Knowing math does help you in software engineering. But, to get an idea of how much math goes in hand with software engineering, you need to understand two things: What does a software engineer do? And, which type of software engineering do you want to do?
You might be planning to take up software engineering as a career choice. To become one, you need a bachelor’s in computer science. Is software engineering hard? Does software engineering require math? Surely it would help if you were good at math. But it has never been your forte. Is it possible to be weak at math and still become a successful software engineer? We’ll soon find out.
Let’s deep dive into software engineering to better understand it and guide you in selecting the right path.
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What Are the Requirements to Become a Software Engineer?
You’ll first need a bachelor’s in software engineering, computer science, or information technology. These degrees will have math in them.
Now comes the most crucial part. You’ll need to develop, as described by Dr. Scott Overmyer of Southern New Hampshire University, an
“innate curiosity about how computers and software work and can be used to solve problems…”
The next thing required is to have a portfolio of your developed programs. This is where you get creative. During your bachelor’s, involve yourself in lots and lots of coding. Take on small projects and improve from there. You should always know what your program does and explain it in simple language.
Then comes the last part, developing good communication skills. It would help if you were excellent at explaining and communicating with your peers and people from different technological backgrounds. You’ll most of the time explain complex software to those who wouldn’t know them in detail.
Do all this, and you have a promising future in software engineering.
What Do Software Engineers Do?
Software engineers design and create software and systems to solve real-world problems. They utilize their innate analytical skills and knowledge of programming languages to develop a software solution or identify problems within software developed by others. A simple list of their duties is as follows:
- Understanding what the user needs and developing solutions accordingly
- Suggesting updates to existing systems and software
- Designing the whole architecture of a system in detail
- Visualizing the processes involved within a system or software using flowcharts
- Testing the effectiveness of an existing software
- Guiding the entire process of developing a software
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Types of Software Engineering
Like all other fields, software engineering also provides a variety of roles. The most popular positions are:
- Front-end Engineer
- Back-end Engineer
- Full Stack Engineer
- Mobile Engineer
- Video Game Designer
- Software Integration Engineer
- Quality Assurance Engineer
- Data Scientist
- DevOps Engineer
- Security Engineer
The traditional roles of an engineer are front-end development, back-end development, and full-stack development. Front-end refers to the software part the user can interact with. Think of it like the McDonald’s counter. You can order, put forward a complaint or check the menu from the counter. What you cannot do is peek at what happens at the back.
The steps an employee has to take to serve you an order of BigMac constitutes back-end development. The part of the software that makes things happen, aka the system’s logic. This part is not visible to the user and runs on the software provider’s servers.
The not-so-common roles include:
- Using tools and writing software to check the quality of applications (QA engineer)
- Bridging the gap between the developer team and operations team and reducing the complexity of systems (DevOps engineer)
- Testing the security of a system or software using carefully designed methods and procedures (Security engineer)
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Skills Needed for Software Engineers
The 2021 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that in order to become an impressive software engineer, your repertoire must include the following:
- Analytical Skills
- Communication Skills
- Detail Oriented
- Interpersonal Skills
- Problem-Solving Skills
1) Analytical Skills
Analytical skills are the ability to collect information, analyze it, and come up with solutions to problems by making the right decisions. Possessing such skills helps software engineers to comprehend what the user needs and design software that functions properly and satisfies those needs.
2) Communication Skills
Communication skills mean comprehending what others say and how they feel, leaving room for misunderstandings. It helps software engineers give clear instructions and explain problems succinctly to both technical and non-technical persons.
Creativity is your ability to develop original and valued thoughts and ideas. Software engineers must be innovative and open-minded to design and build software that effectively serves its purpose.
4) Detail Oriented
Detail-oriented is the ability to review every aspect of a situation, whether you are explaining or coming up with a new concept. If details are known and well understood by software engineers, they can devise solutions that can be implemented better and the problem solved effectively.
5) Interpersonal Skills
The ability to interact with people in and out of your social circle. What is your attitude towards people, and how do you handle them? Software engineers must work well with others in teams and groups; their role requires collaboration and teamwork. Each individual makes contributions in terms of both code and design.
6) Problem-Solving Skills
It is your ability to comprehend the root cause of a problem, know why it is happening, and then come up with the best solution. Developing a system from scratch or improving it requires that software engineers have a knack for problem-solving. This ability is supplemented by an analytical mindset, creativity, and attention to detail.
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Where Does Software Engineering Require Math and Where Does It Not?
If you intend to lean towards front-end or back-end development, then little expertise in math is required. What little or more you have learned about math will work out for you. The only thing that is needed is knowledge of other languages such as Java, C++, C#, Ruby, Python, etc. The more languages you learn, the better it will be for you. It does not necessarily mean that you have to be a jack of all trades; mastering only a few goes a long way than having limited knowledge of many.
Even though programming requires you to have just basic math knowledge (clearing your AP calculus and trigonometry will do just fine), there are some roles where extensive knowledge and expertise are essential. The roles of DevOps engineer and Security engineer require expertise in math. If you are interested in developing libraries, frameworks, or complete systems, then proficiency in math is a prerequisite. Other fields where math is involved include:
- Machine learning
- Artificial Intelligence
- Programming language development
- Game development
- Virtual Reality
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What Math Is Required and How Does It Help?
The level of math depends on the niche you have opted to go with. A brief list of the math topics that are required include:
- Linear Algebra
- Abstract Algebra
- Graph Theory
- Discrete Mathematics
Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.
— William Paul Thurston
Knowing math helps software engineers in developing a logical approach to solving problems. This rational approach and analytical skill are what make a sound software engineer — someone who is an open-minded and careful observer.
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Simple Steps to Develop an Analytical Mindset
There are a few steps that can significantly help you in developing an analytical mindset. These include:
- reading books (detective novels would do fine)
- playing brain games (The New York Times crosswords is an excellent place to start)
- learning something new (about time you start taking those guitar lessons)
- journaling (doing a daily analysis of yourself)
- raising questions (why settle for something just the way it is)
All this is to open your mind and become curious and observant.
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Does software engineering require math? Generally speaking, software engineering will not require complex math, but you will use numbers and logic derived from math. It would add to your ability to code and analyze situations. Nothing that a few preparatory math courses can’t fix.
If you dislike math (we’ve all been there), then your choices should be less math-intensive front-end and back-end development. But, if you are dedicated and think you can handle the giant that math is, you can opt for Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Programming language development, Game Development, and Virtual Reality.
Why Is Math Needed in Software Engineering?
Many software engineering concepts and applications have their roots in math. The use of math principles is what enables software engineers to develop the complexity of systems and software.
Does Software Engineering Require Math?
Yes, software engineering requires math. The math level depends on the future job opportunity you wish to pursue.
Can I Start My Journey as a Software Engineer Though I Am Bad at Math?
Yes, you can. To become a sound software engineer, you do not have to be a math expert. Fields such as web development have little to no math.
Does Software Engineering Require Computer Science?
Yes, a degree in computer science and excellent programming skills are needed to become a software engineer. These are the core components and cannot be skipped.
Does Software Engineering Require Coding?
Yes, software engineering requires extensive coding. You are required to do a lot of programming assignments and build your portfolio from the start. Your whole job revolves around auditing codes made by others and contributing where needed.
Does Software Engineering Require Physics?
No, it does not require physics as you are not dealing with designing electronic devices. Physics is extensively involved in Computer Science engineering.