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How to Become a Software Engineering Manager

You've spent years building up your technical skills as a software engineer, and now you want to take the next step. Though those problem-solving skills are important, if you want to learn how to become a software engineering manager, you need several additional soft skills to help you complete the jump from software engineer to manager.

Many larger companies have a career ladder that allows new hires to have the opportunity to build their skills to become managers. However, if you're at a company that doesn't have that structure, you can still secure an engineering leadership role with hard work, patience, and plenty of experience in the industry.

What Is a Software Engineering Manager?

A software engineering manager is an experienced software engineer who helps supervise the design and development of software projects. This role is also referred to as an engineering manager, and many engineering departments employ several of these individuals to keep multiple projects running smoothly.

This role is different from a senior software engineer, which is a career focused on creating products more than managing people. After you've invested the time and effort it takes to reach this stage of your career, it's up to you if you want to develop your leadership skills to go down the managerial path.

Software Engineering Manager Job Description

Software engineering managers ensure that engineering teams are operating smoothly and efficiently while completing projects. This role requires quality engineering experience and great management skills. You need to understand the technical aspects of the products you're working on, while also understanding the strengths of the team in charge of building them.

Besides fostering a positive environment for their team, these managers give updates on software engineering projects to stakeholders across the company. They keep track of work tickets, provide progress reports, and make sure to create an efficient and positive engineering culture in the workplace.

Software Engineering Manager Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for a software engineering manager is about $141,385, according to PayScale. An entry-level software engineering manager can expect to earn around $121,730, while an experienced manager can expect to make around $144,961 per year. Of course, in this position, you'll need years of experience before you earn entry-level job opportunities.

The field is growing at about half the rate of most other jobs in 2021. The engineering manager field is expected to grow four percent by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Your career path may eventually lead to leadership opportunities if you get started as a software developer or engineer now.

Top Reasons to Become a Software Engineering Manager in 2021

Software engineering managers have a range of job responsibilities and can have a huge impact on businesses. Because of their extraordinary project management skills and the crucial role they play for software development teams, software engineering managers are paid handsomely. Below are a few of the best reasons to join the software engineering manager ranks.

  • Opportunities to innovate. In this position, you have the chance to produce valuable software with large-scale implications for our society. 
  • The chance to work with others. This managerial role allows you to work with a team of people who are all focused on common business goals. If you're a people person, this might be a good fit for you.
  • Career stability. Many software engineering managers at tech companies started at entry-level roles and worked their way up. This position can be part of a great long-term career plan.
  • Great compensation. The average salary for software engineering managers is nearly triple the national mean salary of $56,310, according to BLS. You'll be well compensated for your efforts in the industry.

Software Engineering Manager Job Requirements

Many software engineering managers are experienced software engineers who can give useful practical advice to the people they're supervising. Effective managers combine this experience with emotional intelligence that can head off workplace politics and create a safe environment that fosters success. Below are some additional common software engineering manager job requirements.

  • Strong interpersonal skills. You'll have to use your interpersonal skills to help teams of people work together efficiently on common business objectives.
  • Good tech skills. As we mentioned above, the best software engineering managers have strong tech skills. By starting your professional career doing the work you're asking others to do, you'll know how to best advise team members in different situations, and have a good sense of the time and effort tasks will take.
  • Project management skills. You'll need to create a safe environment for team members to innovate together, but you'll also have to make sure they complete projects in a timely and inexpensive fashion.
  • A mind for business. In this position, you have a stake in both the business and tech sides of a company. You have to anticipate what upper management is expecting when following directions or giving presentations.

Types of Software Engineering Manager Careers

There are a few different roles that you might find while searching listings for software engineering managers. Each of these roles can make a positive impact on a final product throughout a development cycle, but there are a few key differences to keep in mind. 

Head of Engineering

The head of engineering is responsible for most of the day-to-day management operations on a project. They’re the ones who listen to the staff, mentor new engineers, and keep track of deadlines.

Senior Engineering Manager

Senior engineering managers supervise software engineering managers while meeting regularly with them and their teams. While a standard engineering manager might have to supervise one team at a time, a senior engineering manager may be responsible for two or more.

