Code is essential to modern business, and software developers are the ones who write this code. A software developer is responsible for creating an application from the initial design stage through long-term maintenance.
Because software can be used to do so many things, software developers can work on a wide variety of different projects. This makes a software developer’s skillset useful for those interested in other specialized careers.
We’ll discuss what a software developer is, what they do, and some of the requirements an aspiring developer needs to meet.
What is a Software Developer?
A software developer is someone who develops software. This role focuses on writing code to meet customer requirements and provide a good customer experience.
The roles of software developer and software engineer are often combined into one. While these two positions have many of the same skill sets and responsibilities, there are some differences.
Software engineers generally focus on the “big picture” of designing and architecting an application, while software developers write the code and the low-level details.
What Does a Software Developer Do?
The role of the software developer is to move code from the design stage through release and into maintenance. This includes many different tasks, such as:
- Development and debugging: Writing code is one of the core responsibilities of a software developer. This includes knowing how to program and experience debugging and eliminating issues from the code.
- Testing and quality assurance: Developers are responsible for ensuring that their code works correctly and securely. Modern DevOps practices state that developers should write unit tests as they go along, enabling them to automate the process of checking that code does its job and does not contain any known vulnerabilities.
- Documentation: A program is only valuable to users if they know how to use it. A developer may be responsible for writing documentation for their code in multiple forms, such as code comments, wikis, user guides, etc.
- Maintenance and updates: While release day is a big date for a developer, their responsibility for the software doesn’t end there. A developer is likely also responsible for maintaining the software, including creating, testing, and deploying updates to provide additional features or fix functionality or security issues in the code.
The role of the software developer is as diverse as the software that they work on. A software developer may specialize in front-end web development, be a full stack developer, work on standalone desktop applications, or write operating systems. These different projects require similar skill sets but have very different applications, stakeholders, and use cases.
How to Become a Software Developer
Software developers are expected to design and create applications that meet users’ needs. When evaluating candidates for a software developer position, an organization may look for a few different things.
Software Developer Education
A college degree is recommended but not always required for software developers. Most job postings will look for a bachelor’s degree in computer science or similar; however, some organizations will also accept “equivalent experience.”
In the end, the company wants to know that a developer has the knowledge and experience needed to write good code, and degrees are the easiest way to prove this.
Additional education may be required for a software developer, depending on the role. For example, some research positions might require post-graduate education. This is often because this advanced coursework goes into more theory of computer science that is valuable in certain domains.
Past Development Experience
Depending on the position in question, a job applicant may need proven experience. However, this does not need to be a past role as a developer.
When looking for a role as a software developer, there are many different ways to show experience when just entering the field. Some options include participating in hackathons or similar events, attending a coding bootcamp, doing an internship while in school, or have a portfolio of past projects available on Github.
Knowledge of Programming Languages
Software developers are (unsurprisingly) expected to know how to code. This means having competency in at least one programming language.
With this background and an understanding of programming fundamentals, gaining familiarity with the particular language used by a company or project is much easier than learning it from scratch.
Most development roles do not require certificates. However, holding a certificate or two can help differentiate oneself from the competition.
Many different types of certificates are available for developers. Some programming languages have certification programs that demonstrate knowledge of that language.
Certificates are also available to show experience with certain platforms or tools, such as cloud environments or DevOps automation tools. Earning these certifications can help with landing a role or pursuing a specialization.
Software Developer Career Path
Software development is a career with a lot of room for growth. Many different careers require the ability to write code, making it a good entry point into many different specializations. Beyond the numerous developer specializations (web, mobile, etc.), here are some jobs that a software developer could pursue:
- Test and quality assurance
- Machine learning/data science
- Data engineering
- Project management
- Database administration
These are only some of the potential career paths for a software developer. Developers could also dive into a particular specialty or work to move up to a more senior position on the development team.
Career Outlook and Salary
The career outlook for software developers is a good one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field’s projected growth between 2012 and 2032 is 25 percent, much faster than the average field.
Software developers can also make pretty good money. The same BLS report states that in 2022, the median income for a software developer was $124,200 per year, with an hourly wage of $59.71.
These salaries can vary based on location, experience, and any specializations, certificates, or other differentiators that a developer may have.
Frequently Asked Questions
A software developer is a professional who develops software, focusing on writing code that meets customer requirements and ensures a good user experience. While closely related to software engineering, software development is more concentrated on coding and the finer details of software creation.
Software developers are involved in various stages of software creation, including development and debugging, testing and quality assurance, documentation, and maintenance. They may specialize in different areas like front-end web development, full-stack development, or operating system development.
Software developers should have competency in at least one programming language, with a broader knowledge base being advantageous. Past development experience, which can be demonstrated through hackathons, coding bootcamps, internships, or a portfolio on platforms like GitHub, is also crucial. Certifications, though not mandatory, can enhance a candidate’s profile.
Software development offers diverse career paths, including specializations in web or mobile development, roles in test and quality assurance, machine learning/data science, data engineering, project management, and database administration. There’s significant room for growth and specialization within the field.
The career outlook for software developers is very positive, with a projected 22 percent growth between 2022 and 2032. The median income for a software developer in 2022 was $124,200 per year or an hourly wage of $59.71. Salaries can vary based on location, experience, and additional qualifications like specializations or certifications.
Find the latest interviews with subject matter experts and people working at the forefront of their field and get advice on Software Development directly from some of the world’s leading authorities. Learn more about all the different pathways and opportunities available in tech today.
- How did you first get into Software Developing (what kind of degree or work experience led you to the field)?
- What do you think are the most important qualities or qualifications needed to be successful as a Software Developer?
- What are some of the reasons people become a Software Developer?
- What should students expect when choosing a Software Developer internship?
- What are employers generally looking for when hiring entry-level Software Developer?
- Do you find that people who train as a Software Developer stay in the field, or are they finding other, relevant work opportunities?