The Role of a Software Developer

Career Information, Earnings, Requirements, and More

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When you use a computer, cellphone, tablet, video game system, or e-reader, or use a software program, game, or app on any of these devices, you have a software developer to thank for making it possible. These computer science professionals oversee everything involved in creating software that renders these devices functional and useful.

There are two types of software developers. Systems software developers create software that makes computers and other devices run.

This includes your computer's or device's operating system. Applications software developers design software programs like word processors, databases, spreadsheets, and games. These applications may be mass marketed or developed for businesses, organizations, and other entities according to their needs and specifications.

Quick Facts

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (most recent figures as of January 2019):

  • In 2017, software developers earned a median annual salary of $103,560.
  • 1,256,200 people worked as software developers in 2016.
  • The computer systems design and related services industry employs most software developers, with others commonly working for computer and electronic product manufacturers, finance and insurance companies, and software publishers.
  • Software developers usually have full-time jobs with many working more than 40 hours each week.
  • The government agency predicts employment will grow much faster for software developers through 2026, at 24 percent compared to the 7-percent average for all occupations.

    A Day in a Software Developer's Life

    Job announcements are a great source of information when trying to learn about job duties. According to announcements on Indeed.com, software developers:

    • "Code and test software based upon software specifications and design"
    • "Analyze user needs and software requirements to determine the feasibility of design within time and cost constraints"
    • "Troubleshoot and resolve issues in existing software"
    • "Analyze and study complex systems requirements"
    • "Prepare design documentation"
    • "Write and maintain technical documentation to describe program development, logic, coding, testing, changes, and corrections"
    • "Collaborate and communicate effectively with stakeholders throughout the organization"
    • "Support customer-witnessed testing"

    How You Can Become a Software Developer

    While you are not required to have a bachelor's degree, many people working in this field have a degree. Majoring in computer science with a focus on building software can prepare you for your first job. Some employers even prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree.

    Software developers who work in some industries must have skills related to that line of business. If, for example, you want to develop software for an insurance company, you need to have a good understanding of how that industry operates. This knowledge will allow you to develop software that suits the needs of those who will use it.

    Soft Skills Needed

    • Communication Skills: You will need effective listening and speaking skills in order to convey instructions to colleagues who are working on projects you are overseeing.
    • Interpersonal Skills: Since software developers are often part of a team, they must be able to get along and work well with others. This skill set, which includes social perceptiveness and the ability to coordinate your actions with others' actions, is also essential when dealing with clients.
    • Analytical and Problem Solving Skills: The former will allow you to determine users' needs and the latter to troubleshoot problems that come up during the development process.
    • Attention to Detail: You must be able to pay careful attention to multiple parts of the systems and applications on which you are working.
    • Creativity: As a developer, you will have to come up with ideas for new applications and systems.

    What Employers Will Expect From You

    We again looked at job announcements listed on Indeed.com to find out what qualifications employers are seeking:

    • "Ability to quickly pick up new languages, technologies, and frameworks"
    • "Ability to work collaboratively on a team of like-minded people"
    • "Resourceful and proactive in gathering information and sharing ideas"
    • "Persistence to follow through on given tasks"
    • "Ability to balance a wide variety of projects in a fast-paced work environment"