SDE Roadmap: How to Become a Software Engineer

Written by: Niyati Thakkar - Software Developer and Technical Writer Reviewed by: Anshuman Singh
33 Min Read

SDE Roadmap is structured to help students, freshers, and professionals enter the software world and find the best jobs at the top tech companies and startups. Bring the skills to that industry that they are looking for.

This guide will assist you with generic SDE, frontend and backend, full stack, etc developer roles. Dig deeper into your domain for projects, and skills but still, we have got you back with tips and tricks.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive program that can accelerate your SDE journey and equip you with the skills that top tech companies are looking for, Scaler’s Software Development Course provides a structured curriculum, personalized mentorship, and hands-on project experience to help you achieve your goals.

This guide focuses on building foundations of problem-solving and interviews with companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Google Microsoft, Uber, etc. You are free to customize your adventure of SDE.

SDE Roadmap Explained (for SDE 1, SDE 2, SDE 3): 

Now let us move ahead with a clear and concise guide for individuals at various stages of their software development careers, from SDE 1 to SDE 3. It offers essential insights and strategies to help you progress and succeed in your role.

1. Foundational Knowledge of Various Programming Languages

Pick a programming language of your choice and start learning basic concepts of it. Once you think you are pretty much familiar with the basics, you can start learning advanced topics of that language. 

You can choose any programming language, there are so many to choose from C++, C, Java, Python, Kotlin, Swift, etc. At the beginning of your career choose a low-level language like C, C++, or Java. Automated languages like Python and Kotlin are easy to learn initially but don’t help you with important concepts. 

Knowing a language is not always about knowing the syntax of the code. As you learn more about a language, you learn how it is working internally, which operations are costly, what are the conversions involved, how it optimizes, etc. Although you don’t always move to these details, initially learn how to code and later after a few months explore its working. Refer to the official documentation for learning advanced topics for programming languages.

Learn time and space complexity calculation for a given code or the code you are writing. Understand best case, average case, and worst case complexity. This will be helpful when in later stages you try to optimize your code.

2. Building a Strong Foundation on DSA

DSA stands for data structures and algorithms. Once you are familiar with the language of your choice, you are required to know the data structures and algorithms. 

Data Structures are used to store, retrieve, process, and organize data. Choosing the right data structure and algorithm can make a program considerably efficient. Most of the time, we are dealing with data product-based companies who have multiple technical rounds where they ask DSA questions of varying complexity to find candidates having a good grasp on these.

Data Structures

  • Master common data structures – Arrays, Stack, Queue, LinkedLists, Set, HashMap, Tree, Graph, Heap, etc. 
  • Know the purposes of each data structure, and use them a few times in your code. 
  • Learn the workings and try to implement these data structures in your code.


  • Learn basic sorting and searching algorithms like Binary search, Insertion sort, Selection sort, Quick sort, Merge sort, Count sort, etc. 
  • Practice advanced algorithms such as Backtracking, Bit Manipulation, Dynamic Programming, Graph algorithms, etc.

Various YouTube channels provide complete playlists for DSA, and books such as “Introduction to Algorithms”, “Algorithms”, “Advanced Data Structures”, etc. can be helpful. If you want a guided path, Scaler’s course for DSA can be really helpful. Also, some of the creators have provided a DSA sheet consisting of 100 to 400 frequently asked questions or you can refer to the Interviewbit DSA track which broadly covers almost all the topics. 

By the end of this module, you should be extremely confident in implementing the basic and advanced data structures and algorithms. Apply time and space complexity concepts to these. 

A complete list of data structures and algorithms along with practice problems asked in interviews with popular companies can be found on InterviewBit. Leetcode is also a popular platform to learn coding.

Questions on these platforms are marked Easy, Medium, and Hard/Difficult. In the interviews of SDE1 Easy and Medium questions are asked most of the time, Medium and Hard questions are for SDE2 and SDE3 interviews. Still, it is suggested to solve all types of questions as there are only a few Hard types of problems that are difficult to solve.

