How to Become a Software Developer

Software Developer Careers & Degrees
Education4+ Years

Software Developers are experienced in creating a variety of computer programs for both professional and consumer users looking for the newest software programs to use in their daily lives.

Depending on the size of the organization they work for, Software Developers may be specialized in two distinct areas; these professionals may work as Applications Software Developers or as Systems Software Developers.

Individuals who want to become a Software Developer will need a combination of personal characteristics, education and experience in order to enter this profession.

Some helpful skills include being detail oriented, have the capability to analyze a user’s needs and be able to communicate with other professionals such as programmers.

Education Requirements to Become a Software Developer

Individuals who want to become a Software Developer will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to enter this profession.

Individuals also have the option of securing a master’s degree if interested in advancing their careers.

Individuals pursuing this career will most importantly need to work on gaining strong computer programming skills as this is the foundational skill needed to perform the basic requirements of this profession.

During their undergraduate career, individuals who want to become a Software Developer are encouraged to focus on a computer science degree.

Other recommended degrees include: software engineering, mathematics or a closely related field.

Individuals pursuing the latter degrees must assure they are taking classes that teach how to build software, one important aspect in this career.

For stronger job prospects or career advancement, individuals have the option of completing a master’s degree in computer science.

While enrolled in a program, individuals should focus on taking computer science, computer programming and courses in writing code.

Individuals choosing a specialization in this field, such as working in the finance field, are encouraged to learn about finance in order to have better job prospects.

Software Developer Job Description

Software Developers are professionals who are experienced in creating a variety of computer programs for personal and professional use.

There are two specializations within this profession who perform different duties.

Systems Software Developers focus on software that is used to keep a computer functioning properly.

This type of software is typically known as an operating system that is pre-installed into computers before being sold to consumers.

Operating systems are important for users because it is software that makes a computer practical.

Other common elements when creating an operating system includes building an interface that allows users to use a computer.

The second specialization within this profession is an Applications Software Developer.

These individuals are responsible for creating programs and software used as applications such as word processors, games or spreadsheets.

These individuals also create software that works with internet, work for large organizations that need intricate databases and software or applications for phones that people download using an internet connection.

Software Developers use a combination of computer programming, creativity and problem solving in order to create software that the general public can comprehend and use.

Some shared responsibilities and duties that both these professionals use regularly may include the following:

  • Determine what users need when using computers
  • Plan, test and create software based on users’ needs
  • Design flowcharts, diagrams and models dictating software code for programmers to use
  • Software maintenance and testing
  • Assure software is still functioning after maintenance and testing

Software Developer Salary and Career Path

The salary for Software Developers will depend on a variety of factors including their specialization (applications vs.

systems), the industry they work in and level of experience.

In 2012, the median salary for Applications Software Developers was approximately $90,060 per year while Systems Software Developers earned a median salary of approximately $99,000 per year.

The maximum salary for this profession has been reported at $148,850 per year.

The job outlook for Software Developers is expected to grow at a faster than average rate when compared to other professions.

Job opportunities are expected to increase by 22 percent through the year 2022, a much faster rate than other professions.

This projected growth is attributed to the increase in demand for computer software.

Industries needing this service include the mobile technology and healthcare industries.

Threats in security are also factor in this growth as more organizations seek to invest in this area.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$118,580
New Hampshire$109,900
New Jersey$113,510
New Mexico$88,980
New York$119,570
North Carolina$105,060
North Dakota$82,930
Rhode Island$108,020
South Carolina$92,440
South Dakota$79,030
West Virginia$89,550
Puerto Rico$52,680

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $134,370.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $134,370
Washington - $131,870
New York - $119,570
District of Columbia - $118,580
Maryland - $116,080
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers, OCC Code 15-1256, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a software developer do?

Software developers create computer programs.

As a software developer, you can specialize in creating applications that people use on their computers, phones or other devices or you can create the systems that run those devices.

Before creating a particular software or application, the developer analyses the user’s needs.

The developer then designs the program and gives instructions to the programmer who writes the code and stays in charge of the development process.

Some software developers write code themselves.

After releasing the program to the client, the developer may have to perform tests and maintenance checks to make sure that the software functions properly.

Developers document every aspect of the application or system that they create, documentations that can later be used as a reference for future upgrades or maintenance.

Software developers need strong analytical skills, creativity, attention to detail, communication and interpersonal skills.

QuestionHow much does a software developer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for software developers was $103,620 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary depending on the developer’s level of expertise and the employer.

Entry-level developers can earn less than $60,000 a year while more experienced developers can earn more than $160,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a software developer?

Most software developers hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and have good computer programming skills.

Costs vary widely depending on the program you choose and the school.

A bachelor’s degree program in computer science will cost you, on average, around $42,000 a year which brings the total for 4 years of schooling to approximately $170,000.

As a software developer, you may also need knowledge in the field in which you want to practice.

For example, if you work for a bank you may need basic knowledge of the financial system.

QuestionWhat is the demand for software developers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for software developers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Job prospects are expected to be good for software developers, especially for those who specialize in developing applications.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the estimated job growth for application developers is 26 percent while employment for system developers is projected to grow 10 percent.

As new applications will be needed for smartphones and tablets the demand for developers who specialize in creating these apps is expected to grow.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a software developer?

Most software developers hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Bachelor’s degree programs can typically be completed in 4 years and prepare graduates for entry-level employment in the field.

As a software developer, you will need good programming skills, although you may not have to write the code yourself.

You will have to learn throughout your career to keep up with new computer programming languages.

Still wondering which career path is right for you? take this free career interests test to find out.

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