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What does a software developer do

Think about the computer programs you use each day for work and play. From desktop publishing and computer software to social media apps and video games, no program comes from thin air. Someone has to build them, and that person is known as a software developer.

Software developers design, build, test and maintain the systems that help us get things done. They can work in many fields, from tech companies to healthcare to finance.

They also collaborate. Software development draws on talents from many different sources beyond people with technical knowledge. But what does the day-to-day work look like? And how do you get your start in this exciting, fast-paced industry?

Let’s explore the world of software development, including the types of software developers, their duties and where they work. We’ll also touch on how University of Phoenix can help you jump-start your software development career, whether you’re coming from a different industry or simply want to enhance your skills.

Types of software developers 

Software development is a diverse field. Depending on your unique interests, you may decide to focus on one or more specific types of development. These can include the following niches:

Application developer 

Application software developers build computer and mobile applications like games and productivity software for consumers. They may build custom software for a business or nonprofit, or they might create commercial software available to the general public.

Systems software developer 

While application developers create individual programs, systems software developers create operating systems for the public or organizations. (Windows, Linux and MacOS are examples of operating systems.) The systems keep computers up and running and control most electronics we use daily. Software developers design, write and build software and applications that allow you to interact with computers and mobile devices.

What are the job duties of a software developer? 

Software developers’ daily job duties can vary depending on the industries in which they work and the programs they develop, among other factors. That said, many software developers have the following job duties:

  • Analyze the needs of users and develop applications or software
  • Recommend upgrades for existing programs and systems
  • Design pieces of applications and systems to work together
  • Create models and diagrams that show programmers which code is necessary for specific apps
  • Ensure programs function normally through testing and maintenance
  • Document background and development of application or software code for future reference

We spoke with J.L. Graff, MBA, associate dean of UOPX’s College of Business and Information Technology, to get a better idea about what a software developer does:

J.L. Graff

J.L. Graff, MBA
Associate Dean, College of Business and Information Technology

“Software developers work in myriad industries, and while the main responsibilities include designing, developing and maintaining software applications, the business needs differ. If you work in healthcare, you may create applications for health records and medical imaging. If you work in the automotive industry, you can work on software for connected car services or autonomous driving. If you are working in IT, you may find yourself developing software for agile methodologies or cloud computing.”

Skills needed for software developers 

Like any job, software development requires a healthy mixture of hard and soft skills. Mastering the following can help bolster your knowledge and experience:

Hard skills

Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that are often clear-cut and measurable. Most people gain these through education, training programs, certifications or on-the-job training. Most hard skills relate to specific tasks and job descriptions.

Software developers need to have a strong grasp of the following:

  • Programming languages: Knowledge of multiple programming languages, including Python, Java, C++ and JavaScript, is essential.
  • Database management: Software developers need to understand database concepts, including SQL and MySQL.
  • Version control systems: Software developers use version control systems, like Git, to track changes within the codebase. Knowing how to revert or advance changes is critical.
  • Data structures and algorithms: Developers must know how different data structures work and how to use them efficiently. They must also possess a strong knowledge of algorithmic techniques.
  • Web development: As more software platforms move online, developers should have a strong understanding of different front-end and back-end web development frameworks.
  • Software testing and debugging: As a developer, you’ll need to write test cases and use debugging skills to make sure your software works as expected.
  • Operating systems: Developers need a basic understanding of the different operating systems that their programs run on.

Soft skills 

Soft skills describe the interpersonal skills that help you work both individually and as a team. They also detail how well you handle workplace challenges and stressors. Common soft skills that help software developers thrive are:

  • Communication: Software developers brainstorm with colleagues, describe problems and solutions during development, and convey key metrics and possibilities to stakeholders who may not know industry jargon.
  • Teamwork: Much of software development happens in agile development environments, so being able to collaborate is important.
  • Time management: Software developers often work on multiple projects simultaneously and must prioritize their tasks.
  • Adaptability: Technology changes rapidly. Developers need to quickly adapt to updates or at least be willing to learn.
  • Critical thinking: Software developers need to know how to analyze problems and make sound decisions that benefit their projects.
  • Patience: Debugging requires patience, especially if the solution to a problem isn’t immediately apparent.

Careers in software development 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the anticipated future growth of software development – a projection of 25% between 2022 and 2032 – makes it an attractive field for technically minded individuals with a strong attention to detail.

Salaries for software developers have historically been competitive. In May 2023, software developers earned from $77.020 to $208,620 a year, with a median wage of $132,270, according to BLS.

While the vast majority of software developers work for software publishers and computer systems companies, it’s possible to find software development jobs at finance firms, insurers, manufacturers and healthcare companies.

BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2022-2032 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

How to become a software developer 

There are many reasons you may want to pursue a career in software development. Graff points out: “As a software developer, you are in a high-demand field with the flexibility to explore various industries that pique your interest. You have the opportunity to enjoy flexible work hours and the option to work remotely. Witnessing tangible outcomes derived from your creativity and problem-solving skills can be a rewarding experience.”

To become a software developer, you’ll likely follow these steps:

1.     Determine what kind of development you want to focus on, whether that’s mobile applications, desktop software or web development. Becoming an application developer may be a good step if that area interests you.

2.     Pursue a degree or certification. Many developers start their career with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Others transition to a software development career by earning certificates.

3.     Apply for and participate in internships. Internships provide valuable networking opportunities, on-the-job experience and projects for your portfolio.

4.     Apply for your first job. With appropriate experience, networking knowledge and projects in hand, you can find your first job. In some cases, your internship might lead directly to a paid, full-time opportunity.

Software development at University of Phoenix 

Becoming a software developer can be a rewarding career for tech-minded people who love to create and who pay attention to detail. Software development work is a parade of problem-solving, critical thinking and technical work.

Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at University of Phoenix is an excellent way to hone your skills in programming, networking and AI (among others) and gain the knowledge that can make a career in software development possible.

Here’s what you can learn:

  • Application development
  • Troubleshooting
  • Programming
  • Scripting
  • Data security
  • Software design

If software development is your calling, you can specialize your bachelor’s degree in computer science with an Advanced Software Developer Certificate, which further develops programming, software engineering and IT architecture skills. During this program, you’ll learn to design and implement software solutions, for example, and study multiple programming languages.

Request information on this and many other online programs today.

Headshot of Michael Feder


A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.


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