In simple terms, a software developer is a person who creates computer software. However, the job of a software developer is anything but simple; software developers brainstorm and develop computer programs of all sorts. Software developers play a vital role in the current world we live in and are in demand in many cities and sectors.
To become a software developer, you must understand what they do, the steps and skills required to become a developer, and the career prospects and opportunities that someone in the field may pursue.
What Do Software Developers Do?
Before deciding to pursue a career as a software developer, you must understand the role and responsibilities involved and the elements of the job that distinguish them from other computer specialists.
Roles and Responsibilities
Software developers are responsible for computer programs, including mobile applications. Usually, the goal of a software developer is to analyze user needs to create software meant to solve a problem for its intended audience. They may also create software for entertainment purposes or to make the life of the user easier. They may focus on just one program or application or design networks or systems that power programs.
Software developers don’t only create software. They will test and develop the software they create. Developers often collaborate with other computer specialists to ensure their software is suitable for the intended audience and functioning properly.
One of the major responsibilities of software developers is overseeing the writing of code. After designing, creating, and drafting each step of the process, software developers will then instruct programmers on how to write the code for the program.
There are mainly two types of software developers:
Applications Software Developers
Applications software developers are primarily responsible for designing computer or mobile applications. They often create software for consumers, and therefore must have a strong understanding of their intended users’ needs to develop software solutions, monitor performance, and modify programs.
Systems Software Developers
System software developers primarily focus on software concerned with operating systems and network distribution. They typically design solutions for enterprise organizations of different industries, such as medical, military, business, and communications.
Software Development vs. Software Engineering
You may hear the terms “software developer” and “software engineer” used interchangeably. In actuality, these two professions are usually distinct, although that often depends on the state or company that employs them.
The key difference between software developers and software engineers is engineering principles. Essentially, software engineers should be able to do everything that a software developer can do. While software developers focus on creating functional software, engineers oversee the system as a whole.
Software engineers typically apply engineering principles to create software and often lead a team of other software professionals. Depending on the state, only individuals who go through specific schooling and receive special qualifications may call themselves engineers. However, some people are software engineers who choose to work as software developers.
If you want to work in software, becoming a software developer or software engineer are not your only choices; there are many other job options in the field of software. There are also software programmers whose responsibilities are essentially limited to anything related to coding. Although software developers can code, developers often seek software programmers to write the code that they need for their software.
There are also web developers who are mainly concerned with websites and web applications that run on internet browsers in comparison to software developers who are more concerned with the computer programs that these websites and web applications are run on. Software developers and web developers may undergo similar training.
Where Do Software Developers Work?
Software developers can work in many sectors and industries. They often work for computer systems design firms but may also be employed by manufacturing companies, software publishers, or application development offices for different companies. Software developers may also work in academia as educators.
Some of the most popular fields for software developers include:
- Computer systems and design
- Finance and insurance
- Software publishers
- Engineering services
Many software developers go down the path of self-employment; they contract their time and expertise to short-term employers. Although many software developers work in a traditional office, many can work remotely or work for agencies. These multiple career options provide some flexibility for software developers.
Steps to Becoming a Software Developer
Deciding to become a software developer is not an easy decision and requires some hard work. Therefore, you must be confident in your decision to pursue a career in software development.
Why Become a Software Developer
Software development can be a rewarding and fulfilling career for the right individual. Some of the benefits of becoming a software developer include:
- Creativity: Software development may not seem like the most creative career, but software developers still have the opportunity to get creative with their coding.
- Continuously Solving Problems: If you are the type of person who likes solving puzzles, you may enjoy a career as a software developer. Software developers constantly provide solutions for users’ problems, so your problem-solving skills will always be tested as a developer.
- Continuous Learning: Technology professionals must keep up with how fast technology moves, and software developers are no different. Software developers can expect to continuously learn about technology and develop their knowledge in the sector they are working in.
- Team Collaboration: Software developers often collaborate with other computer specialists, clients, and users. Developers must have great communication skills to collaborate with colleagues and participate in exchanges of knowledge.
How to Become a Software Developer
Although there is no single way to become a software developer, there are several steps that any aspiring software developer should consider taking.
Step 1: Choose a Software Language to Learn
After acquiring a solid foundation in one language, you can easily transition to learning a new one. All coding languages are different. Some are more beneficial than others depending on your career path, so you will want to know where you want to take your career and research languages beforehand. There are many programming language guides available to help you understand their differences and help you choose the right one for you.
Some popular programming languages include:
After acquiring a solid foundation in one language, you can easily transition to learning a new one. All coding languages are different and some may be more beneficial than others depending on your career path, so you will want to have an idea of where you want to take your career and do some research on languages beforehand. There are many programming language guides available to help you understand their differences as well as to help you choose the right one for you.