3. Master Core Computer Science Subjects 

Knowledge of basic computer science subjects will help in interviews as well as professional work. They help in understanding the complete flow and working of application development. By mastering these topics you will be able to solve complex problems, be able to create robust software, indulge in technical discussions, etc. Thus, take some time and have a good understanding of these. Reference books, courses, college projects, etc. can prove to be helpful while learning these. 


Database Management Systems are used to organize the data in a structured way. Data is present in ample amounts within the company. This needs to be stored, used, and applied appropriately for the company’s benefit. 

For SDE1 learn the basics of DBMS, and know the CRUD operations with a basic DBMS like SQL. Create projects that use a database and are dynamically interacting with the database. 

For SDE2 and SDE3 read books on Database Management, and learn architectural designing of Databases, Normalization, etc. especially for the one’s aiming for an administrator role. Some of the famous books are “Fundamentals of Database Systems”, “Database System Concepts”, and “Fundamentals of Database Management Systems”.

Computer Networks

Computer Networks also known as CN is the study of interconnected computing devices for the exchange and sharing of data and resources. It comprises interconnected and interconnected networks. 

Possibly, you will hardly need it at the SDE1 level but as your experience grows you will see a bigger picture of the product and will be required to apply concepts like Computer Networks.

Books are the best resource to learn such complex topics. Refer to “Computer Networking – Top Down Approach by Kurose, Ross”, “Computer Networks by Tanenbaum”, “TCP/IP illustrated by Richard Stevens”, etc.

Operating Systems

Operating Systems is the most important topic for all the roles. You must know the architecture and the System you are working on. Linux, MacOS, and Windows are widely used, they are the interface between the hardware and the software. If you learn operating systems you will realize how beautifully these are implemented and how our code is executed optimally in fractions of seconds.

There are several ways to learn operating systems, you can refer to books, articles, courses, YouTube, etc. 

Computer Architecture  

Computer architecture is a set of components that form components of a computer system. It consists of system design, instruction set architecture, and microarchitecture. 

Computer architecture is an advanced topic and is useful, especially for SDE3 or SDE2. Online courses on platforms like Udemy or Coursera can surely help in learning these concepts. 

Software Engineering Basics

Explore the basics of software engineering like engineering principles, processes, architecture, tools, stacks, etc. Also, learn soft skills like good listening, communication, teamwork, documentation, etc. 

It is not possible and necessary to read all the books at a time, but when you are in college, or your initial years start reading these books. You are only expected to know the basics and you are not expected to read but it will surely help you stand out at times. These topics are taught in university education as courses.

4. Learn Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) Concepts

OOP paradigm features such as Abstraction, Encapsulation, Inheritance, and Polymorphism with real-life relation. C, C++, and Java are object-oriented programming languages. Everything in OOP languages is seen as classes and objects. 

OOP is a very elementary topic it is really easy to understand as it relates a lot to the real world. 

Questions on OOP are asked in the initial coding test in MCQs or during interviews. Some of the features are language-specific like Java doesn’t provide multiple inheritance, so such cases must be clear as well. Features of OOPs, their real-life example, types, etc are common interview questions. 

For each Feature of OOP

  • Have in-depth knowledge of inheritance.
  • Implementation of inheritance and its various types such as hybrid, multiple, etc. in your code.
  • Understand how real-world analogy. See how this interface is used in the real-world industry. What is a handler, provider, helper, etc.

Refer to this sheet for all the resources and study material.

5.  Learn High-Level Design (HLD) and Low-Level Design (LLD) for Interview

During a Low-level Design Interview, the answers are expected based on years of experience of an individual. Your code must follow OOP principles and design patterns. There is no complete solution and therefore the choices you make the decisions you take are your thought process is analyzed think out loud.

For SDE2 and SDE3 there is an interview round of System Design. Companies hire individuals who can develop robust and scalable applications and have a good understanding of the tradeoffs. HLD is mostly about the architecture that will be used to develop a system. The architecture diagram is useful to see the entire system and its components and interfaces.

