How to Learn App Development

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Updated September 13, 2022

Interested in becoming an application developer without a degree? Our in-depth guide explores how you can learn app development and break into the field.

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Business group working online at the office at nighttime using technology and developing mobile applications Credit: andresr / E+ / Getty Images

App developers create software applications for mobile devices and the web. These apps help people engage with organizations and technology in new ways. Here, we examine this field in more detail and show you how to learn app development.

Why Should I Learn App Development?

Apps improve the performance, functionality, and accessibility of websites and mobile devices. Individuals and organizations use apps more than ever before, making now a great time for new developers to enter the field.

According to data.ai's State of Mobile in 2022 report, users downloaded more than 230 billion mobile apps in 2022, up 5% year over year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22% job growth for software development professionals from 2020-2030. This sector boasts a median annual salary of $110,140 as of 2020.

Explore App Development Specializations

The first step in learning app development is choosing a focus. Developers can specialize in either mobile or web apps, a particular app type, or a specific platform.

Though they often have similar appearances and functions, mobile and web apps differ. Mobile apps install on mobile devices and provide focused functionality, whereas users can access web apps on any device with an internet connection.

While web apps provide access to anyone with a connected browser, mobile apps may be platform-specific. For that reason, mobile app developers often specialize in iOS or Android apps. Some developers gain cross-platform expertise, allowing them to develop hybrid mobile apps that work on many operating systems.

App developers can also specialize in development environments like Node.js, frameworks like Symfony, or cloud computing platforms like Azure and AWS. Specializing may lead to better opportunities with organizations that use those specific skills and technologies. However, broadening your expertise can expand the types of opportunities available.

Complete Training and/or Education

You can learn app development in various ways, including teaching yourself or completing a bootcamp. Below, we highlight the pros and cons of each.

Self-Taught Pathway

The self-taught app pathway involves using free and low-cost sources to train yourself in app development. Depending on your background, learning style, and schedule, this process can take a few months or a few years. Self-teaching gives you the freedom to learn the material you want at your own pace.

Teaching yourself app development may seem overwhelming, but the many structured learning resources available can help guide you. Start by creating a list of the tools, technologies, and languages required for your field of interest. Next, find training materials on these subjects.

While you study and learn, you should practice, test, and build. This can help you track your progress, get comfortable with the process, and stay motivated. Consider the following resources to help you get started:

  • Udacity
  • Google Developers Courses
  • freeCodeCamp
  • YouTube
  • MIT OpenCourseware
  • Coursera
  • edX
  • Tech Blogs
  • Online Communities
  • In-person Events

Bootcamp Pathway

Bootcamp programs provide intensive, focused, and practical training. Participants learn through project-based assignments within structured lesson plans. Learners develop job-ready skills and professional portfolios. Students may also build networking relationships that can help them enter the app development field or advance within it.

Bootcamps vary in scope and length. According to a 2019 RTI International study, these programs average about 13 weeks for full-time students and 24 weeks for part-time students. Along with short timelines, bootcamps have a median price of $11,900. This price is lower than the average annual tuition for college undergraduates, as per the National Center for Education Statistics.

Bootcamps may not appeal to everyone, however. The industry has no independent accrediting agency or mandatory results auditing process. Moreover, bootcamp students do not have access to federal financial aid, though programs may offer loans, scholarships, and alternative financial arrangements.

Practice and Hone Your Skills

After learning app development, you can put your new knowledge and skills to work by building a portfolio, pursuing industry credentials, and applying to internships and jobs.

Expand Your Portfolio

A strong portfolio highlights an app developer's skills and the functionality of their work. Portfolios can include all types of projects, including training assignments, hobby builds, and paid work. The most effective portfolios highlight diversity and range. They also show employers what types of projects the developer wants to work on.

Start out with short-term projects. These simple builds can help you understand the development life cycle while populating your portfolio in its early stages. Avoid including too many pieces, which can be overloading and counterproductive.

Consider Professional Certifications

Professional certifications help developers stand out by proving their expertise in specific subjects. Certified developers have had their knowledge and skills tested and verified. This endorsement can help with job applications and salary negotiations.

Aspiring app developers can pursue professional certifications from the industry's most influential organizations. Prominent credentials include Google developer certification, IBM's mobile application developer certification, and Swift certification for iOS developers.

Apply to App Development Internships

Internships typically offer short-term contracts for entry-level employment. These opportunities can provide practical on-the-job training and help new developers get familiar with the field.

Many bootcamps help students find internships. They may match learners with local companies or invite recruiters into their classrooms. Bootcamps may also provide job search support after graduation.

Self-taught app developers can also find internships. Job boards, networking sites, and local organizations may be useful resources. Specialized sites like Chegg Internships list paid and unpaid internships nationwide. Career fairs can also help job-seekers connect with organizations looking for interns.

Common Questions About Learning App Development

How do I start learning to develop apps?

You can start learning app development by accessing free courses, watching and reading tutorials, attending a development bootcamp, or just playing around. Choose the path that feels most comfortable to you and try out new things as you go.

Can I learn app development on my own?

Yes. You can learn app development on your own with the help of free online resources. You can watch videos, read books, and create your own projects at home to develop your skill set.

How long does it take to learn app development?

The length of time it takes to learn app development depends on your background, experience, and familiarity with the technologies and concepts. It might take you three months if you have a technical background or three years if you have no experience.

Is it easier to make a web app or mobile app?

While mobile and web apps can both present challenges, developers typically find web apps easier to build. Developers create most mobile apps for specific platforms. These apps have more complex features and maintenance routines. Web apps, on the other hand, use a common codebase and have simpler features.

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