Skip to content

How to become a Software Development Engineer

How to Become a Software Development Engineer

Becoming a software development engineer offers Veterans and like-minded students an exciting and rewarding career path. Software development engineers constantly learn new skills, work on challenging projects and solve problems that require creative thinking. It’s an attractive choice because it involves self-discipline, dedication and perseverance.

Software Development Engineers in High Demand

Software development is a highly specialized field requiring different skill sets than other professions. It’s a fast-growing career, and the job market is short on skilled people to fill these roles. For example, check out these statistics:

  • Nationally, 1 out of every 20 jobs is a tech job.
  • The national tech workforce shortage leaves Washington state with a 55% tech labor gap – a lack of over 4000 personnel.
  • Traditional 4-year colleges fill less than 1000 tech jobs of the nearly 8000 available.
  • Average annual job openings for software developers are expected to rise by 15% within two to seven years.
  • Tech companies want a diversified workforce, emphasizing hiring women and minority candidates.

You can see why software development engineers are in high demand. This seems like a fantastic opportunity for Veterans and other students to get into a thriving job market – and it is! But the situation is even better than it seems.

Unique Opportunity for Veterans

The IT industry has unique characteristics that distinguish it from other sectors. The tech industry expects workers to be self-directed and flexible enough to adapt and learn new skills based on their training. Companies need skilled, intellectually curious people who can perform their job even as the industry changes. The needs of this market present Veterans with an opportunity that is uniquely matched to their military training and work experience. However, to take advantage of this, you need to know more about the pathways to this market. This article will provide you with an overview and show you the optimal path to becoming a software development engineer.

Pathways to Your New Career

Software development engineers help businesses and other organizations solve problems, manage special projects and teams, and create software products. This involves not only knowing and understanding software development concepts but also knowing how to work collaboratively with other people in a business setting. So, your software development engineer training program needs to prepare you in three ways:

  1. Assume your job with the right foundational tech skills but ensure you can learn and adapt to new skills as they emerge.
  2. Combine your tech skills with business and management skills.
  3. Ensure you have soft-skill training to work effectively with people.

Your journey and training to become a software development engineer will vary depending on your chosen path. Above, we outlined how your training program needs to prepare you. Now, let’s look at your options.

When looking up online what programs are available, you’ll typically find four options.

  • Registered Apprenticeships
  • 4-year degree (college or university)
  • 2-year associates degree (community or technical college)
  • Accelerated Certification and Code Camps

At first glance, these may all seem to be viable opportunities delivering the same results – but they’re not. Significant differences exist when you contrast these programs. So, what’s the impact of taking each of these routes?

How to Compare Training Programs

You can apply four metrics to distinguish the total impact each pathway offers you.

One: Time to complete.How long it takes you to complete each program is a crucial factor and, in some cases, is related to training cost. For example, programs that charge by the class hour or semester will cost more the longer you are enrolled. Additionally, you should consider how the program length will impact the timeline for getting hired and paid.

Two: Training cost.Program training costs vary. Veterans have options ranging from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Also, you’ll need to consider how you will cover your related living expenses while enrolled in your program.

Three: Timeline for getting paid.Your timeline to getting paid varies per program type. And what kind of payment you receive is also a factor to consider. For example, you may get into an internship after two years at a college or university. But that internship may pay nothing or be a bottom-of-the-latter position and pay you minimally – a sort of “pay your dues” type. Additionally, internships don’t usually pay benefits.

Four: What is taught and how.For Military Veterans, this consideration is essential. Veterans expect hands-on, intensive training from people who teach from their field experience. You’ll want a program that can give you this learning environment as much as possible.

Veterans appreciate this because they know it works and knows it is the quickest way to become good at a job. Moreover, this is the way the tech industry expects people filling roles, like software development engineers, to operate on the job.

Comparing Your Options

Registered Apprenticeship  2-year Community or Technical College  4-year College or University  Accelerated Certification & Code Camps
Time to complete  14-17 months  2 years  4 years  8 – 24 weeks 
Training cost  Free  $3500 annually (average in-district price)  $9500 annually (average in-state price)  Free to $26,000
Timeline for getting paid  18 weeks, including benefits  2+ years, depending on paid or unpaid internship  2 to 4+ years, depending on a paid or unpaid internship  Depends on the length and paid or unpaid internship** 
What is taught, and how  Students learn foundational tech, back-end dev, business and people skills. Courses taught like A-School after basic training. The apprenticeship includes 1-year On-the-job paid training.  Students learn technical skills through textbooks. Everything else must be figured out while finding jobs and working.  Students learn technical skills through textbooks. Everything else must be figured out while finding jobs and working.  Covers a wide range of skills without focusing on filling specific roles in a company. Heavy emphasis on front-end dev (coding), where companies look for back-end dev skills. 

**Internships completed with Certificate courses and Code Camps are sometimes incorrectly referred to as apprenticeships.