LLD RoadMap

  • Design Patterns: Learn various design patterns, you may be asked to talk about them during interviews. 
  • OOP: Study Object Oriented Programming principles well and know how to apply them.
  • SOLID Principal: You can support your reasoning during the interview with the help of Solid Principals. 
  • Previously Asked Questions: ALways refer to questions asked previously, it will help you have a good understanding of the problem during the interview.  
  • Questions:
  • Interview: 
    • Understand the problem, if you have questions ask. Collect all the required details and then start with basic features and functionalities.
    • Define classes/ objects
    • Establish the relationship between them.
    • Define methods to fulfill the requirements.
    • Apply design patterns and OOD principles.
    • If asked to write code, write well-structured code.

HLD Roadmap

  • Refer to this video to understand the process, question, and response for an HLD.
  • Read basic system design principles.
    • Clarify the requirements including functional and non-functional
    • Estimate the resources required for storage, bandwidth, etc
    • Understand the data flow
    • Design high-level components
    • Design the architecture of the system
    • Identify and address the issues
  • Go through example questions and answers. 
  • Pick up fresh questions and try to answer them through reasoning.


You must have a good reason for each design you have made in the design.

Scaler’s Software Development Course provides in-depth training on Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) concepts, design patterns, and their practical applications in real-world scenarios. Master these essential skills and boost your confidence for technical interviews.

6. Build Hands-on Projects

Learning concepts is okay, but recruiters are more interested if you can show them that you can also apply these concepts. Hands-on projects or learning by doing is a very common practice followed by engineers to expertise a skill. 

Whatever you learn, try making a small project based on it. Also, when you complete the multiple topics apply it in a big project. This project will help in showcasing your skills to the interviewers. 

Some of the most common projects include To-Do Lists, E-commerce websites, and Management systems. Refer to these projects, study them, and try to build your own version. You can also refer to open-source projects to get a better idea of how code is written for huge projects. 

You can also refer to famous websites, applications, or services and try to clone them as your mini version of that project. Maybe add a new feature that you wished it had and make improvements.

  • E-commerce Website: It is an e-commerce website where they have used web development and a database.
  • Popular Clones: Here they have provided clones of various websites like Amazon, Netflix, etc. It is good to explore and have a basic idea of how these would be working. 
  • Project ideas and resources: Here’s a list of projects that you can explore and build your own. For beginners start with simple projects like password generator or the tic tac toe. Later you can build intermediate projects like chatbots, movie apps, etc. 

Building hands-on projects enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-confidence, critical thinking, etc. One learns project management and sees a clear picture of everything. 

7. Get Certifications on Trending Technologies

Professional certifications help in personal growth and learning new concepts from industry experts. These provide the flexibility to learn from anywhere and even professionals can use certification courses to upskill and receive promotions in their current jobs. This investment of time and resources can provide specialization in one domain and enhance our skill set and understanding of that topic. 

Certifications can help you gain a competitive advantage among others. Learning from unreliable resources sometimes misses the best practices but courses are built to go in the right flow and teach exactly what’s used in the companies. You can check our website for certification courses.

Some of the popular certifications you can rely on are:

  1. IBM DevOps and Software Engineering Professional Certificate: This is perfect for beginners looking to launch their career in the industry. It provides software development skills along with DevOps, and other tools and technologies.
  2. AWS Certified Developer – Associate: Almost every company is either already using the cloud or is shifting its resources to the cloud. Having knowledge of one of the cloud services is really important.
  3. Microsoft Azure Fundamentals: Azure is again another cloud platform by Microsoft. Along with the cloud, it is beneficial to know software engineering concepts like storage, development, networking, security, etc.
  4. IEEE Professional Software Developer Certification: This professional certification is popular among engineers and is recognized by companies. It is mainly focused for advanced developers.

