Become a Software Developer

In 2012, median earnings for becoming a software developer was $93,350 per year and $44.88 per hour[i]

Salary Potential if you become a software developer

In 2012, median earnings for becoming a software developer was $93,350 per year and $44.88 per hour[i]

Are you wondering how to become a software developer or what a software developer does?

Software developers design applications that allow users to perform tasks using their computers or mobile devices. For example, commonly-used programs like Microsoft Office, Skype, and your favorite music player were designed by software and applications developers. Alternatively, some software developers are responsible for creating the operating system used to run a computer or device, as well as the interface that allows the user to interact with the machine. In some cases, developers both conceptualize a product and do the programming themselves. In other cases, they may oversee programmers who write the code for the software.

If you want to become a software developer, it’s time to learn what to expect from the typical software development career -  from software developer salary potential, recommended competencies and knowledge areas, educational requirements, and more.

Software Developer Job Description

You probably already know that software developers design and develop computer applications, software, databases, operating systems, and more. But they may also be responsible for analyzing user needs to determine the best software solution, modifying existing software to solve problems, and customizing software for specific clients. Here are some other typical duties and responsibilities of software developers:

  • Designing, coding, testing, and performing quality assurance on software products or features
  • Creating models, diagrams, and wireframes, which serve as “blueprints” for programmers
  • Developing documentation, validation, and other procedures; directing product development and testing
  • Analyzing program goals, requirements, and specifications, as well as cost and time frame; determining project feasibility, budget, and deadlines
  •  Developing and implementing reporting and analysis tools to monitor software performance
  • Overseeing project team members such as programmers, technicians, and other IT professionals
  • Recommending and implementing upgrades, enhancements,  patches, and routine maintenance

Software Developer Qualities and Skill Sets

Software developers don’t just have strong technical skills. If you want to become a software developer you may also be responsible for planning, organizing, and leading a software development project. Here are some helpful skills and knowledge areas for those considering this career path:

  • Knowledge of programming languages such as Java, PHP, C, C++, Python, and others
  • Knowledge of development environment software like Microsoft Visual Basic, XML Path Language XPATH, and more; knowledge of object-oriented development software like C++, Component-based Scalable Logical Architecture (CSLA), and others; knowledge of web platform development software like HTML and JavaScript.
  • An understanding of fundamental engineering, technology, and mathematical principles, as well as the ability to apply these principles to software design and development
  • Good communication skills – software developers may have to frequently convey their ideas in both written and spoken form
  • Leadership skills – in some cases, software developers supervise project teams of programmers and technicians
  • Creativity – software developers must often come up with innovative solutions or ideas for product improvement

How to Become a Software Developer


In most cases, becoming a software developer means earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or an applicable field. A degree in computer science tends to be most common, but as these programs offer a broad view of the computer science field, students may wish to focus on software-building courses if they’re interested in a software developer career.  Pursuing a strong foundation in computer programming is often helpful, as well.

In some cases, employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. Ongoing training and education is often needed in order to keep up with new technology, programming languages, and tools.  

Training and Career Enhancement[i]

In addition to technical skills, those who want to become a software developer may need to educate themselves about the industry in which they work. For example, if you are developing software for a financial institution, an understanding of finance will likely be necessary in order to carry out the organization’s goals.

Sometimes, software developers start out as computer programmers to gain experience in the field. Some also go on to pursue enhanced opportunities as IT project managers or computer and information systems managers. Certification, while not always required, may help you to pursue your career goals by allowing you to demonstrate specific knowledge areas. Below are some certifications to check out:

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) – this program may allow you to demonstrate your software development skills across various technologies. Choose from certifications in areas like web applications development, application lifecycle management, and more.[ii]
  • Adobe Certification for Developers – this program lets you to pursue certification in three Adobe products: LiveCycle Enterprise Suite, Flex, and ColdFusion.[iii]
  • Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialist – this credential helps demonstrate your ability to deploy, configure, and migrate to Google Apps for Work.[iv]

Software Developer Salary Potential and Job Growth [i]

So how much can you make if you become a software developer? The answer depends on where you live, what employers and opportunities exist near you, and how much experience you have, among other factors. The potential salary stats and projected job growth numbers below may give you an idea of what to expect.

  • In 2012, median earnings for software developers were $93,350 per year and $44.88 per hour.
  • Projected job growth between 2012 and 2022 is 22%, which is much faster than average for all occupations.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some job growth may be due to an increase in the number of products on the market that use software, such as smart phones and computerized appliances. Additionally, growing concern over information security may lead to an increased demand for security software solutions.[vi] 

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