Software Engineering: How Much Fun?

Here’s how much fun software engineering is:

This depends entirely on you.

Software engineers are known to have high levels of job satisfaction.

If it’s a field that you enjoy, there’s a good chance that you will find the work fun and rewarding.

But if you have no experience with coding or software design, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much you’ll like it.

So if you want to learn all about what it takes to be a software engineer, then this article is for you.

Let’s dig right in!

Software Engineering: How Much Fun? (Everything to Know)

How Much Fun Is Software Engineering?

Eleven. Software engineering is definitely an eleven.

Does that answer seem a little awkward?

That’s because no one else can truly tell you how much fun something will be—especially not a stranger on the internet.

So, rather than pretend that I can read your mind and tell you how much you will or won’t enjoy software engineering, I can break the field and career down into sections that will help you decide for yourself if it’s something you like.

If you’re looking for a short answer, though, I can give you a brief summary.

Software engineering is fun for people who really enjoy problem-solving, working with computers, and applying engineering concepts to an incredibly wide range of applications.

What Is Involved in Software Engineering? (6 Tasks)

If you want more specific answers, then keep reading.

I’m going to break software engineering into its primary components so you can see what kind of work you would really do as a software engineer.

As we go through this, keep in mind that the responsibilities of any software engineering job will depend on the position and company.

Some positions are much more leadership oriented.

In small startups, a software engineer might be responsible for an insane range of tasks.

It’s all going to vary.

#1 Coding 

Most people misunderstand software engineering and writing code.

Many of you might assume that software engineers spend all day going through code and little else.

That is true for a very narrow range of software engineering jobs (certain aspects of testing are super code-heavy).

In most cases, though, software engineers are not the principal code writers.

That’s the programmer’s job.

So, unless you’re in one of those companies where the software engineer and the programmer are the same person, a software engineer does all of the things listed below, often more than they code.

But, you’re not going to succeed as a software engineer unless you understand the root principles that make your software work.

You do need to have a strong understanding of coding.

Some software engineers code more than others, but even in the most code-light positions, you’ll still deal with code to some extent.

It’s too integral to software development to skip entirely.

#2 Design

This is one of the primary jobs of a software engineer.

In that role, it’s your job to design the program as a whole.

You can compare a software engineer to an architect.

An architect designs an entire skyscraper.

There are a lot of different rooms inside the skyscraper, and the architect might give more or less attention to any one room.

For the most part, they’re concerned with the building as a whole.

Meanwhile, contractors actually built the thing. Those are the computer programmers in this analogy.

They write the code that makes up each “room” of the software package.

The software engineer oversees the whole project.

As a designer, the software engineer is the leader of software development.

They have the vision, and they make sure that the software package includes all necessary components and features.

It’s also worth noting that on exceptionally large projects, you’ll actually have a head software engineer (sometimes titled an MTS) who runs a team of software engineers.

Each of those engineers will then have their own team to write code and develop the software.

If you think about how much work it takes to make something like Windows, you’ll see why some larger software engineering structures and hierarchies exist.

#3 Testing

Another major software engineering role is testing.

In this case, they design and execute software tests.

It’s a whole segment of the field, and in larger organizations, the engineer who designed the software might not be the same engineer who tests it.

In smaller organizations, a single software engineer might have to wear both of these hats (and others).

Testing is about figuring out how users will utilize the software and coming up with ways to look for problems.

A test can be as simple as reviewing the code for logic errors.

It can be something like a server stress test that ensures the system can handle all of the users.

There are countless tests, and designing custom tests for a software package is a skill set in its own right.

Testing design is a great example of how software engineers apply engineering principles and general problem solving to their work.

If you’re handed software that you didn’t build and are charged with testing it for problems, you’ll want to go through a systematic process that ensures everything works as intended.

Yet, no single system will work for all kinds of software.

That’s when you have to design custom tests based on those principles you spent so much time mastering.

#4 Planning

Ok. Planning can mean a lot of things.

In this case, I’m making it my own generic term.

Basically, I want a way to distinguish parts of the planning phase from the design and development phase.

In this distinction, the design phase is when the engineer figures out what components the software should have and allocates resources to build each of those components.

Planning instead refers to when the engineer works with potential end users to figure out what they want and need.

So, if a group of bankers hired a software development firm to make a better app for viewing transaction histories, the software engineer would spend time talking to them.

These conversations happen during the planning phase.

It’s when the engineer is devoted primarily to understanding the nature of the problem.

Once the problem is understood, they can work on designing solutions that will make the software valuable to these end users (the bankers, in our example).

#5 Updating

Software engineers don’t just make new programs and apps.

They also take care of those programs and apps while they remain in service.

Certainly, you have run software updates on a phone or computer at some point in your life.

