Software systems are an integral part of nearly every modern industry. As a result, you can pursue a software development career in almost any field that aligns with your interests or passions. If you are a creative thinker, have analytical skills, and enjoy problem-solving, you could be a great fit for a software developer job. You can learn more about the career path, responsibilities, and job outlook for software developers in the following article.
What is the difference between a software engineer and a software developer?
These job titles are often used interchangeably due to the overlapping nature of their responsibilities. Software developers and engineers perform many of the same functions with many of the same skills. However, software developers tend to focus on designing application software or specific systems. They may work on a smaller scale than engineers, focusing on a niche like mobile applications or the Internet of Things (IoT). Software engineers may orchestrate software architecture as a whole or design larger-scale software solutions. In addition to programming, they may be responsible for tasks related to data analytics, testing, and scaling.
Read more: Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What are the Differences in These Roles?
What do software developers do?
Software developers use their programming skills to create new software and improve existing software applications. They design and write the code used to build everything from operating systems to mobile apps to video games. Often, project managers provide software developers with an organization’s business goals, and they translate those needs into software requirements.
In this role, you may be involved with every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC), from defining user needs and anticipating user behavior to releasing a complete application. You are likely to work on a team with other software developers, engineers, or computer programmers.
Read more: Programmer vs. Developer: Job Roles, Differences, Salaries
What is software development?
Day-to-day tasks related to the development of software include:
Analyzing the needs of software users
Designing, testing, and building software programs to meet user needs
Creating models and diagrams that outline the code needed to create software and applications
Performing maintenance and testing to keep software functioning
Documenting the process to provide the information needed for upgrades and maintenance
Is software development a good career?
The job outlook in this industry is bright. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that demand for software developers will grow by 25 percent between 2021 and 2031—a faster-than-average growth. This high job growth projection indicates high demand .
How long does it take to become a software developer?
Seventy-two percent of software developers have a bachelor’s degree (four-year degree program), 20 percent have a master’s degree (two additional years), and five percent have an associate degree  (two-year degree program). The amount of time it takes to become a software developer can depend on your current skill level, the industry you want to work in, and even the company you want to work for.
While you don’t always need a degree to find a job in software development, earning one can help you build technical skills and open more job opportunities. As you research degree programs, consider those with an emphasis on development skills, like software engineering, computer science, or information technology.
If you have an idea of the industry you’d like to work in, consider earning a minor in that field to start building industry expertise.
Where do software developers work?
Software developers work in a variety of industries, including software publishers, finance companies, insurance carriers, and computer systems design organizations. You might work in health care, engineering, manufacturing, or another work environment. Many software developers work in a traditional office, while others leverage opportunities to work for an agency or work remotely. Having a good sense of what you want from your job can help you successfully navigate your path forward.
For example, if you want to work in health care, you may need to build industry knowledge and skills around issues like data privacy laws and how patient records are stored and accessed.
How much do software developers make?
According to the BLS, software developers in the United States earn a median annual income of $126,730 as of February 2023 . Factors that can influence your income as a software developer include industry, company, location, expertise, and experience level.
Read more: Software Developer Salary Guide (2023)
How to get into software development
Here are a few tips that can help you advance toward your goals if you plan to pursue a career in software development. Overall, you’ll need to gain hands-on experience, sharpen your analytical skills, and learn more about the software development process.
Learn a programming language.
For a career in software development, you’ll need a solid foundation in programming languages. Four you might consider mastering include Java, Python, C++, and Scala. Python is widely considered one of the easier languages to learn, which makes it a great place to start if you’re new to programming. This object-oriented language is also known for its versatility, with applications in scripting, development, and data analysis.
Find your niche.
Whether you opt for formal education or take a self-taught track, you need to devote time to trying your hand at development. If you have a passion for app design, you could choose to develop your skills by practicing building mobile apps. If you’d rather work on the infrastructure of computers and servers, you might specialize as a DevOps engineer instead. There are many areas in which you can use your skills as a software developer.
Need some guidance as you practice? You can complete these Guided Projects in two hours or less (no software downloads required) while completing projects for your developer portfolio:
Create Your First Multithreaded Application in Java
Build a Machine Learning Web App with Streamlit and Python
Make a Postage Calculator with Scala
Docker Essentials & Building a Containerized Web Application
Creating Your First C++ Application
Learn how to develop software with Coursera
If you’re considering a career as a software developer, there are several ways you can get started on Coursera. Develop in-demand skills and learn from industry experts at your own pace with a Professional Certificate like the Meta iOS Developer Professional Certificate.
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