As an engineer, we are never going to work with a single technology or the same things. We need to upskill now and then to stay competitive. Certifications provide projects and proof to recruiters that make you a perfect fit for the role.

8. Sharpen Your Soft skills and Analytical Skills

Apart from technical skills, an engineer is expected to hold soft skills and analytical skills which will help them interact with clients and handle problems wisely. Engineers are needed to work in teams, communicate, be expressive while sharing their ideas as well as be willing to understand alternative approaches suggested by others.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are essential for software developers. Whether be it interpersonal skills or technical skills both are extremely important for an engineer. As a developer one is required to communicate complex technical ideas or problems to colleagues or clients. This requires a clear understanding as well as the ability to express and interpret your ideas properly. 

Similarly, Emotional intelligence is necessary to understand one’s attributes and develop empathy towards teammates, customers, and others. 

Here are some tips to improve soft skills:

  • Seek feedback
  • Communicate regularly
  • Build honest and strong relationships
  • Get outside your comfort zone
  • Be always ready to learn
  • Take leadership responsibilities whenever possible 
  • Always be prepared to adapt and be flexible to work and learn new things

Analytical Skills

Decision-making is one of the skills that most of the recruiters look for in an individual. Analytical skills refer to one’s ability to solve problems, make decisions, analyze information, etc. Simple and complex problems can be sorted by detecting patterns and integrating them with existing data.

Here are some of the analytical skills one should work on:

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Data Analysis
  • Organization

9. Prepare for Interviews by Solving Practice Questions

Solving questions will help you have a stronger understanding of the technical topics and build a problem-solving mindset. You will be able to know fundamental concepts and build confidence in interviews. Also, solving a particular type of question will help you solve similar problems. 

  • For the last few months before the interview process start solving DSA problems. Do not miss out on any data structure or algorithm. 
  • Learn design principles to make your code follow good coding practices.
  • Follow the following coding principles:
    • DRY – Don’t Repeat Yourself
    • YAGNI (You aren’t gonna need it)
    • SOLID principles
    • Separation of Concerns
  • Know your projects well – study them properly and be prepared to answer every single detail about them.
  • Practice mock sessions of problem-solving as well as interview

Preparing for SDE 1 Interview

Specifically for the SDE1 interview follow these additional steps:

  • Study Computer Science subjects like computer networks, object-oriented programming, databases, etc.
  • Refer to technical blogs as well as system design videos to tackle system design videos.
  • Solve problems on InterviewBIT and leetcode

Preparing for SDE 2 Interview 

  • You can follow a curated list of DSA questions
  • Prepare for the machine coding round
  • System design round
  • Look into company-specific problems or any specific topic from which they are asking questions.

Preparing for SDE 3 Interview

  • Here the DSA questions can be expected of Hard difficulty level.
  • Preparation will be the same as SDE2, expectations of a wider view of the system and architecture are high.
  • Code submitted must be secure, easily maintainable, scalable, extensible inventible, etc.

You will get interview experience articles on Medium, LinkedIn, Quora, and other similar websites which can be helpful in the preparation. You may also contact existing employees on LinkedIn to learn more about the company’s interview process.

To gain a systematic and comprehensive approach to interview preparation, including guided practice with coding problems, design principles, and mock interviews, consider enrolling in Scaler’s Software Development Course. Our expert instructors and personalized feedback can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and tailor your preparation for success.

10. Types of Questions Asked in SDE 1, SDE 2, SDE 3

Soft skills questions and DSA questions are very common for all the roles.


  • Basic Data Structures and Algorithms: DSA questions are usually part of the initial coding and interview rounds for SDE1. It involves questions of linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, hash tables, sorting, etc. DSA questions difficulty may vary from easy to medium and in some of the hard problems too.
  • Computer Science Subjects: Learn Operating Systems, Computer Networks, System Architecture, etc. computer science subjects.
  • Problem-Solving: In the problem-solving section, the ability to break down problems, use or come up with efficient algorithms, write clean code, etc are tested. A strong understanding of DSA and computer science subjects along with logical thinking is desired.
  • System Design: Questions based on projects, class design, architectural principles, etc.
  • Non-Technical Questions: Non-technical questions include soft skills, problem-solving, ethics, teamwork, communication, etc. Some companies also have an initial aptitude round for testing logical skills and an HR round at the end to test the soft skills of an individual.


