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How to get into mobile development

Mobile development

It’s a great time to become a mobile app developer, according to Yen Hoe Lee, MS, an IT director and online instructor in the University of Phoenix mobile development program.

“Whenever there’s a new technology like this, the entry level [to get hired] is low,” Lee says. “If you are self-motivated, it’s like an open bazaar,” where almost anyone willing to learn the necessary programming skills can find work, he adds.

Here’s how to get into this hot field:


Learn the languages.

With so many different mobile device platforms, aspiring app developers need to master multiple programming languages, according to Jessica Keyes, PhD, another online instructor in the mobile development program.

“Most [people] develop for multiple platforms — one app that runs on several devices,” she explains. “Developing for iPhone® and iPad® [devices] will require mastery of Objective-C. If you develop Google™ apps [for Android™ devices], then you have a choice of tools and languages, including Java, Ruby and Python.” Other required languages include HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, she notes.

Lee adds that developers also should learn how to link apps with other programs, such as the Facebook® social network via OAuth. “This protocol allows your apps to be shared and used more widely — and can give you more job [potential] than just another programming language,” he says.

The best way to learn programming, Keyes emphasizes, is by doing.

“While programming can be taught, not everybody gets really good at it,” she says. “It’s like playing the violin — some of us can tweak out notes, but not everyone can thrill an audience.” She recommends free Internet resources like Codecademy, along with coursework.


Take courses.

Self-taught programmers can benefit from formal instruction, Keyes believes. “The mobile development program [at the University] is very hands-on,” she says, explaining that in the first class, students learn to select an application platform and program structure, and then start app development.

Lee notes that many of his IT students already are working as developers when they enroll in his courses. “They tell me they need a degree because they can’t get promoted anymore,” he says.

A degree program also can teach you concepts like market analysis and regulatory issues, and the ability to understand what end users need, Lee adds. “These skills can keep you employed over the long term,” he points out, “instead of just the first couple years that a technology is new.”


Become certified.

Keyes says certifications are not essential to get hired as an app developer, but they can give you a competitive edge.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer: Windows Store Apps is one certification currently available, and others likely will be developed for Android and iOS® operating systems. Academic certificates also are available from colleges and universities. CompTIA® Mobility+ offers a mobile networking-based certification, and the company plans to offer another in Mobile App Security+.

For anyone who wants to develop apps for health care, finance or other industries that handle sensitive information, Lee recommends the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) certification.


Get experience.

Most professional app developers already have built and launched several apps on their own before they hold their first jobs, Keyes points out. “The way to get [experience] is to develop as many apps as you can and publish them to the various app stores, like Google Play™ and the Apple App Storeā„ ,” she says, noting that the sites provide the information you need to start publishing.

Lee suggests volunteering to develop apps for nonprofits as a way to gain professional experience. Nonprofits are thrilled for the help, he notes, and you can include the experience on your resumé. Job opportunities abound, Keyes adds. The economic slowdown didn’t affect application software developers as dramatically as other professions. High Job growth is expected between 2010 and 2020.   


iPhone, iPad and Apple are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a trademark of Apple Inc.
Google, Android and Google Play are trademarks of Google Inc.
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.
iOS is a registered trademark of Cisco Systems Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and certain other countries.
CompTIA is a registered trademark of the Computing Technology Industry Association Inc.
CISSP is a registered trademark of the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium Inc.

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