Those updates had to come from somewhere, and ultimately, a software engineer (or multiple engineers) was involved in the process.

Software engineers are first responsible for identifying when updates are necessary.

They review statistics and reports to figure out which problems are worth the investment of an update and which aren’t.

From there, they design the update itself and strategies for how it can be developed and deployed.

They will work with programmers to actually code the update. Then, they have to fully test the update.

Once all of that is done, the software engineer is also responsible for distributing the update.

A lot goes into this, and for very popular software, managing updates is a full-time job all by itself.

#6 Leadership

I think I’ve made it pretty clear at this point that software engineers often work with other people to create, test, and maintain software.

Naturally, someone has to be in charge, and software engineers are frequently charged with leadership roles.

Since the software engineer is supposed to be responsible for the big picture, it makes sense that they will run the teams that execute an engineer’s vision.

Levels of leadership for a software engineer will depend heavily on a company’s structure.

But, unless the company is just an individual working out of their own garage, it’s pretty normal for software engineers to have at least a few others reporting directly to them.

Will You Have Fun With Software Engineering? (3 Aspects)

That covers a pretty good overview of what kind of work you can expect to do as a software engineer.

To some extent, you can reasonably expect to do all of those things.

But, for many software engineers, you’ll have a primary role that only involves some of those elements.

As an example, a lead software tester might not also be designing new software packages from scratch.

So, if some elements sound more fun than others, you can try to pursue a career that caters to that element of software engineering.

With that in mind, we can try to see if you would actually enjoy a job in software engineering.

To try to help you figure it out, I’m going to cover some of the aspects of the job that people tend to enjoy the most.

#1 Creative Problem Solving

Software engineering really is all about solving problems.

No matter what specific engineering role you serve, you will be tasked with figuring out how to make the job work.

Design, testing, updating . . . they all involve problem-solving.

If you genuinely enjoy problem-solving and get a kick out of it, then this might be the perfect field for you.

If you have some aversion to problem-solving, especially unguided problem solving, then this is one of the worst jobs you could seek.

#2 Job Satisfaction

Another compelling reason to be a software engineer is job satisfaction, and it’s something that hits on multiple levels.

For starters, solving problems often feels satisfying to people.

Since that’s a core element of the job, you’re likely to get a nice rush every time you complete a project or get part of the software to work correctly.

On top of that, software engineers make good money.

While that’s not the only component of job satisfaction, making six figures relieves a lot of financial pressure for people, and it’s certainly not a turn-off for most.

Alongside high pay are compelling benefits.

Obviously, this will depend on your employment contract, but it’s not uncommon for software engineers to have premium insurance, a good amount of paid leave, retirement contributions, and all the rest.

Compensation might not be fun, but you can have fun as a result of it.

Lastly, software engineers often get to work on problems that they actually care about.

That adds a sense of meaning to the work, and that’s great for job satisfaction.

#3 Leadership

If you enjoy leadership positions, this is a great field for you.

While software engineers are not typically at the very top of the company hierarchy, they often are given a lot of freedom in how they do their jobs.

Leadership and workplace freedom are great elements for a job, provided those sound good to you in the first place.

If you’re averse to leadership, software engineering is not the best place to be.

Even if you’re in a small firm, if the firm succeeds, the software engineer will eventually be leading people.

What Detracts From the Fun? (3 Reasons)

We’ve covered what might make software engineering fun for you.

Now, let’s get into the elements you might not like.

There’s a reason that not everyone is a software engineer.

Actually, I can think of three powerful reasons for someone to avoid a career in this area.

#1 Rough Schedules

One of the toughest things about designing and deploying software is meeting deadlines.

The truth is that unless you’re involved in its creation, you almost certainly underestimate the complexity of modern software.

To produce quality products on a deadline is tough, and it often involves giving up sleep, especially around launch time.

This is yet another factor that will depend on the job, company, and project, but more often than not, software engineers can expect some rough hours.

It’s usually not all long hours all the time, but there will be crunch periods that are a lot less fun.

#2 Coding

Some people love coding. Others hate it. 

As I’ve said before, software engineers do need to code.

Even when it’s not the primary component of the role, coding is a fundamental part of understanding software.

You cannot escape it, at least not realistically.

If you hate coding, you’re probably going to be a miserable software engineer.

#3 Barrier of Entry

Here’s potentially the leading reason that you won’t want to be a software engineer.

It’s tough to break into the field.

You pretty much need a software engineering or computer science degree as a starting point.

The good jobs all want five years of experience (which means you might work as a programmer to build your resume).

Plenty of jobs even demand advanced degrees.

It takes a long time to get up and running, and that’s not always fun.

On the plus side, these requirements give you plenty of opportunities to really know if you like this type of work or not.

You’ll make up your mind long before you’re locked into software engineering as a career.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

    View all posts