  • Advanced DSA: The complexity of data structures and algorithms questions increased it requires a better understanding of basic as well as advanced topics such as heaps, graphs, advanced tree operations, and algorithms.
  • Object-oriented Design: Questions based on design, classes, and objects, and four pillars of OOP namely inheritance, encapsulation, polymorphism, and abstraction.
  • System Design: It involves an understanding of the database and organization of data. Through questions and tasks assigned one’s ability to design scalable and efficient systems is tested. Understanding of distributed systems, load balancing, caching, etc. is examined. 
  • Behavioral Questions:  For mid-level roles, the questions are meant to understand the candidate’s experience, teamwork, management, guiding juniors, handling challenges and conflicts, judgments, etc.
  • Machine Coding: Machine coding questions such as designing a snake and ladder, are asked with testing and other development principles. It is an individual round of 1.5 to 3 hours where all the aspects of development are tested.


  • Advanced-Data Structures and Algorithms: Deep understanding along with the capability to design complex systems is tested.
  • Leadership and Mentorship: At higher positions questions are related to leading a team, mentoring juniors, taking architectural and difficult decisions, etc.
  • Scalable System Design: As they are responsible for architecture and design decisions that will affect the cost of the company they are given tasks accordingly.
  • Machine Coding: The machine coding round is also for SDE3, the complexity of the problems is higher in this round and is role-specific.

11. Prepare a Unique and Tailored Resume 

  • For SDE1 you must have a 1-page Resume listing your education and experience in the recent first order.
  • Make sure to customize for specific companies by adding keywords mentioned in the requirements.
  • Keep it updated with projects, certifications, education, jobs, etc.
  • If the resume exceeds 1 page, remove irrelevant stuff and only include experiences that are relevant to the job.
  • Use a standard template, and make sure to include a cover letter wherever asked, it may be optional at places but helps increase your chances of selection. Harvard’s resume and cover letter are ideal to use.
  • Some companies provide their guidelines which must also be considered.
  • SDE2 and SDE3 will require a CV rather than a resume as they have more stuff to showcase. 

Final Words – Hear it from Experts

Here are some tips from experts to avoid getting stuck in tutorial hell and make the most out of your learning journey:

1. Focus on Implementation: Balance tutorial learning with hands-on implementation. Merely consuming tutorials doesn’t guarantee learning; it’s the actual implementation that solidifies your understanding.

2. Problem-Solving Over Solutions: Don’t rush to solutions for past interview questions. Instead, hone your problem-solving skills by attempting to solve problems related to data structures and algorithms (DSA) on your own.

3. Build Strong Foundations: Don’t rely solely on past interview questions. Ensure you have a strong foundation and problem-solving skills to tackle a variety of challenges effectively.

4. Avoid Premature Solutions: Resist the temptation to peek at solutions too soon. Invest ample time in solving problems yourself before seeking external help.

5. Write Readable Code: Practice writing clean, modular code with meaningful variable names. This practice not only aids in technical interviews but also enhances your coding skills overall.

6. Know Your Projects: Be well-versed in explaining your projects, whether they’re self-initiated, part of your job, or academic endeavors. Relate project experiences to potential behavioral interview questions for better articulation.

7. Situational Questions: Familiarize yourself with common situational questions from resources like “Cracking the Coding Interview.” Be prepared to discuss challenging situations, key learnings, conflicts, and enjoyable experiences from your projects or work experiences.

How Scaler Academy Can Help in Your SDE Journey?

