The Ultimate Guide to Retraining as a Software Engineer


If you’re thinking of retraining as a software engineer, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. Especially if you’re completely changing career direction or looking to retrain after redundancy. 

You’re probably wondering what skills you need and where you can learn them, what you’ll do as a software engineer, and whether retraining is worth the investment.  

At Leeds Codes, and our sister coding school, Manchester Codes, we’ve helped more than 160 people follow their dream to become a software engineer. Here’s everything you need to know. 

What is software engineering?

If you’re looking to retrain, you might have heard that coding and software engineering is a futureproof career path. But what exactly is it?

Software engineering is all about creating and maintaining computer systems and applications software. That might be developing the next must-have app, creating a ground-breaking game or improving an everyday operating system. 

Software engineering uses the processes developed in traditional engineering to create software that is robust, practical and meets user needs effectively. Software engineers use a rigorous process to assess what people need, before designing, testing and launching software.

They develop in-depth knowledge of programme languages to help them code effectively, solve problems and develop bespoke software solutions.

Why become a software engineer?

Demand, earning potential and career satisfaction are some of the reasons to retrain as a software engineer. Not to mention the possibility of creating innovative technology that changes the world.

They’re in-demand – Virtually every business and public service relies on technology. From databases that drive business processes, to healthcare apps that help diagnose disease, software is an essential part of our lives. And demand is growing. The IT skills gap costs British businesses billions each year, so software professionals are highly sought after.   

They have great earning potential – With any job that’s in-demand, skilled professionals can expect to be paid a premium. The average salary is between £25,000 and £50,000 per year. As you progress through your career, this can go up to £75,000 for more senior roles. One of the most senior roles you could get is Chief Technology Officer, responsible for all technological needs and developments in a business.

It’s rewarding – It might not set the world alight for everyone, but if you have an interest in coding and enjoy problem-solving, software engineering can be a really rewarding profession. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people, working together to keep the wheels of business turning with your software smarts. 

It can change the world – Innovative and disruptive technology has the power to transform lives. If you’re motivated by making things better, software engineering could see you play a part in the green energy revolution, developing life-saving healthcare products or even pushing the boundaries of space exploration. 

What skills do software engineers need?

Software engineers need a mix of skills to be successful. These range from technical skills in coding and development, to business skills like effective communication and project management. 

Aptitude for computing – An interest in working with computers, software and hardware is obviously a prerequisite for this sort of role. You’ll also need a good memory for learning different coding languages.

Communication and team work – The stereotypical image of a solitary geek programming in their bedroom couldn’t be further from reality. Software engineers are team players with strong communication skills. They use their interpersonal skills to understand user needs and to collaborate effectively on projects. 

Curiosity and analytical thinking – Software engineers are naturally curious and want to understand how things work, as well as how they can be improved. Most software engineers enjoy maths, logic and problem solving. They have an analytic mind that allows them to examine evidence and develop recommendations. 

High standards – Like all engineers, successful software engineers have high standards. They want to deliver exceptional products and outcomes, not just acceptable ones. They also need high attention to detail to spot and eradicate software errors. 

Management skills – As you progress through your career, the ability to manage processes, projects and people becomes more important. As a CTO, you might be managing large teams of people and business-critical projects.

How to become a software engineer

You don’t have to have a degree to become a software engineer. You just need to be able to demonstrate a core set of software engineering skills to potential employers. Whilst you can gain these skills through personal interest and experimentation, most employers will look for formal training. 

Training options include:

Find out more about the pros and cons of different training options with our article: Can I become a software engineer without a degree?

How long does it take to become a software engineer?

With a professional programme like Leeds Codes FastTrack Software Engineer programme, you can be qualified in as little as 24 weeks of part-time study. 

Will I fit in as a software engineer?

Computing has long been a male-dominated profession but there are lots of initiatives to encourage new talent and underrepresented groups into the sector. 

At Leeds Codes, we welcome all learners, regardless of their background, age, gender identity or physical disability. 

We’re just one of a wide range of organisations committed to making the industry more diverse, so that anyone with the passion and potential to become a software engineer, can. 

Am I too old to retrain as a software engineer?

Talent is talent, whatever your age. At Leeds and Manchester Codes, our average learner is somewhere between 25 and 45, showing that it’s never too late to retrain for a job you love. 

Our flexible learning – via online self-study and part-time classes at evenings and weekends – means you can fit training around your life, not life around your training. This makes it ideal for more mature learners who have work or family commitments.

How much does it cost to retrain as a software engineer?

Costs vary, depending on the course you decide to take. A three- or four-year university degree can cost over £9,000 per year in the UK, meaning you’ll graduate with debts of £27,000 to £36,000. 

A more affordable option is to study a one-year conversion course or professional training programme like our FastTrack Software Engineer programme, which costs a much-more-manageable £5,500.

Is retraining as a software engineer worth the investment?

We think so. Our learners invest six months and £6,000 to qualify for a brand-new career – a fraction of the time and cost of an undergraduate degree. 

With an average software engineer earning £25,000 to £50,000 per year, you ‘ll easily recoup your costs in employment. 

And thanks to our flexible finance options, you can spread the cost over a year, making investing in your future even easier to afford. 

Can I try software engineering for free before I commit to retraining? 

Absolutely. If you’re coding-curious but not sure whether it’s right for you, hop on our free Introduction to Programming course. You’ll learn more about what software engineering involves, get hands-on experience with basic coding, and enjoy a taster of what training with us is like. 

Ready to kickstart your new career in coding? Find out more about our courses today. 

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