Chief Technical Officer (CTO)

A CTO is responsible for taking a look at the culture outside of the company and finding ways to ensure it stays relevant. They’ll set broad strategies for the company and communicate with stakeholders outside of it. Managers below the rank of chief technical officer are usually responsible for executing the CTO’s vision. 

Software Engineering Manager Meaning: What Does a Software Engineering Manager Do?

Software engineering managers set priorities, perform a variety of management duties, and keep stakeholders informed on the product's needs and status. These primary responsibilities will make up the majority of what you would do in this position.

Sets Priorities

At the beginning of a software development cycle, it can be difficult to nail down the specifics of a new project. Everyone will want something different from the product, and it'll be up to you to sort out the list of wants and needs to give your team direction.

Performs a Variety of Management Duties

As a software engineering manager, you'll be responsible for your team's development. This can include giving practical advice, conducting performance reviews, and giving your team a career growth trajectory. Team members will look to you for guidance both personally and professionally.

Keeps Stakeholders Informed

After those priorities we mentioned above have been set, it will fall on you to ensure that they're carried out in a way that keeps both your team and management happy. You'll have to ensure that everyone knows what they're supposed to be doing, and how the project is progressing in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

Essential Software Engineering Manager Skills

You will need a few key skills to create a sustainable software engineering management career. These skills consist of three key types: communication skills, coding skills, and planning skills. Find out more about these categories below.


You'll need strong active listening skills to absorb what management expects and to keep a handle on how your team is feeling about the project. To avoid confusion, you'll also need to clearly and concisely convey what every member of your team should be doing.


We've said numerous times that senior software managers have to put in the time to master tech skills to earn an engineering management role. Comprehensive knowledge of software development and engineering prevents you from overpromising and underdelivering. It also allows you to step in to help team members when necessary and keep projects on track.


A good manager knows how to take advantage of every asset on their team to achieve success. You should be able to keep your timeline in check by delegating responsibilities when necessary and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Software Engineering Manager?

It takes around four to six years to become a software engineering manager. Not only do you have to become a strong coder who can ensure consistent software quality, but you also have to have an idea of the broader strategy of the company and develop good relationships with upper management.

Remember that software engineering managers usually decide to go into management instead of working as senior software developers. This means you have to have a similar level of prowess to be ready to lead your peers through important projects for your company.

Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Software Engineering Manager?

Yes, a coding bootcamp is a great first step on the path to becoming a software engineering manager. You can learn software development skills from top to bottom while forming connections with several tech companies. 

As it's only the first step to software engineering prowess, you'll have to put in more work after graduation to achieve your career goals. You'll need to hone both your software engineering skills and your managerial skills if you're going to succeed in the position. And if you’re already a software engineer, you can look into project management bootcamps

Can I Become a Software Engineering Manager from Home?

Yes, you can become a software engineering manager from home. You can attend an online coding bootcamp to learn the necessary technical skills, and then get a remote job upon graduation. However, you'd have to work remotely for years before you were at the stage where you could become a software engineering manager.

How to Become a Software Engineering Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming a software engineering manager takes a lot of knowledge and hard work, but the path towards this career is not very complicated. Below is a guide to help you get started.  

Step 1: Learn Software Engineering Skills

As we've previously discussed, you can learn important software engineering skills at a coding bootcamp or through a more traditional learning path such as a bachelor’s degree. However you learn these skills, you'll enter the field as a junior-level software engineer or software developer. From there, you'll have to hone your skills and wait for your opportunity.

Step 2: Gain Experience

You can gain experience as a software engineer by taking freelance work, or through an entry-level job at a tech company. The more time you spend in the field, and the more hard and soft skills you develop, the more growth opportunities will become available to you.

Step 3: Take the Next Step

After you've honed your skills and displayed managerial qualities to executives at your company, you'll find more leadership opportunities start to come your way. Initially, your managers will rely on you to set the pace for your team members, but eventually, you'll find yourself in charge of large teams of people.

Best Schools and Education for a Software Engineering Manager Career

Before you get your first software engineering manager job, you have to start from the very beginning. You've got several options for learning the basics of software engineering. After you've earned some credentials that show you're capable of doing the work, you'll be well on your way to landing the position you've been hoping for.