Transitioning into a successful Software Development Engineer (SDE) role requires more than just technical skills; it demands a deep understanding of the ever-evolving industry landscape. Scaler’s Software Development Course emerges as a pivotal player in this journey, offering a multifaceted platform tailored to meet the practical demands of the IT sector. Here’s a condensed look at how Scaler Academy contributes to SDE career advancement:

Curriculum Design

Scaler’s curriculum is meticulously crafted to reflect the current and future needs of the tech industry, with emphasis on areas like Data Science, Machine Learning, and DevOps.

Mentorship Programs

Led by industry veterans, Scaler’s mentorship programs offer invaluable insights into the realities of tech careers.

Community Engagement

Scaler cultivates a vibrant community that encourages mutual learning and support. This network facilitates knowledge exchange and fosters professional connections critical for career progression.

Bridging Industry-Academia Gaps

Through hands-on education, Scaler addresses the gap between academic learning and industry demands. This approach prepares learners to tackle real-world challenges effectively, smoothing their transition into professional roles.

Personalized Learning Paths

Recognizing individual learning needs and career aspirations, Scaler provides personalized educational experiences. This tailored approach allows learners to focus on areas most relevant to their goals, optimizing their learning journey.

Career Support Services

Beyond education, Scaler offers comprehensive career support, including resume building, interview preparation, and placement assistance.

Read These Important Roadmaps: More Paths to Career Success

DSA RoadmapMLOps Roadmap
DevOps RoadmapData Science Roadmap
Web Development RoadmapData Engineer Roadmap
Full Stack Developer RoadmapData Analyst Roadmap
Front-end Developer RoadmapMachine Learning Roadmap
Back-end Developer RoadmapSoftware Architect Roadmap

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential steps to kickstart your SDE roadmap?

To kickstart your SDE roadmap, learn the fundamentals of programming languages, data structures, and algorithms. Practice regularly through coding exercises and challenges. As you progress, delve into more advanced topics like software design principles, system architecture, and development methodologies.

How do I prepare for SDE from scratch?

Preparation for SDE from scratch involves learning the basics of programming languages, understanding fundamental data structures and algorithms, and gaining hands-on experience through projects and coding exercises. Online tutorials, courses, and coding platforms can be valuable resources for self-learning.

How long does it take to become proficient in programming languages as a beginner?

Developing a strong foundation and proficiency in a programming language may take several months to a year. However, it depends on dedication, resources, and experience.

Is a computer science degree necessary to become an SDE?

A computer science degree provides a structured education and theoretical background in software development, it’s not strictly necessary to become an SDE.

What’s the importance of contributing to open-source projects during the learning journey?

Contributing to open-source projects during the learning journey is important as it offers real-world coding experience, exposure to collaborative development practices, and the opportunity to work on meaningful projects with a community of developers.

Is it necessary to memorize algorithms and data structures for SDE interviews?

Once you apply the knowledge of data structures and algorithms to enough problems, you will not be required to memorize it. Thus, a good understanding of DSA and its application is important.

Are certifications necessary for an aspiring Software Development Engineer (SDE)?

Certifications are not strictly necessary for aspiring SDEs, but they can be beneficial for demonstrating proficiency in specific technologies or frameworks. However, practical coding skills and problem-solving abilities are typically more valued in the industry.

What is the difference between SDE 1, SDE 2, and SDE 3 roles?

SDE 1, SDE 2, and SDE 3 roles typically denote different levels of experience and responsibility within a software development organization. SDE 1 is typically an entry-level position for recent graduates or those with minimal industry experience. SDE 2 usually requires several years of experience and proficiency in software development practices. SDE 3 is a senior-level role with significant expertise in software architecture, design, and leadership.

How can one balance theory and practical application in their SDE learning journey?

Understand the fundamental concepts and theories behind software development while also gaining hands-on experience through coding projects, internships, and real-world applications.

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By Niyati Thakkar Software Developer and Technical Writer
Niyati Thakkar, a junior software engineer, is excited to start her journey in the world of technology. She has a strong passion for learning and is dedicated to achieving excellence. Niyati aims to grow in her field and make meaningful contributions to software development.
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