What Does a Software Developer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Software developers are computer science professionals who oversee everything involved in creating software that renders devices, such as computers, cellphones, and tablets, functional and useful.

There are two types of software developers:

  1. Systems software developers create software that makes computers and other devices run. This includes your computer's or device's operating system.
  2. 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.

Software Developer Duties & Responsibilities

Software developer responsibilities may include the following:

  • Code and test software based on 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

A software developer handles the entire development process of a software program. This involves first identifying the core functionality that a user needs from the software program, as well as the user requirements that are unrelated to the functions of the software, such as the level of security and performance needs. The developer designs the program and then may either give instructions to programmers to write the computer code and test it or perform this task themselves.

In addition, the software developer is also responsible for maintenance and upgrades to existing software.

Software Developer Salary

Software developers earned the following salaries, which differ based on education, experience, and location:

Application software developers

  • Median annual salary: $103,620
  • Top 10% annual salary: $161,290
  • Bottom 10% salary: $61,660

System software developers

  • Median annual salary: $110,000
  • Top 10% annual salary: $166,960
  • Bottom 10% salary: $66,740

Education Requirements & Qualifications

While you are not required to have a college degree, many people working in this field have a bachelor's 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.

Software Development Skills & Competencies

To qualify for a position as a software developer, you will need a certain skill set:

  • Fast learner: Ability to quickly pick up new languages, technologies, and frameworks
  • Efficient and independent: Resourceful and proactive in gathering information and sharing ideas
  • Deadline-driven: Persistent in following through on given tasks to meet scheduled dates
  • Organized: Ability to balance a wide variety of projects in a fast-paced work environment
  • Effective communicator: Effective listening and speaking skills to convey instructions to colleagues who are working on projects you are overseeing
  • Team-player: Ability to work collaboratively on a team of like-minded people
  • Analytical and solution-oriented: Important for determining user needs, as well as troubleshooting potential problems during development
  • Attention to detail: Ability to pay careful attention to multiple parts of the systems and applications on which you are working
  • Creative: Ability to come up with ideas for new applications and systems

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment will grow much faster for software developers through 2026, at 24%, compared to the 7% average for all occupations. The job outlook will be better for applications software developers, who the BLS predicts will experience a 31% growth, than it will be for systems software developer, whose growth is expected to be 11%.

This increase will be due to the need for new applications on cell phones and tablets as well as new products that use software, software for new and existing healthcare policies, and additional security software in response to threats to computer information.

Work Environment

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. Some developers work at home.

Work Schedule

Software developers usually have full-time jobs with many working more than 40 hours each week.

Comparing Similar Jobs

If you are considering a position as a software developer, you may want to research these similar jobs:

How to Get the Job

Apply

Popular job boards that advertise software developer positions include Indeed, CareerBuilder, Monster, and Glassdoor.

iHireTechnology and Dice are more industry-focused job sites that list a multitude of software developer positions.

Network

Meet others in the industry by joining associations such as the Association of Software Professionals (ASP), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Attend conferences and other events to network and learn about possible job openings.