Software Developer: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a software developer. Learn about the job outlook, educational requirements, salary and job responsibilities to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Software Development & Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Software Developer?

Software developers create new tools that others can use to complete tasks more efficiently or creatively. There are various types of software developers: some design applications that individuals can use on computers and other devices, while other developers design systems software that is used by the entire computer network. Software developers must determine how the parts of an application or system will function, as well as maintaining documentation and performing upgrades over time. Read the table below for an overview of what you might need to know about becoming a software developer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree can be helpful for advancement
Education Field of Study Computer science, computer engineering
Key Skills Creating, managing and repairing computer applications, software and network technologies for users
Job Growth (2014-2024) 17%*
Average Salary (2015) $102,160 for applications software developers; $108,760 for systems software developers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Job Duties of a Software Developer?

Also called computer software engineers, software developers work with graphic designers, computer programmers and other professionals to create, develop and produce new computer software applications. You produce new designs and technology after analyzing user needs and constructing programs that meet those needs. Additional responsibilities include ensuring that programs work properly and removing any glitches when they malfunction.

What Is My Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career outlook for software developers is expected to be good, growing about 17% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for other occupations ( The growth expected is due to a growing reliance on mobile technology. The average national salary for applications software developers in 2015 was $102,160, while systems software developers earned slightly more on average, at $108,760 per the BLS.

What Education Requirements Do I Need to Meet?

To become a software developer, you have the best employment options with a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering, although several years of experience and proven technical skills may be a substitute. You take courses in programming, computer systems, computer security, data processing, operating systems, discrete structures and algorithms. A review of May 2011 job ads for software developers on shows that common requirements include knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server development and administration, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and .Net development in C# or Visual Basic. Other skills include Web Services, ASP, SQL, XML, HTML, VBScript and JavaScript.

For more challenging positions that offer more pay and more opportunity for career advancement, a graduate degree may be required. You also need to keep up-to-date on advances in technology so your skills remain marketable and competitive in the workplace.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers that require a similar skill set and educational background, like computer hardware engineering, computer systems architecture, and computer programming. All of these careers focus on a specific portion of the field of computing. Individuals may also be interested in careers in computer and information systems management and computer and information research science, both of which involve large-scale planning and oversight of computer networks.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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