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How to become a Software Engineer: Apprenticeship vs. college

By Katie LoFaso

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  1. What are the pathways to becoming a Software Engineer?
  2. College vs. apprenticeship for Software Engineers: Pros and cons
  3. Job outlook for Software Engineers
  4. Software Engineer job skills
  5. Apprenticeship vs. college for Software Engineers FAQs
  6. A Multiverse apprenticeship can unlock your Software Engineering career

In April 2024, LinkedIn advertised over 140,000 job openings for Software Engineers. This thriving job market means it’s never been a better time to learn how to become a Software Engineer.

Software engineering is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse fields. Professionals can specialize in many areas, including back-end development, mobile app development, and network programming. As they level up their skills, many advance to management or consulting roles.

The demand for skilled professionals will remain high as technology evolves. For example, many companies are searching for Software Engineers with artificial intelligence and DevOps expertise. Aspiring tech professionals can follow several paths to gain relevant skills, such as getting a college degree or doing a professional apprenticeship

What are the pathways to becoming a Software Engineer?

People often assume that Software Engineers need a bachelor’s degree in computer science. But many top companies value interpersonal and technical skills more than a formal education.

For example, 80% of Accenture’s recent hires(opens new window) don’t have a four-year degree, and the company aims to recruit 20% of its entry-level employees from apprenticeships. Numerous startups and small tech companies also prioritize skills over degrees.

This growing emphasis on skills-based hiring means that there are many paths to a successful career in software engineering. Here are four ways to gain in-demand skills and unlock new career opportunities.


A bachelor’s degree is the traditional entryway to become a Software Engineer. You can enroll in a computer science, information technology, or software development program.

Colleges provide a solid foundation in software engineering principles and coding languages. Students may also take classes on cloud computing, game development, operating systems, software architecture, and other topics. But college is also an expensive route for many. The average cost of attending a public, in-state university in the United States is $24,000 per year(opens new window) when accounting for tuition and room and board.


A coding bootcamp is an immersive, short-term program focusing on practical skills. This training typically takes three-to-six months for full-time study; part-time programs last longer.

Bootcamps prioritize job-ready skills that tech professionals use during the software development process. Students typically learn popular programming languages, associated frameworks, and software design tools.

Bootcamps are popular, but they can be just as expensive as a year of college. Students pay an average of $8,300 in tuition(opens new window), but some programs charge over $20,000.

These programs also prioritize gaining technical skills, not learning the underlying software development principles. This knowledge gap may make it difficult for participants to adapt to new technologies and advance their careers.

Self-taught courses

Many websites offer self-taught courses on software engineering. For example, Coursera and edX have classes on back-end development, Java programming, and user interface (UX) design. These courses typically take one-to-six months.

Many self-taught courses are free or less expensive than an equivalent college class. These classes also let you customize your education by choosing when and what you study.

But self-taught courses have several downsides. You may need to design your curriculum or learning pathway, which can lead to knowledge gaps. You also won’t receive personalized feedback from the instructor on class assignments and personal projects. As a result, it may take longer to refine your software engineering skills.


An apprenticeship blends structured learning and practical experience. Apprentices typically take foundational courses to deepen their theoretical knowledge and develop coding skills. They also gain practical experience working for an employer.

Apprenticeships typically last 12-to-24 months. Multiverse’s Software Engineering program is 15 months and includes a 12-week bootcamp. The program also uses project based learning to teach apprentices how to design web pages, web applications, and other software systems; i.e., learn the durable technical skills that will most set them up for success in their roles.

Multiverse apprentices also receive free tuition and get paid a competitive wage while learning at a top company.

College vs. apprenticeship for Software Engineers: Pros and cons

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing for a software engineering job. Some people prefer a bachelor’s degree, while others favor the on-the-job learning an apprenticeship offers. Here are a few factors to consider as you weigh your options.

