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How to become an app developer

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

At a glance

This article was updated on December 1, 2023.

If you’re like most people, you use apps every day. Whether you’re checking social media, reading the news or playing a game, there’s a good chance you use an app to do it. But do you ever think about how those apps are made? Who creates them and how does the process work?

Application developers, also known as app developers, create the applications we use every day. They work with engineers and designers to come up with new concepts for apps and then make them a reality. They also work on updates and bug fixes for existing applications.

Becoming an app developer can be both gratifying and challenging. Keep reading to learn more about the education or hands-on experience you will need to become an application developer.

Earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree. 

Types of app developers

Before you start your journey to becoming an app developer, it’s important to understand the different responsibilities associated with being one. Generally speaking, there are three main categories: front-end, back-end and full-stack development.

  • Front-end developers create an app’s user interface and ensure it runs smoothly and looks aesthetically pleasing. They are responsible for creating visuals, animations, buttons, forms and other interactive elements that optimize the user experience.
  • Back-end developers are in charge of the behind-the-scenes work on an app. Much like software developers, they are responsible for writing code that powers the application, debugging errors and integrating databases. Their primary focus is ensuring the app functions properly, securely and efficiently.
  • Full-stack developers have a mix of skills from both front-end and back-end development. They understand the overall app development process and can handle both the design and coding elements that come with it.

Knowing which role best suits your interests can help you more effectively search for the right opportunities for education and experience.

Skills needed to become an app developer

To become an app developer, you’ll need a solid foundation in coding and design. While the exact skill set may vary depending on the job you are pursuing, here are some basics that aspiring app developers should have.

Programming languages

Knowing and understanding programming languages, like JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS, is essential. As you progress as an app developer, you may need to learn more languages, such as Swift and Java.

Design skills

Creating apps that look great and are easy to use requires design knowledge. You should understand user experience and interface design principles so your apps can be attractive and intuitive for users.


App development requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You need to think logically and come up with solutions quickly when faced with a challenge.


Working as an app developer involves working closely with other professionals, such as engineers, designers and project managers. Collaborating effectively is essential for smooth app deployment.

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Computer science skills to put on your resumé

Education requirements to pursue an app development job

If you are ready to become an app developer, you can take several educational pathways.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

A four-year bachelor’s program with a concentration in computer science focuses on software engineering fundamentals, computer networking and programming languages. A college program specializing in app development may also include user experience design, internet security and software architecture classes.

If attending an in-person bachelor’s degree program won’t fit in your life, there are other options. Some online universities, for example, such as University of Phoenix, offer an online degree program with a focus on technology and are an excellent option for those who cannot commit to attending classes in person.

There are also short-term IT certificate programs focusing on a particular language or technology that will help you keep up with trends.

No matter which route you choose, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest software and technologies. This will help you become an effective app developer.

Gaining experience as an app developer

Once you have the necessary skills and education, it’s time to gain some experience as an app developer. Here are a few ways to get started.

Freelance projects

You can build your portfolio by working on freelance projects for small companies or startups. This will give you valuable experience working on real-world projects and help you network with potential employers.


Internships are a great way to obtain experience while learning from experienced developers. You can find internships at larger companies or tech startups looking for extra help.

Contribute to open-source projects

Contributing to open-source projects is another way to build up your portfolio and get feedback on your work. To participate, you must find an open-source project that interests you and ask the project manager how you can get involved.

Participate in hackathons

Hackathons are events where you can meet other app developers and practice coding skills in a competitive setting. It’s also a great opportunity to network with potential employers.

By gaining experience as an app developer, you can become more marketable and develop skills needed for app developer jobs. This will also allow you to work on projects that are meaningful to you and help build your portfolio.

Computer science programs at University of Phoenix

If becoming an application developer interests you, University of Phoenix offers online programs that can help prepare you for this role!

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science — This program provides a foundation of knowledge in the field of IT. Learn how to apply information technology theory and principles to address real-world business challenges with advanced concepts in math, programming and computer architecture. You can also use elective courses to earn a certificate in cybersecurity, networking, cloud computing and more.
  • Advanced Software Developer Certificate — Develop programming, software engineering and IT architecture skills in as little as 10 months. Learn to design and implement software solutions in relation to project scope and stakeholder needs. Study multiple programming languages and software architecture principles.

Learn more about other online technology programs at University of Phoenix!

Michael Feder


Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!


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