Software Engineering Manager Bootcamps

There are plenty of strong coding bootcamp programs for software engineering. The right one for you will depend on price, format, and subject matter. Different bootcamps focus on different tech skills, so it’s important to find a relevant program. For example, if you want to go into game programming, you’ll be better off in a program that focuses on C#/.NET instead of JavaScript.

Community College

Community colleges provide something of a middle ground between coding bootcamps and a four-year degree. You'll be able to get an associate degree after two years of study, usually at a lower cost than a bachelor's degree.

Many community colleges now offer software engineering courses. These courses tend to focus on the hard skills that you need to do the work. Many employers will appreciate the fact that you have some sort of degree, and it might open a few more doors than a coding bootcamp would.

Software Engineering Manager Degrees

Though you can work your way up at a company without ever getting a bachelor's degree, many job listings will require them. These programs train you in theoretical software engineering ideas on top of the hard skills you need to succeed. Four-year degrees are more expensive, but they open the most doors for entry-level software engineers who hope to advance to a managerial role.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, you can advance to a software engineering master's degree, though this is often an option people take later in their careers. With a master's degree in computer science or a similar field, you can secure a software engineering manager job at some of the biggest technology companies in the world. 

You can start with a coding bootcamp, and then earn your degrees online while finding your footing in the field. This route allows you to take advantage of the lower cost and quicker turnaround of coding bootcamps, while also allowing you to lean on your academic credentials to advance your career after a few years. 

The Most Important Software Engineering Manager Certifications

Certifications are a great way to show employers that you're committed to deepening your skillset, while also picking up more knowledge about your profession. These certifications show you've mastered product development lifecycles, software engineering skills, and more. 

Certified Software Engineer

The Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) is an organization that certifies individuals in many red-hot tech fields. ICCP’s Certified Software Engineer certification is only awarded to engineers who complete its Information Systems Core, Software Engineering, and Object Oriented Analysis and Design exams. 

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

This certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) shows that its holder has learned several approaches to Agile management, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, test-driven development, and more. You need previous training in Agile practices and project experience before earning your PMI-ACP certification.

AWS Certified Developer - Associate

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest cloud computing platforms in the world. This means many of the companies you may end up working for rely on it. By getting your AWS Certified Developer certification, you can show that you're well versed in the platform.

How to Prepare for Your Software Engineering Manager Job Interview

If you’re lucky, you may just organically be promoted to the position from within your company without an interview. However, if you're looking to enter a company from the outside, you'll need to prove your leadership bona fides in a job interview. It's a good idea to review common Agile and DevOps leadership strategies to help you prepare.

Below are a few common questions you might hear during your interview.

Software Engineering Manager Job Interview Practice Questions

  • Why did you decide to move into management?
  • Can you tell us about a time where you had to deliver feedback recently, and how you did it?
  • What's most important to you when hiring a new team member?
  • How do you manage priorities when your team is juggling multiple requests?

Should I Become a Software Engineering Manager in 2021?

If you like working with people to bring projects to life, then yes. Software engineering management won't be easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding positions at a company. You're responsible for developing talent, leading teams through successful builds, and much more. It can be taxing, but if you like a challenge, this position could be right for you.


Can You Become a Software Engineering Manager Without a Degree?
You can become a software engineering manager without a degree. It takes hard work, luck, and commitment, and you may have to stick with one company while you wait for opportunities, but it's possible.
Is It Hard to Become a Software Engineering Manager?
Yes, it's hard to become a software engineering manager. These leaders need a delicate balance of people skills and technical prowess that takes years to develop. You’re likely to face personnel challenges and project hiccups as you get established. After you've become established in your role and built a positive engineering culture, however, it should get easier.
What Is the Career Path of a Software Engineering Manager?
Software engineering managers usually gain background knowledge by attending a coding bootcamp or gaining a degree. From there, they get a job and work for four to six years to hone their soft skills and hard skills. At that point, they're ready to apply for an opening at their existing company or leave to find work elsewhere.
Is a Software Engineering Manager a Stressful Job?
It can be stressful to be a software engineering manager. You'll have pressure from your team as well as management to hit milestones on your project. The best ways to ensure you have as little stress as possible are to communicate clearly with your team and management and to plan out everything as early as possible.
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