Are you considering a career as a software engineer? With median salaries over $120,000 and high global demand, software engineering is a popular career choice for those who wish to work in a STEM field. But what kind of personality type do you need to have to excel in this profession? Will Introverts fare better than Extraverts? Is it better to be an analytical or a creative thinker?
Here’s what you need to know before planning a career in this exciting field.
What do software engineers do?
Software engineers are responsible for developing, testing and maintaining software applications. This can involve writing code, testing systems and debugging programs. They may also help to design software architecture based on user requirements.
While we often use the term “software engineering” to refer to the work involved in creating software applications, it is actually a broad field with plenty of specialisms. There are many types of software engineers including front-end developers who focus on the user experience, back-end developers who work with databases and DevOps engineers who work with infrastructure and focus on automating and streamlining workflows.
Each role has its own set of skills and responsibilities, although the core personality traits of software engineers tend to overlap.
The Myers and Briggs personality types of software engineers
The Myers and Briggs personality system is a useful test for evaluating the personality traits of software engineers, not least because it has received some academic scrutiny. Upon analyzing the personality profiles of 100 software engineers, researcher Luiz Fernando Capretz found that Introverted personality types dominated the profession. This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with personality type; Introverts are more likely to enjoy careers that allow them to work independently, keep a low profile and accomplish projects on their own.
Similarly, Sensing dominated over Intuition and Thinking massively dominated over Feeling. There was a slight preference for Judging over Perceiving although the difference here was less pronounced. Overall, more than half (55%) of software engineers in the survey were analytical, systematic Thinker-Judgers. This is far more than the percentage of TJs present in the general population.
Put this together, and you can see that software engineers are curious people who like to spend a lot of time alone with their thoughts, and they are also pragmatic. They tend to prefer the traditional approach of gathering data, analyzing it and following logical steps towards a solution – they follow tried-and-true processes more than you might expect and they care about the details.
Unsurprisingly, researchers found that ISTJ was overrepresented in the population of software engineers. INTP, INTJ and ISFJ may also find software engineering an attractive career choice, along with ENTP and ESTP if they can handle the long hours alone at a computer!
Don't know your Myers and Briggs type? Take the free Typefinder test here.
Holland Code types of software engineers
If you are at the beginning of your career planning journey or are thinking about a career change, then the Holland Code is another great personality test to take. This system of career classification states that people are happiest when they do work that aligns with their personality category. Unlike the Myers and Briggs test which provides broad insights into how someone manages their energy, gathers information, makes decisions and deals with the outside world, the Holland Code focuses solely on work interest areas and the careers that match them.
The six interest areas are:
- Building: Builders enjoy hands-on work that is practical, structured and mechanical.
- Thinking: Thinkers enjoy using logical processes to examine information intellectually and come up with solutions.
- Creating: Creators enjoy using creativity and imagination to express themselves through ideas, images, words, designs or music.
- Helping: Helpers enjoy working cooperatively with people and improving the lives of others.
- Persuading: Persuaders enjoy taking initiative, leading and motivating others to achieve goals.
- Organizing: Organizers enjoy working with data, structures and systems.
Of the six career categories, software engineers are predominantly Thinking individuals. This means they are inquisitive and attack problems logically, using their analytical and problem-solving skills to develop innovative software solutions. They also tend to be Organizing and Building, meaning that they are detail-oriented and organized, and like working on practical tasks in a structured environment.
If you score highly on one or all three of these work interest areas then software engineering could be a great choice for you. Conversely, if you prefer Helping, this is probably not a good career for you as the collaborative opportunities in software engineering tend to be highly task-focused, ensuring the project stays on track, rather than being a chance to help people and build relationships.
Don't know your Holland Code type? Take the free Holland Code job aptitude test here.
Enneagram Type of Software Engineers
The Enneagram takes a more holistic approach to personality than some other personality systems and there's a lot going on inside the nine types. But when it comes to making career planning choices, the Enneagram is an excellent roadmap for understanding the primary motivations that drive your actions which, in turn, can indicate what type of work is going to be most fulfilling for you.
When it comes to software engineering, the Enneagram suggests that Type 5 (Investigator), Type One (Perfectionist) and Type 6 (Skeptic) are the most suited to this type of work. Type 5s are independent critical thinkers. They enjoy solo work, think extensively before acting, and enjoy being able to fully focus on their task without interruption. Type Fives look for careers that present an intellectual challenge – software engineering could be a perfect fit.
Type Ones are reliable, perfectionist problem-solvers who strive for excellence and have an eye for detail, which are exactly the kinds of qualities needed in software engineering. They care deeply about ensuring that things are done right and that systems are secure and efficient. Type Sixes are similarly hardworking and reliable and they can also troubleshoot their way through any problem. Their superpower is being able to see potential threats, and thus create plans and systems that anticipate them.
Don't know your Enneagram type? Take the free Enneagram test here.
The common thread running through the personality types of software engineers is their desire for independence, autonomy and analytical work that allow them to use their problem-solving skills.
Sensor-Judgers in the Myers and Briggs system, Enneagram Fives, Ones and Sixes and Holland Code Thinkers and Organizers are all well-suited to software engineering, making it a great career choice for anyone who types within these categories.
But remember, software engineering is not one job but many. The field is very broad and permeates all aspects of life, from healthcare to entertainment. Take the time to explore different options and find the job that's right for you.