Pros and cons of college


  1. Expansive curriculum: A college degree offers a comprehensive education in data structures, software systems, web development, and other topics. This approach minimizes foundational knowledge gaps and keeps you on track.
  2. Networking opportunities: College students can build their professional networks by attending job fairs, connecting with alumni, and securing internships.


  1. Cost: A college education can be an expensive investment(opens new window). In-state students pay an average of $108,364 for a four-year degree. Private, nonprofit university students pay twice as much, with an average of $223,360.
  2. General education requirements: Most colleges and universities require students to take English, history, and other general education courses. These classes can strengthen your interpersonal skills but extend the length of your studies.
  3. Slow curriculum changes: Colleges update their curricula slowly, so they may not teach the latest technologies and tools that professional Software Engineers actually use in their day-to-day.

Pros and cons of an apprenticeship


  1. Hands-on experience: Apprentices prepare for the job market by developing real software solutions for their employers. They also participate in coding challenges, hackathons, and other learning experiences.
  2. Earn while you learn: Multiverse apprentices receive free tuition and a competitive salary from their employer.
  3. Personalized mentorship: Apprentices receive personalized, 1:1  and group coaching from industry experts and supervisors.
  4. Speed: You can complete an apprenticeship in as little as 12-to- 15 months.


  1. Job search challenges: Many apprentices get hired by their employers, but some must find permanent employment elsewhere. Like college graduates, they must learn how to demonstrate their skills to potential employers.

Job outlook for Software Engineers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(opens new window) projects that the number of jobs for Software Engineers will increase by 26% between 2022 and 2032. The industries(opens new window) that hire the most Software Engineers include:

  1. Computer systems design
  2. Software publishers
  3. Finance and insurance
  4. Manufacturing

Software engineering positions often have lucrative salaries and offer ample room for career growth. Here’s a typical career progression and the average salary for each role:

  1. Entry Level Software Engineer: $104,000
  2. Junior Software Engineer: $130,000
  3. Senior Software Engineer: $181,000
  4. Software Engineer Master: $214,000

Source: Glassdoor

Keep in mind that salaries will vary depending on industry, company size, and geographic location.

Software Engineer job skills

You’ll need the right skills to pursue software engineering roles. These abilities will give you a strong foundation in this field.

Programming skills

Software Engineers write code for a broad range of software applications. According to Stack Overflow’s 2023 Developer Survey(opens new window), these are the most commonly used programming languages:

  1. JavaScript
  3. Python
  4. Structured Query Language (SQL)
  5. TypeScript

Quality assurance

Software Engineers must follow strict quality and security standards to create effective software. The International Organization for Standardization(opens new window) has established widely recognized standards for software development.

Problem solving

The software development process can be complex and full of trial and error. Strong problem solving abilities will allow you to debug and troubleshoot applications.

Continuous learning

The software engineering field changes quickly as new applications, languages, and data structures emerge. A commitment to constant learning will help you adapt and upskill as needed.

Apprenticeship vs. college for Software Engineers FAQs

How long does it take to become a Software Engineer?

Earning a college degree typically takes four years. But you can become a Software Engineer in as little as 15 months with a Multiverse apprenticeship.

How hard is it to learn to code?

Anyone can learn to code with dedication and practice. HTML is the quickest programming language to learn. Other easy languages include CSS, Python, and JavaScript.

Many online forums offer free coding practice. An apprenticeship will also pay you to develop your programming skills.

A Multiverse apprenticeship can unlock your Software Engineering career

The software engineering field offers many exciting job opportunities. An apprenticeship is the best way to prepare for this career path. You’ll gain an in-depth understanding of software engineering principles and programming languages. You’ll also enhance your technical leadership skills while solving real business problems.

Explore Multiverse’s apprenticeships to learn more about how to jumpstart your career in Software Engineering. When you’re ready to start, fill out our quick application(opens new window) and our team will contact you with the next steps.

Katie LoFaso

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Team Multiverse

27 March 2024

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