Step 2: Attend Coding Bootcamp
Coding boot camps are short, immersive technical training programs that teach programming skills essential for employment as a developer. They are targeted towards students with very little coding knowledge to help build the fundamental skills of coding.
If you are having trouble learning code on your own, attending a coding boot camp provides a great start to a career in software development. Coding boot camp programs train students to immediately apply their new coding skills to solve real-world problems in development. Solely attending a coding boot camp may not qualify you to become a software developer, but it provides you with the foundation and guidance required to excel in your career.
Step 3: Read Code Written By Other Software Developers
It is not just important to learn how to write code; you must also know how to read any code that you may encounter. As a software developer, you have to learn how to read other people’s code. By browsing GitHub repositories, you will find ample documentation to look through.
Learning to read other people’s code is an overlooked skill but separates good developers from great developers. By learning to read code, you will understand how a program is working, which will be important when fixing and debugging a program.
Step 4: Earn a Degree (Computer Science or Related)
You do not necessarily need a degree to become a software developer; it is more important for successful software developers to have the necessary skills. However, pursuing a relevant degree will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge that form the foundation of software development.
A degree in computer science will give you the fundamental knowledge of computers, software, and coding. A computer science degree will also provide you with theoretical knowledge that you may not encounter if you become a self-taught software developer. It is not necessary to major in computer science; you can major in related disciplines, such as information technology or computer engineering, as long as you gain the fundamentals of coding. An advanced degree, such as a master’s degree, may become a great option later to help advance your career.
It is also not necessary to pursue a bachelor’s degree, although it may provide you with the most well-rounded education. If you would like to spend less time in school, options for certificates, associate’s degrees, accelerated online degree, and diplomas provide future software developers with the skills and knowledge that they need.
Although a degree may provide numerous job advantages in the field of software development, skills are the most important factor in your success. Even if you decide to pursue a computer science degree or related, you should still strive to spend ample time outside of the classroom learning to code and write real software.
Step 5: Build Your Own Coding Projects
To fully become a master of coding, it is not sufficient to only read tutorials and observe other people’s code; you must delve into the work of coding yourself. Once you feel like you have a thorough understanding of the programming language you chose to learn, put your skills to use.
By building your own coding projects, not only will you be able to learn the process of coding, but you will face problems along the way that you will have to solve. This is reflective of the actual life of a software developer and can provide an excellent experience.
Step 6: Find a Community of Software Developers
Networking can be an essential part of being a software developer, and joining a community of software developers is the best way to do that. By joining a software developer community, you can grow your professional network, which may lead to new opportunities for your career.
Not only might networking present you with job opportunities, but it is also a great way to learn from your peers and keep up to date with the world of technology. Your current connection may enable introductions, leading to further connections to add to your network. You may also end up finding a mentor, who proves to be invaluable resources when it comes to working on your career.
Many software developer communities welcome new software developers and foster an environment of learning and discovery. If you decide to go to school to become a software developer, joining any software, technology, or engineering communities on campus is a good idea.
Step 7: Gain Experience
Once you are comfortable with code, you may be eager to apply for a job as a software developer. Although it is possible to find an entry-level position right away, it is a good idea to acquire additional experience, if possible, before seeking full-time employment.
Internships are a good way to gain experience in the world of software development or software engineering. Internships give you the chance to refine your skills, gain new ones, and make valuable professional connections. They may even lead to full-time employment with the company once you finish your internship. Volunteering is also a good option to gain experience.
Step 8: Solidify Your Interview Skills
When you think you have mastered the technical skills required of software development and made valuable professional connections, you should now consider finding a software developer job to kickstart your career. To do that, you will have to ensure that your resume and cover letter reflect your skills, experience, and potential. You should also make sure that your online presence is in good standing; make sure to keep your LinkedIn up to date.
When you get to the interview stage, you will want to ensure that you are not blindsided by any questions your potential employer may ask you. Be prepared to build a project work through a code challenge to prove your skills before employment. For this reason, it is essential to make sure that you are comfortable with coding before pursuing employment.
Step 9: Accept a Job Offer
Once you accept a job offer, you are officially a software developer and have an exciting career ahead of you. Your first job may be an entry-level position, but as you continue to learn and grow as a developer, so will your career.
For software developers, learning is never over. Consider acquiring more credentials as you progress in your career to stay up to date with technology and give yourself a competitive edge.
Skills Needed to Become a Software Developer
There are many skills that software developers need to have to be successful. Most of the expected skills for a software developer are acquired through schooling and work experience.
The role of a software developer does not necessarily finish once they have completed the software. Software developers are expected to continually monitor the changes made and efficiently solve problems that may arise to ensure consistent high-quality delivery. Therefore, one of the key skills that software developers must possess is strong problem-solving ability. They must be able to identify issues and develop strategies to approach a solution.
