Software Developers Career

Here is an extensive career guide that elaborates on the path for careers as a software developer, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 24th August 2020

What do they do: Software developers are focused on the creation of designing, developing, testing, planning, implementing, maintaining the applications and systems to run computer software and obtain expected results. 

Working environment: Software developers work indoors and usually in teams to develop applications working for a number of industries such as design and engineering services, manufacturing, or for software publishers.

How to become: To become a software developer, one must gain a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related major in addition to gaining experience and specialization in computer programming skills.

Salary offered: the salary offered to software developers is about $69,290 for an entry-level job whereas applications software developer is $103,620 and systems software is $110,000. 

Career Outlook: the job growth of software developers as estimated by the BLS is about 21 percent while the Applications software developers have 30 percent and Systems software developers have a growth rate of 11 percent.

Similar careers: By gaining qualifications to become a software developer, you can also explore alternative career opportunities in computer engineering and others based on your interest, goals, and desired outcomes. 

Top Software Developer Jobs

Search engineer:

Search engines are tech-savvy who work with their own web crawlers to crawl hundreds of billions of pages. Also, they operate the web crawlers commonly called search engine bots or spiders which navigate the web by downloading web pages and following links on these pages to discover new pages that have been made available. The average salary offered to these engineers is $68,899. 

Machine learning engineer:

Machine learning engineers work towards feeding data into machines defined by data scientists, analyzing the theoretical data science models, scaling the data to make production-level models that can handle terabytes of real-time data. The average salary offered is about $114,121. 

Security Engineer:

Security engineers are concerned with the testing and screening of security software, monitoring networks, and systems for security breaches or intrusions. The average salary offered to the security engineer is about $80,333.

What do Software Developers Do?

Software developers are concerned with the creation of computer programs used to develop software applications that can be run on phones, computers, and other devices to perform the desired tasks. They are also responsible for managing the network systems and maintenance of the software with regular updates of the programs.  The roles and responsibilities also include,

  • Software developers analyze the client requirements to design software with better features 

  • They must develop, test, implement, and maintain the software which meets the needs.

  • Suggest adaptive measures to users facing problems in the existing version. 

  • Plan how to design each section of the application and act accordingly during the development

  • Determine the functioning, operation of each unit while estimating the overall performance.

  • Create pictorial representation, tables, graphs, diagrams and models to present the expected results to the programmers

  • Collaborate with various computer specialists, network managers, programmers, and engineers to  create optimum software

  • Record the details and implement them while developing and programming. Also, ensure that you notice the minor mistakes while testing and maintaining the software

  •  Use various other software and technologies to innovate solutions

  • Fix the bugs, update programs, create new programs, and ensure they run smoothly.

  • Document the versions of the internal codes, versions, and track the upgrades.

The roles can also depend based on the type of software developers and they are,

Applications software developers: They are responsible for designing computer applications including word processors and games for users. They create software keeping in mind the needs of the specific customer or commercial purpose. Some also develop complex databases for organizations.

Systems software developers: They are responsible for creating systems such as operating systems that help in the proper functioning of computers. They may also build a computer's interface which helps engage the user with good interaction with the computer. Also, application development includes creating operating systems that control consumer electronics used by cell phones and cars.

Working Conditions of Software Developers

The working conditions of software developers usually like routine. They spend working indoors in office settings and in front of computers. As software development is a collaborative process, it is necessary to work with diverse teams such as designers, developers, programmers, and other co-workers. The working conditions also include, 

  • They have a medium level of social interaction with clients, teams, and staff.

  • Communicate usually through email, phone, and in-person

  • Work as a part team and perform individual tasks as well. 

  • Collaborate with teams and hold responsibility for the work performed by others. 

  • Work in a competitive atmosphere.

  • Work to maintain high accuracy as a small error could cause computer systems to malfunction.

  • Work for a fixed schedule of 40 hours a week 

  • Can also work off the schedule, regardless of weekend or holidays to meet the deadlines.

  • Perform planned tasks, goals on a daily basis to make progress.

  • Follow a similar routine and can face mental and physical stress

As application developers are types, there are about 944,200 currently working employees in various industries where the largest employers are hiring in the following sectors,

  • Computer systems design and related services: 34%

  • Finance and insurance: 10%

  • Software publishers: 10%

  • Manufacturing: 7%

  • Management of companies and enterprises: 5%

System Software developers have current job holdings off  421,300 jobs and the employers are,

  • Computer systems design and related services: 31%

  • Manufacturing: 19%

  • Finance and insurance: 6%

  • Software publishers: 5%

  • Engineering services: 4%

How to Become a Software Developer?

To become a software developer, one must gain a bachelor’s degree in computer science or any other related major that offers strong computer programming skills. 

There are various career paths to become a software developer, such as choosing the software engineering career path, attending software programming Bootcamp, self-study, or college, attending programming classes to learn technical skills and programming languages, building a portfolio, and searching for a suitable job. 

After completing your education, you must gain sufficient experience, and alongside specialize in the field of your choice. This will lead to getting certified by renowned organizations and help you pursue high paying jobs. 

Educational requirements for Software Developers

The education required to become a software developer is to earn a bachelors’ degree in computer science, software engineering, or any other related major based on computer learning. However, most employers prefer candidates possessing a master’s degree as this field is highly competitive and high-level skills are required.

The degree levels to become a software developer also are an associate’s degree in software engineering technology or software systems engineering is a 2 years program which helps in gaining an entry-level job. The curriculum focuses on courses such as database management systems, web application development, operation systems, networking.

