiring managers want to see examples of your work.
They want to see working software that you designed from scratch (when possible).
That speaks much more to your skills than any degree or certification ever could.
This is why working in programming is such a great transitional step.
You can include your programming work in your portfolio and really stand out as a candidate.
Regardless, anything you can do to directly demonstrate your software design and coding skills is good for getting hired.
Invest time and energy into this.
#2 Use Your Network
Another aspect of getting a job is networking.
Like it or not, it often does come down to who you know.
The good news is that mechanical engineering work provides networking opportunities.
Engineering firms and positions often work alongside software development in some facet or another.
You have opportunities to meet people in this industry, and that can help you find job opportunities.
Also, as you pursue transitional steps (be they boot camps, programming jobs, or going back to school), you will come across additional networking opportunities.
Use them for all they’re worth.
You have every chance to build personal-professional relationships with the people who will ultimately hire you.
So, How Hard Is It to Become a Software Engineer After Doing Mechanical Engineering?
Ok. Now that you’ve seen what is involved in this career transition, let’s talk about the challenge.
You can probably decide for yourself how hard it sounds, but we can review a few ideas and try to come up with an answer.
The truth is that mechanical engineering and software engineering are deceptively similar, even if they are applied to incredibly different purposes.
They’re both STEM fields for a reason, and as a mechanical engineer, there’s a good chance that you have crossover interests with software engineering.
Those interests can help you find enjoyment in your new field.
You can even try to be a software engineer who works on mechanical engineering software.
Also, as a mechanical engineer, you have the right knowledge, skill set, and background to make this transition.
But, even with those skills, it will take time.
Even if you get hired for your first job application and go straight into software engineering, you’ll have to learn and adapt to the new role.
Mechanical engineering is a lot lighter in the programming department when compared to other engineering fields (like electrical engineering).
There’s going to be a learning curve.
Lastly, you might find that you don’t like programming and software engineering.
If that’s the case, it’s going to be difficult to succeed.
This is a field that trends towards long hours and exhausting projects.
If you can’t enjoy the work, then the transition might prove impossible.