Other key skills that a software developer must possess include:
- Familiarity with computer languages and an understanding of the logic of code to be able to read a variety of codes
- Superior analytical skills to determine user needs and compare software capabilities
- Experience using open source tools such as GitHub
- Communication skills to collaborate with fellow computer specialists and multiple stakeholders
- Strong attention to detail to be able to spot bugs or issues and solve the problem
Many other skills may be helpful in software development:
- Data science is a growing field that combines domain expertise, programming skills, mathematics, and statistics to extract meaningful insight from data. Software development and data science often intersect; therefore, a diploma in data science may prove useful for software developers in their careers.
- Software development can fall under computer science, which is the study of computers and computing. Computer science not only involves practical applications but also uses theoretical applications. Studying computer science may give software developers more varied skills and help them enter other fields of technology.
Best Schools for Software Developers
Many schools in the United States offer formal education suitable for a career in software development, whether degrees in software engineering, computer science, or other related disciplines.
Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is a Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) and provides potential software developers with the fundamental skills necessary for the field. Carnegie Mellon SEI puts the application of skills at the forefront, focusing on closing the gap between research and use by turning concepts to practice. They offer many courses, including an option to pursue a Master of Software Engineering.
The Georgia Institute of Technology researches new techniques that prepare developers to become the best in their field. They offer a Master of Computer Science, two Ph.D. programs, and multiple courses. They also have a Programming Languages and Software Engineering Group that offers software developers a chance to focus on a wide range of issues and work on performance optimizations.
Berkley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) is a top-ranked program for computer specialists. The school’s reputation means that it has close ties to the industry, but it also fosters a supportive culture and holds a strong tradition of collaboration. They offer multiple undergraduate degrees and the choice of professional or research graduate degrees for those who want to refine their skills as software developers.
Online Resources for Software Developers
If you do not want to spend time and money on formal education, there are many online schools and resources available for you to gain knowledge and practice your skills.
Launch School is an online coding program that helps software developers build up mastery of fundamentals to have a better overall understanding of software development. Founded by software engineers, they have students complete a core curriculum to master the fundamentals of coding and participate in a capstone program to use the skills they learned and acquire experience.
Hello Coding offers a holistic program from Mammoth with five levels of web, app, game, and artificial language development. Their series of video lessons instruct students how to build different tools and apps and teach their students many programming languages. Most of Mammoth’s courses are 5-50 hours long, but their Hello Coding course is 170 hours, reflecting the immersive and extensive nature of this course.
Careers In Software Development
Software developers have many options when it comes to career paths in computers and information technology. Since software developers require problem-solving skills, they can transition to many different careers with ease.
Career Options in Software Development
Depending on experience and level of education, software developers excel at a wide variety of jobs. Career options for software developers in computers and information technology include:
- Software developer: design computer systems and applications.
- Software engineer: usually requires an engineering degree and takes on a bigger role in overseeing systems.
- Computer programmer: primarily concerned with writing code in various programming languages. Most software developers already have the skills of computer programmers.
- Web developer: design and build web pages.
- Database administrator: store and organize data for various types of professionals
- Data scientists: analyze data to make meaningful insights. This career option may require extra training and credentials, but the job prospects are currently high.
- Quality Assurance: Large organizations may have dedicated QA’s to testing software before it goes live
Software developers do not necessarily need to work in the field of IT. There are many other jobs available to software developers in other sectors.
- Sales and Marketing: Software developers are suitably skilled to work in the sales side of software. They have a thorough understanding of how software works, and with excellent communication skills, they may effectively be able to sell it.
- Business Analyst: Business analysts work as a bridge between the business and technical teams. They help ensure that all parties understand requirements and timelines. Although business analysts may require additional schooling, this job is great for those who have a background in business or who are interested in being involved in the business side of a technology company.
- Project Manager: Project managers often put together teams and define tasks for projects, tracking their progress until delivery.
- Designer: UI and UX designers build visual concepts using computer software to communicate ideas for consumers. Software developers often already have the technical skills required to be a designer, so if you are a visual or creative person, then a career in design may be a great option.
Software developers have a positive job outlook, with employment projected to grow 22 percent from 2019 to 2029 due to the continuous increase in technology from consumers, from applications on smartphones and tablets to computer software.
Salaries for software developers vary, with a median salary of $107,510. The highest-paid developers make upwards of $136,320 and the lowest-paid make around $82,430.
Software developers are essential to the advancement of computer software, so it is quite an in-demand career, and there are perks of the job. There is no single path to becoming a software developer. Those who attend school for a formal education may have the best job prospects, but skills learned outside of the classroom make a successful software developer. For this reason, software developers must be dedicated to their trade, as they have to put in multiple hours perfecting. It pays off, though, as a career as a software developer is a creative one that can go in any direction.