Bachelor’s degree in computer science is a traditional and most commonly pursued degree where the students are exposed to a wide range of concepts such as object-oriented software development, computer security, user interface, networking or embedded systems, and project management during the 4-year curriculum.

Pursuing a coding Bootcamp for 8-112 weeks helps in getting hand-on experience on various concepts and helps you in accelerating your career towards entry-level careers. 

Experience: gaining experience is necessary for this career to connect with real-world problems. Also, you could expand your skills in the application of programming languages such as Java, XML, or SQL in various areas through the guidance of experienced software developers. Completing internships for a period of three and six months will allow you to handle projects solely by enhancing specific product skills. 

Specialization: Within the competitive environment, gaining specialization will have you advance your career and gain high earning potentials. You could choose to specialize within the specializations such as applications and software/systems development. Choosing to expertise in a single programming language or type of development will also add high value to your credibility such as Web development, DevOps, Mobile development, Technical stack, etc.

Certification: gaining certification from technology vendors and professional organizations which help you demonstrate your expertise of skill in the skills, your competency, and credibility to the employer. Certifications for software developers are offered by Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle and organizations such as IEEE. 

Stand Out Skills for Software Developers

The software developers have extensive knowledge on the computer systems and programming, however, to achieve overall success in the career, there are other skills to be developed, they are, 

Analytical skills: Softwares engineers must analyze the needs of the user to develop software accordingly. The collection of data and suitable analysis helps in developing user-friendly software.

Communication skills: communication is a keep that helps in converting proper instructions to the teammates working on the project. Also to interact with the customers to give a demo on how the software works. Communication helps in putting the ideas clearly and all use to answer the user's questions about the software you developed.

Detail-oriented: While programming and coding, you are required to be observant and detail-oriented so that the errors are minimalistic and to ensure all the necessary features are added to the software in the development phase. 

Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills such as leadership skills, being an initiator, motivator helps in working well with others through your contribution to the work. This helps in an organized development, designing, implementation and testing of the software.

Problem-solving skills

There may be various issues and challenges arising during the development of the software where you must overcome those issues as you are involved in the progress from the stars to end. Hence, solving the problems through the process helps in completing the work sooner.

Top University Programs for Software Developers

  • Harvard University

  • University of Southern California

  • California State University, Fullerton

  • Stevens Institute of Technology

  • Brandeis University, Waltham

  • University of Houston-Clear, Houston

  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago

  • Drexel University, Philadelphia

Software Developers Salary

A software developer’s salary in the United States for an entry-level position in 2020 is about $69,290 and can range between $61,690 and $76,490 on a yearly basis. The salaries can vary based on your qualification, certification, skills, specialization, position, experience, and also the type of job profile such as full-time or part-time.

The median salary for a qualified application software developer in 2020 is about $103,620 and can range between $61,660 and $161,290. 

The median salary offered for qualified systems software developers is about $110,000 and can range between $66,740 and $166,960. 

The median salary offered by the top industries for applications software developers are,

  • Software publishers: $114,320

  • Manufacturing: $110,290

  • Finance and insurance: $107,960

  • Management of companies and enterprises: $104,420

  • Computer systems design and related services: $100,080

The median salary offered by the top industries for systems software developers are,

  • Manufacturing: $118,900

  • Engineering services: $113,250

  • Finance and insurance: $111,380

  • Software publishers: $110,920

  • Computer systems design and related services: $108,790

The states of the United States which offer the highest annual median salaries for software developer are as follows,

  • San Francisco: $109,175

  • San Jose: $105,052

  • New York City: $102,010

  • Seattle: $101,175

  • Boston: $100,955

Job Growth of Software Developers

The job growth of software developers as projected by the Bureau of labor statistics is about 21 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028. However, based on the specializations, the job growth is differentiated as follows,

  • Applications software developers: 30 percent

  • Systems software developers: 11 percent

The primary reason for the growth in both application developers and systems developers is due to increased demand for computer software and applications for smartphones. 

The healthcare industries are benefited by managing the health and medical insurance and reinsurance through software and use of digital platforms.

The electronic components innovated by the software developers are helpful in controlling cell phones and car systems. 

The increased need for network security enables the demand for security software for computers to protect computer networks and electronic infrastructure.

Related Careers for Software Developers

With the computer and software knowledge, the software engineers can opt various other alternative career concentrations available to them, they are,

Computer and information research scientist:

The Computer and information research scientist are professionals who are responsible to design and develop new technologies and innovate new ideas to add on to the existing technology. The computing methodologies and approaches are advanced and researches that can be used in various other fields such as medicine, science, are required to earn a master’s degree for this job that fetches you around $118,370 annually.

Computer and information system manager:

The Computer and information system managers are responsible to administer the technologies related to network security, internet, operations and software. This also includes the installation, maintenance, updates of the computer hardware. This requires a bachelor's degree and you could earn about $142,530 per year.

Computer hardware engineer:

The computer hardware designers create, design, develop software and test these computer systems to analyze the test results.  This helps in modifying the existing software and overseeing the process. To land on this profession you require a Bachelor's degree and can earn an average salary of $114,600.

Computer network architects:

The Computer network architects are trained to design and build the data communications networks which include the local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets. There may be a vast range of networking such as small connections or global communication systems. A bachelor's degree is required for this job role and you could earn about $109,020 per year.

Computer programmer:

A computer programmer is focused on designing, developing, writing and testing the source code created in the programming languages. He programs are a set of instructions given to the computer to perform a specific task. Hence the program is written so that it is understood by the computer. You are required to get a bachelor's degree to choose this profession and you could earn up to $84,280 annually.