What These Options Mean for You

Registered Apprenticeship

A Registered Apprenticeship combines structured on-the-job training (with a mentor) and supplemental instruction. When the entire apprenticeship is complete, the apprentice is granted their journey-level worker’s card through the U.S. Registered Apprenticeship approval system.
This route is highly attractive to Veterans for several reasons. First, the cost is typically free as VA funding will cover this training.
Second, the learning and training are hands-on and competency-based. Veterans are primed for this environment due to their previous training and military service. Veterans perform best when put in real-world project-based learning environments.
Third, time-to-pay is significantly decreased and includes paid benefits. You are guaranteed a job when you complete training and instruction when you are accepted into the Registered Apprenticeship. Most students are offered a job at the beginning of training with few offers that include a percentage of pay and benefits at the program start.
Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Accenture rely on Apprenti and TLG Learning’s Registered Apprenticeship because they provide a pool of highly-motivated individuals ready to fill the role of software development engineer. These companies expect the intellectual curiosity, grit, and collaboration of transitioning Veterans and see that Registered Apprenticeships foster these qualities while preparing Veterans beyond the textbook.
2-year Community and Technical Colleges
These institutions serve an essential function in our society. But they’re just not geared and tooled for the needs of Veterans wanting to assume highly-skilled roles in the ever-changing environment of the IT industry.
While not as expensive as 4-year institutions or other accelerated certificate programs, they cost. And the learning feels slow and not engaging to Veterans with the aptitude for roles like software development engineer.
Furthermore, most learning is textbook-based and only prepares you with technical skills. You’re not trained to perform competently in the role, which is a significant part of what companies are looking for. Technical skills are important. But in the IT industry, technology can change rapidly. Companies are looking for individuals with a solid foundation in technical skills that will be flexible enough to learn new ones.
4-year Colleges and Universities
When transitioning veterans consider an IT career, 4-year institutions are like 2-year institutions. They are primarily text-based. The main differences are the length of time and increases in costs associated with colleges and universities.
There are isolated programs that perform better than most 4-year schools. However, it takes some digging to find these. But for a Veteran, this doesn’t change the differences in what and how you are taught. There may be access to higher-quality professors and resources. And if you’re looking to go into a research-based role, this may be the right choice for you.
However, if you aim to join a well-established company performing a software development engineer role with the least amount of onboarding time, you’re better suited for a Registered Apprenticeship.
Accelerated Certificate Programs and Code Camps
If you’re looking to become a software development engineer, this pathway is probably the least appealing. We’ve included it here because these options often seem attractive unless you know enough to assess them accurately. Accelerated certifications and code camps are popping up all over the place. And in some circumstances, these may be an appropriate pathway. For people who want to add a new skill to their resume, they can be a great place to go – if you can afford it.
These programs are not designed to train you to fulfill an essential role in a company. Sometimes they use the word “apprenticeship,” which can be confusing. And they focus primarily on a specific technical base rather than the host of foundations, management, and competency-based skills you need for a software development engineer position.
Likewise, companies like Amazon and Microsoft are looking for their engineers to be heavily proficient in back-end development. Most certificate programs and code camps spend most of their time on coding and front-end development, even when they claim to offer full-stack development training. The back-end development training isn’t significant.

TLG and Apprenti Apprenticeship Program

So, if you’ve read and understood the clear advantages a Registered Apprenticeship has over the other pathways to becoming a software development engineer, keep reading. We will introduce you to TLG Learning and Apprenti’s Apprenticeship program.

TLG is a training provider for the Apprenti program, and Apprenti has relationships with employers who use the program to bring in apprentices for on-the-job training. TLG IT Careers has placed aspiring candidates with premium companies and government agencies for over 25 years. Some of the companies TLG students have been employed with are:
• Amazon
• Microsoft
• Accenture
• T-Mobile
• Schneider Electric
• JP Morgan
• Watchguard
• Oracle
• And more!
There are two parts to the apprenticeship program once you are accepted. First, you complete 18 weeks of classroom training. Following that is one year of on-the-job training. As a training provider, TLG provides the classroom training prior to the on-the-job training you’ll receive with the employer.
There are three ways to get accepted into the apprenticeship program. Each of them follows this path:
1. Application
2. Aptitude Assessment
3. Interview
4. 3-5 months of technical instructor-led training
5. On-the-job training
Apply with Apprenti
You can apply for the apprenticeship with Apprenti at Next, you’ll take the Apprenti Aptitude Assessment. Then, you’ll interview with Apprenti and a hiring partner before you enter 3-5 months of instructor-led training. Finally, you’ll complete 12-months of on-the-job training.
Apply with Amazon You can apply for the apprenticeship with Amazon at Next, you’ll take the Amazon Assessment. Then, you’ll interview with Amazon before you enter 3-5 months of instructor-led training. Finally, you’ll complete 12-months of on-the-job training.
Apply with Apprenti (Interview with TLG) You can apply for the apprenticeship with Apprenti at Next, you’ll take the Apprenti Aptitude Assessment. Then, you’ll interview with TLG before you enter 3-5 months of instructor-led training. Finally, you’ll complete 12-months of on-the-job training.
If you’d like more information on how to launch your IT career, hop on a quick call and get started!
TLG IT Careers, a division of TLG Learning, has been trusted for over 25 years by aspiring IT professionals to deliver effective, specially tailored training programs and dedicated job placement support. With expert instructors and end-to-end career success coaches, TLG IT Career students are confidently accepting roles as software developers and network engineers with Fortune 500 companies like Amazon and Microsoft. 93% of IT Career alumni graduate on time. 91% of students are placed within 60 days of graduating and are offered an average entry level pay of $82,000. TLG offers several Apprenticeship options too. Over 70% of TLG placements are in paid IT Apprenticeships. 99% of over 10,000 students trained worldwide would recommend TLG Learning. Completely devoted to student success, TLG IT Careers provides monthly, free digital orientation classes for potential students to learn more.
A remote first company with headquarters located in Bellevue, Washington – TLG Learning can also be found at Camp Murray in Washington.