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How to become a software developer

Software developer typing on keyboard

By Brian Fairbanks

Are you thinking of becoming a software developer? You don’t need to be a savant with computers to become a software developer. Although there are programming languages and other skills you’ll need to learn before you can typically pursue a job in software development or engineering.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to become a trained, educated and professional software developer. We’ll explore what software developers do and the jobs they compete for. As well as how much they typically earn and the degree programs and other skills employers may be looking for when hiring.



What does a software developer do?

You may see job descriptions or titles like "software architect," "software engineer," "software developer" or even just "dev" or "web dev" (short for "developer"). Those all essentially refer to software developers. But what does it mean to be a software engineer or to work as a "dev?"

Software developers build and/or engineer computer software or apps and programs. These professionals are often responsible for crafting some of the best-known desktop programs and apps. These can include word processors, music and sound recording programs, video games and email software.

If you’re wondering what the actual difference is between a software engineer and a software developer, defines it as this: "Web developers are software engineers who specialize in building specifically web applications. [Although] a software engineer is not always a web developer, a web developer will always be a software engineer."


How to become a software developer

Becoming a software developer typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a related technology, software engineering or computer science field as well as a relevant set of skills, such as software building and analytics. It can also be helpful to have a general understanding of one’s employment industry ? such as healthcare, finance or accounting ? to understand specific needs. While software development doesn’t require it, enhancing your math skills and knowledge certainly doesn’t hurt. These skills may include a working knowledge of algebra and basic math, like multiplication.

Based upon the organization or industry, you’ll need to learn at least one or more programming languages, like JavaScript or Python. You'll also want to brush up on your software development skills. Writing code isn’t a dev’s primary role, but is an important part of the job. It may also be required to stay up to date on the latest skills and tools. Often, institutions or organizations offer online classes and bootcamps to help employees stay relevant.

Some employers may require applicants to have participated in internships or possess experience outside of school. Education levels can vary as well, with a master’s degree the preferred level of education.


Necessary skills and education for becoming a software developer

In addition to basic math, aspiring software developers need to master some professional soft skills., for example, recommends becoming a master multitasker who can juggle processes, programs, tasks, directives and deadlines and a team player who communicates well and helps with co-workers’ projects or departmental projects. Having strong analytical skills is also recommended. Other skills may include attention to detail, problem-solving and creativity.

Also, as noted, learning a programming language is crucial. C#, Java and/or JavaScript, SQL, Python, and other programming languages, when mastered, are often very attractive to employers. According to, Java and Python are two of the most popular programming languages as of 2021.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and strong computer programming skills. A degree program can often help a software developer learn the foundational skills for this career. While computer sciences degrees are the most common, another degree program for this field is a Bachelor of Science in IT (BSIT). Some universities may offer certificates within their IT programs related to computer science or software development.



Careers as a software developer

According to BLS, there are several types of software developer or engineer jobs out there. These include web developers, computer systems analysts, computer programmers and computer network architects, among other roles. Salary ranges in this field range from a median of $77,200 a year to about $116,000, based on 2020 stats. These salaries depend on location, competition, education and skill level, among other factors, and may not be typical for everyone.

As far as the specific title "software developer," BLS states that in 2020, such jobs earned a median wage of $110,140 per year. Actual salaries are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates. Salaries depend on the geographic location of the role, the size of the company and other factors.

You can expect to work at software companies, engineering firms or other established corporations. Jobs may also be found with companies that have an ongoing, crucial need for an in-house software developer. As BLS notes, "Many software developers work for firms that deal in computer systems design and related services, manufacturing or for software publishers.”


University of Phoenix degree programs

If, while reading the above, you said to yourself, "I don’t have time to get my undergraduate degree in computer science," hang on. If you attend an online program, one with flexible hours or 24/7 access to courses, you may have a greater range of flexibility that allows you to get that degree while maintaining your commitments to taking care of your family and holding a current full- or part-time job. An online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree program, in other words, may be the solution for a busy professional.

At University of Phoenix, students learn how to apply computer science theory and software development fundamentals to produce computing-based solutions, make informed judgments in computing practice based on legal and ethical principles, and evaluate a computing-based solution to meet a given set of requirements. They also learn all of the following:

  • Java programming
  • Software development
  • Computer architecture
  • Ethics in computer science
  • Computer application and theory

For students who are interested in developing a specialty, such as in cybersecurity, cloud computing, information security, scripted and compiled program languages, advanced software development or another specialized focus, this online degree program may be just what you’re looking for.

Want to learn more? Discover more online courses and bachelor’s degree programs at University of Phoenix.


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