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Programming and software development is an in-depth and gratifying field in and of itself. But what if you want to rise above your current position of coder or programmer and level up your career for additional responsibilities and a higher salary? If this is the case, then you might want to pursue an engineering manager position.
Software and computer engineering managers administrate development and programming departments, plus they oversee major engineering jobs. Today, let’s take a look at the basics of how to become an engineering manager in the software industry step-by-step.
What Does an Engineering Manager Do?
Put simply, a software engineering manager plans for, oversees, and runs projects like:
- Making new software
- Fixing or maintaining current software
- Running continuous development software projects
They report to higher executives or management and are responsible for both supervising and directing the work of software engineers within their assigned projects. They may have a few people under their supervision or many depending on the size of the department and the size of the project in question.
Furthermore, software engineering managers are sometimes required to help design or ideate software projects from the ground up. Their responsibilities are always critical, regardless of scope.
Average Engineering Manager Salary
Because engineering managers are responsible for the ultimate success of software projects in many cases, they have high salaries to compensate them for their focus and skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems managers earn about $159,010 per year on average.
Generally, one’s salary increases with experience and completed projects under their belt. You should expect your salary to increase as you take on additional projects and succeed.
You might also like: Three Traits of an Exceptional Engineering Leader
How to Become an Engineering Manager Step-by-Step
Those interested in becoming software engineering managers can do so by pursuing a relatively straightforward path.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
Naturally, you may think you need a bachelor’s degree to start your educational journey to become an engineering manager. It is true that securing a bachelor’s degree in programming, computer science, or a related industry can be beneficial so you can maybe learn more and also so you can qualify for a master’s program.
That being said, it’s possible to be hired as an engineer without a degree. Google, for example, is actually moving away from requiring a college degree for their engineers. That would have been unheard of as little as a decade ago, but today big companies like Google are more interested in knowledge and experience. Speaking of which…
Even after earning a master’s degree in a relevant field, you’ll still need to acquire a certain amount of industry experience before you qualify for most open positions. Generally, you need between two and five years of software development experience before you can be hired as a manager. Bonus if you can show a consistent and successful track record of project management skills and interest in leadership skills (more on this later).
Earn Certifications (Optional)
To bolster your resume and improve your chance at earning competitive positions, you might consider earning some extra certificates. Programs that prove your literacy in many programming languages or certificates that showcase your desire to sharpen your leadership skills are excellent choices, such as:
- Certified Scrum Master or CSM, offered by the Scrum Alliance
- Project Management Professional or PMP, offered by the PMI
- Software Engineering Master Certification or SEMC, offered by the IEEE
Apply for Jobs
After getting all the educational credentials and professional experience necessary, you can begin applying to open engineering management positions. This industry, while competitive, is set to grow by 11% over the next decade according to the BLS. With a little luck and due dilligence, this should allow you to find an open engineering management position without much trouble.
What Do Companies Look for in Engineering Managers?
Many companies use software testing tools like Codility to determine whether one applicant or another is the right fit for a position, including engineering manager positions. However, aside from the raw programming and software knowledge you’ll need, you should also cultivate certain software leadership skills like:
- Communication skills. Good communicators are good managers as a rule, as they can more easily manage large teams with many different personalities.
- Time and project management skills. To be a good engineering manager, you’ll need to manage not just your time at the time of your subordinates or programmers.
- Strong organizational skills. Similar to the above, good engineering managers need to organize lots of different moving parts and people to maximize project success and efficiency.
Becoming an engineering manager could be just the boost your career needs. Once you become a software engineering manager, you may find additional opportunities to grow your professional skills in new and challenging (but hopefully rewarding) ways.
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