Software Engineering


Make computers do your bidding, before robots rule the world.


The nice part about robots is that they're pretty predictable. For now, at least. Those hardwired brains of theirs are utterly at the mercy of software engineers. They do what software engineers tell them to do. Software engineers like you.

So what is software engineering, exactly? Why, it's what happens when you take the principles of engineering and apply them to computer software, of course. The complication is that software, unlike, say, a bridge, isn't physical. Instead, software is comprised of lines and lines of a specialized language that all read like R2-D2 having a screaming fight with a toaster.

And writing good code isn't easy. There's an old and famous phrase when it comes to computers: "Garbage in, garbage out." This is not a request to start putting your used food wrappers inside of your computer. That's how you get ants. And fires. And fire ants.

The point is this: computers can't judge what you put into them. To a computer, a brilliant program that collates all of Shakespeare's works and inserts only the most impressive quotes from The Canon into your online dating profile is exactly the same as…well, a string of obscenities that would make Atilla the Hun blush. (Atilla was known for his salty language, incidentally.)

If you put a buggy program into a computer, you're only going to get metaphorical garbage in return. Software engineers are the people who try to make sure the process is more like, "gold in, gold out." Like this webpage you're reading on your computer right now, courtesy of the professional Overlords and Minions at Shmoop HQ.

You can thank a software engineer for being able to read this text right now. Probably more like ten, or even a hundred, software engineers, actually.

There are a ton of different things going on in your computer right now, from the web browser, to the other web browser, to the third web browser (you have a lot of browser tabs open, friend), to the word processor, the games, the apps…and the fan that is working overtime, trying to prevent your computer from overheating while you run way too many programs at once.

So, if you love computers, but really want to learn how to talk to them in a way that doesn't make the fan run on overdrive, this is the major for you. You will learn how to create lasting programs, and how to fix other people's programs when they mess up.

Plus, this is a major with a major payoff. Computers are here to stay, and knowing how to make 'em run is highly prized these days. Maybe during the robot-driven apocalypse, all this software engineering will even help you get in good with our future Robot Masters-in-Command.

The more you know… 

Famous People who majored in Software Engineering

  • Alexy Pazhitnov
  • Steve McConnell
  • Linus Torvalds
  • Fred Brooks
  • Tim Berners-Lee
  • Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon (we don't have to tell you this one)
  • Lisbeth Salander (of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Hiro Nakamura (Protagonist of Heroes)

Percentage of US students who major in Software Engineering:


Stats obtained from this source.