Software Developers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Software developers usually have a bachelors degree, typically in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Computer science degree programs are the most common, because they tend to cover a broad range of topics. Students should focus on classes related to building software to better prepare themselves for work in the occupation. Many students gain experience in software development by completing an internship at a software company while in college. For some positions, employers may prefer that applicants have a masters degree.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 24% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Software developers can advance to become information technology (IT) project managers, also called computer and information systems managers, a position in which they oversee the software development process.
Median pay: How much do Software Developers make?
$102,280 Annual Salary
$49.17 per hour

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

What do Software Developers do?

Software developers typically do the following:

  • Analyze users needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
  • Recommend software upgrades for customers existing programs and systems
  • Design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
  • Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that show programmers the software code needed for an application
  • Ensure that a program continues to function normally through software maintenance and testing
  • Document every aspect of an application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
  • Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software

Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program. They may begin by asking how the customer plans to use the software. They must identify the core functionality that users need from software programs. Software developers must also determine user requirements that are unrelated to the functions of the software, such as the level of security and performance needs. They design the program and then give instructions to programmers, who write computer code and test it.

If the program does not work as expected or if testers find it too difficult to use, software developers go back to the design process to fix the problems or improve the program. After the program is released to the customer, a developer may perform upgrades and maintenance.

Developers usually work closely with computer programmers. However, in some companies, developers write code themselves instead of giving instructions to programmers.

Developers who supervise a software project from the planning stages through implementation sometimes are called information technology (IT) project managers. These workers monitor the projects progress to ensure that it meets deadlines, standards, and cost targets. IT project managers who plan and direct an organizations IT department or IT policies are included in the profile on computer and information systems managers.

The following are examples of types of software developers:

Careers for Software Developers

  • Application integration engineers
  • Applications developers
  • Applications software developers
  • Computer applications developers
  • Computer applications engineers
  • Computer systems software architects
  • Computer systems software engineers
  • Database developers
  • Embedded systems software developers
  • Enterprise systems engineers
  • Software applications architects
  • Software applications designers
  • Software architects
  • Software designers
  • Software engineers
  • Software systems designers
  • Software systems engineers
  • Software systems specialists
  • Systems developers
  • Systems software developers

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