The discipline of software engineering includes knowledge, tools, and methods for software requirements, software design, software construction, software testing, and software maintenance tasks. Software engineering is related to the disciplines of computer science, computer engineering, management, mathematics, project management, quality management, software ergonomics, and systems engineering.
In 2004, the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 760,840 software engineers holding jobs in the U.S.; in the same time period there were some 1.4 million practitioners employed in the U.S. in all other engineering disciplines combined. Due to its relative newness as a field of study, formal education in software engineering is often taught as part of a computer science curriculum, and as a result most software engineers hold computer science degrees. The term software engineer is used very liberally in the corporate world. Very few of the practicing software engineers actually hold Engineering degrees from accredited universities. In fact, according to the Association for Computing Machinery, "most people who now function in the U.S. as serious software engineers have degrees in computer science, not in software engineering".
Typical formal definitions of software engineering are:
The term has been used less formally:
Some people believe that software engineering implies a certain level of academic training, professional discipline, and adherence to formal processes that often are not applied in cases of software development. A common analogy is that working in construction does not make one a civil engineer, and so writing code does not make one a software engineer. It is disputed by some - in particular by the Canadian Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) body, that the field is not mature enough to warrant the title "engineering". The PEO disputed that "software engineering" was not an appropriate name for the field since those who practiced in the field and called themselves "software engineers" were not properly licensed professional engineers, and that they should therefore not be allowed to use the name.
In each of the last few decades, at least one radical new approach has entered the mainstream of software development (e.g. Structured Programming, Object Orientation), implying that the field is still changing too rapidly to be considered an engineering discipline. Proponents argue that the supposedly radical new approaches are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Individual commentators have disagreed sharply on how to define software engineering or its legitimacy as an engineering discipline. David Parnas has said that software engineering is, in fact, a form of engineering. Steve McConnell has said that it is not, but that it should be. Donald Knuth has said that programming is an art and a science. Edsger W. Dijkstra claimed that the terms software engineering and software engineer have been misused, particularly in the United States.
The U.K. has seen the alignment of the Information Technology Professional and the Engineering Professionals.
Software engineering in Canada has seen some contests in the courts over the use of the title "Software Engineer The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (C.C.P.E. or "Engineers Canada") will not grant a "Professional Engineer" status/license to anyone who has not completed a recognized academic engineering program. Engineers qualified outside Canada are similarly unable to obtain a "Professional Engineer" license. Since 2001, the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board has accredited several university programs in software engineering, allowing graduates to apply for a professional engineering licence once the other prerequisites are obtained, although this does nothing to help IT professionals using the title with degrees in other fields (such as computer science).
Some of the United States of America regulate the use of terms such as "computer engineer" and even "software engineer". These states include at least Texas and Florida. Texas even goes so far as to ban anyone from writing any real-time code without an engineering license.
The Future of Software Engineering conference (FOSE), held at ICSE 2000, documented the state of the art of SE in 2000 and listed many problems to be solved over the next decade. The FOSE tracks at the ICSE 2000 and the ICSE 2007 conferences also help identify the state of the art in software engineering.
In 2006, Money Magazine and Salary.com rated software engineering as the best job in America in terms of growth, pay, stress levels, flexibility in hours and working environment, creativity, and how easy it is to enter and advance in the field.
In 1998, the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) established the first doctorate program in Software Engineering in the world. As of the beginning of 2006, thirteen students had graduated from the program and assumed senior-level leadership roles in the Department of Defense research and development community. Additionally, many online advanced degrees in Software Engineering have appeared such as the Master of Science in Software Engineering (MSE) degree offered through the Computer Science and Engineering Department at California State University, Fullerton.
Steve McConnell opines that because most universities teach computer science rather than software engineering, there is a shortage of true software engineers.
ETS University and UQAM were mandated by IEEE to develop the SoftWare Engineering BOdy of Knowledge SWEBOK, which has become an ISO standard describing the body of knowledge covered by a software engineer .
Some practitioners have mathematics, science, engineering, or technology degrees. Some have philosophy (logic in particular) or other non-technical degrees. And, others have no degrees. For instance, Barry Boehm earned degrees in mathematics.
Most software engineers work as employees or contractors. Software engineers work with businesses, government agencies (civilian or military), and non-profit organizations. Some software engineers work for themselves as freelancers. Some organizations have specialists to perform each of the tasks in the software development process. Other organizations required software engineers to do many or all of them. In large projects, people may specialize in only one role. In small projects, people may fill several or all roles at the same time. Specializations include: in industry (analysts, architects, developers, testers, technical support, managers) and in academia (educators, researchers).
There is considerable debate over the future employment prospects for Software Engineers and other IT Professionals. For example, an online futures market called the Future of IT Jobs in America attempts to answer whether there will be more IT jobs, including software engineers, in 2012 than there were in 2002.
Most successful certification programs in the software industry are oriented toward specific technologies, and are managed by the vendors of these technologies. These certification programs are tailored to the institutions that would employ people who use these technologies.
The ACM had a professional certification program in the early 1980s, which was discontinued due to lack of interest.. As of 2006, the IEEE had certified over 575 software professionals. In Canada the Canadian Information Processing Society has developed a legally recognized professional certification called Information Systems Professional (ISP).
Many students in the developed world have avoided degrees related to software engineering because of the fear of offshore outsourcing (importing software products or services from other countries) and of being displaced by foreign visa workers. Although government statistics do not currently show a threat to software engineering itself; a related career, computer programming does appear to have been affected. Often one is expected to start out as a computer programmer before being promoted to software engineer. Thus, the career path to software engineering may be rough, especially during recessions.
Some career counselors suggest a student also focus on "people skills" and business skills rather than purely technical skills because such "soft skills" are allegedly more difficult to offshore. It is the quasi-management aspects of software engineering that appear to be what has kept it from being impacted by globalization.
TreeSoft version 2.1. (+1 Software Engineering's Unix-based software engineering environment) (New Products: Minicomputers: Case)(Brief Article) (Product Announcement)
Dec 01, 1992; Case TreeSoft Version 2.1, a Unix-based software engineering environment, is available from +1 Software Engineering, Camarillo,...
Paramax chooses Hewlett-Packard for STARS work. (Paramax Systems Corp. working on Dept. of Defense's Software Technology for Adaptable, Reliable Systems software engineering environment program)
Dec 09, 1992; Paramax has chosen Hewlett-Packard to provide its SoftBench megaprogramming tool as part of Paramax's portion of the Pentagon's...
DEC deals ... Digital Equipment Corp. and Rational of Santa Clara, Calif., have penned a joint technical and marketing pact that calls for integrating DEC's COHESION Aerospace Defense Software Engineering Environment (ASD/ SEE) and the Rational Environment, Rational's Ada software development environment. (Mergers/ Acquisitions/ Alliances)
May 03, 1993; DEC DEALS Digital Equipment Corp. and Rational of Santa Clara, Calif., have penned a joint technical and marketing pact that...
DEC cohesion embraces RISC/Ultrix. (computer-aided software engineering environment supports DEC Fuse, a reduced-instruction set computing/Ultrix type program) (Newsfront)
Feb 01, 1991; As expected, Digital Equipment Corp. has moved its Cohesion computeraided software engineering (Case) environment into Unix, with...
Software through Pictures. (Interactive Development Environments Inc.'s computer-aided software engineering environment)(brief article) (New Products: Minicomputers) (Product Announcement)
Dec 01, 1991; Release 4.2 of Software through Pictures, a multiuser Case environment from Interactive Development Environments, Inc., San...