Software Developer

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What Do Software Developers Do?

Software developers use various source debuggers and visual development environments to modify, write, and debug software for client applications. They also document and test client software and write code to create applications that either stand alone or boost access to servers and services. According to PayScale, software developers earn a median salary of around $70,000 and can earn higher salaries by pursuing advanced degrees.

Many companies require candidates to have experience in the field and a bachelor's degree in software development, computer programming, information technology, or computer science. Software developers typically work in office settings, and many also serve as information technology specialists in addition to their software development roles within the company.

Key Skills

Software developers learn many skills during their coursework, trainings, and certifications. With a wide variety of programming languages and software available, professionals must familiarize themselves with the top frameworks to succeed. The programming languages, JavaScript, Java, C#, and Python are some of the skills and competencies software developers should master to advance their careers.

Key Skills for Software Developers

  • An open source web framework, allows users to build web apps and services with .NET. These resources allow users to create websites using HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. The website features opportunities for individuals to learn about open-source and cross-platform to build modern cloud-based web applications including Linux, Windows, and Mac.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript is as a high-level, interpreted programming language conforming to the ECMAScript specification. The language is considered weakly-typed, dynamic, multi-paradigm, and dynamic. Alongside HTML and CSS, it is one of the three core technologies of the World Wide Web.
  • Java: Java is a general-purpose computer-programming language that features class-based, concurrent, object-oriented functions. Java is designed to have minimum implementation dependencies to allow application developers to “write once, run anywhere.” Java is one of the most popular programming languages used today, especially for client-server web applications.
  • C#: A general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language, C# encompasses imperative, strong typing, functional, declarative, object-oriented, component-oriented, generic programming disciplines. It was developed by Microsoft within the .NET initiative and was approved as a standard by ISO and Ecma.
  • Python: Python is as an interpreted, general-purpose, high-level programming language. Python's design philosophy emphasizes code readability by using significant whitespace and providing clear programming on large and small scales.

How Much Do Software Developers Make?

Software developers' salary depends on several factors such as industry and location. Certain industries offer higher salary opportunities, as do some cities and states. Level of degree and experience also affects salary, with professionals who earn advanced degrees typically earning higher salaries and those with more experience also enjoying higher salary potential. Job function and level also play a role.

Average Salary of Software Developers by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $65,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $81,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $92,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $99,000
Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Software Developer?

Earn Your Degree

Software developers must earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant area of study. Most employers require a degree in software development, though some remain open to other areas including computer science, computer programming, and other related areas. Typically, employers look for candidates from regionally accredited institutions so they know what quality of education the professional received.

Many online programs exist for software developers, allowing them to earn their degree at their own pace from any location and gain more in-the-field experience while they pursue their education. Advanced degrees in software development can qualify graduates for new career opportunities and higher salaries.

Gain Experience

Many employers look for software developers with professional experience. Professionals can demonstrate their professional experience in their resumes, cover letters, and portfolios. Depending on their level of education, professionals may have different experiences with in-the-field work. For instance, graduates with their master's degree may have already started their careers before entering into a master's program, or during their master's program.

Undergraduate students, by comparison, do not typically graduate with much in-the-field experience, though they typically pursue internship opportunities while in school. Internships often allow students to find full-time employment at their internship location after graduation. Professionals should focus on gaining as much experience as possible during their programs and craft their resumes to demonstrate those experiences.

Earn Credentials

Many certifications exist for software developers. Some of the most common certifications include Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Cloudera, Oracle, and Java. Many software development careers require professionals to obtain certifications before allowing them to work with a certain software. These certifications prove that professionals know enough about the software in question to work comfortably with it. Often, these credentials boost software developers' salary and employment opportunities since they set them apart from other candidates. Professionals can conduct their own research online or reach out to their college or university to discover different certification opportunities. Additionally, professional organizations may offer more certification opportunities.

Types of Careers in Software Development

Software developers can pursue a variety of career opportunities depending on their degree level. Many jobs in the field require a master's degree, although there are opportunities for bachelor's graduates. Most employers prefer candidates with experience, and master's graduates usually have more experience than those with their bachelor's. In addition to providing more job possibilities and room for growth, advanced degrees in software development allow professionals to earn higher median annual salaries. Computer programmers with their bachelor's degree earn a median annual salary of $61,236 while software engineers with their master's degree earn a median annual salary of $101,146.

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers work with content producers and designers to modify, write, and debug software for server applications. They also write code in order to create networked, multi-threaded server applications and use source debuggers and program dumps to perform maintenance monitoring. Computer programmers document and test software for server applications.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary


Sr. Software Engineer / Developer / Programmer

Responsible for documenting and testing software for client applications, senior professionals review and guide the work of junior engineers. They also translate business requirements of technical specifications to manage project timelines and priorities. They use visual development environments and source debuggers frequently.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Master's degree with several years of in-the-field experience

Median Annual Salary


Computer Systems Analyst

In charge of monitoring network and systems for security, performance, and other issues, computer systems analysts install, recommend, maintain, configure, and upgrade hardware, networking, and computer software for use in a department, small company, or office. Additionally, they help users with hardware, software, and connectivity issues and translate requirements into technology project specifications.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary


Database Administrator

Database administrators optimize and monitor system performance by using disk optimization, index tuning, and other methods. They also configure, troubleshoot, install, and maintain database systems and set user privileges within database environments. Database administrators also troubleshoot, implement, and configure replication, access, storage, partitions, backups and database instances.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree with a background in IT work

Median Annual Salary


Quality Assurance Engineer

Quality assurance engineers participate in regulatory and customer agency audits, prepare monthly quality assurance status reports, and train internal personnel with quality assurance requirements. They create tests to identify problems within a software before the product is launched and identify any bugs along the way.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree with 5-10 years of experience with software testing or development

Median Annual Salary


Where Can I Work as a Software Developer?

Software developers should consider location during their job search, paying attention to what salary opportunities and employment levels exist in each area. From there, professionals should research the cost of living and consider what their quality of life might be like. The industry they choose is also important, and professionals should decide which area suits them.


Location is one of the most crucial aspects when deciding where to begin your career as a software developer. Different metropolitan areas in the U.S. feature varying employment levels and higher or lower annual mean wage amounts. Professionals looking for the metropolitan area with the highest salary opportunities should look for employment in the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco metropolitan area.

Additionally, those looking to work in the area with the highest employment levels should consider the New York-Jersey City- White Plains, New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. Location affects cost of living and quality of life, so professionals should consider all aspects during their job search.

Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Employment Level of Applications Software Developers

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 57,910 $117,620
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 48,750 $132,170
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division 47,920 $133,810
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division 30,120 $147,590
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division 28,820 $114,990
Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Applications Software Developers

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division 30,120 $147,590
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division 47,920 $133,810
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 48,750 $132,170
Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD Metropolitan Division 3,630 $126,260
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan Division 10,010 $125,120
Source: BLS


When choosing an industry to work in, software developers should consider several factors. Certain industries feature more employment opportunities than others, while others offer better and higher salary opportunities. Professionals should identify which benefits are most important to them when beginning their job search. Software publishing, manufacturing, and computer systems design are some of the job settings that offer attractive benefits to employees.

The Five Largest Employers of Applications Software Developers

Setting Percent Employed Median Annual Salary
Computer systems design and related services 35 $98,450
Software publishers 10 $112,230
Finance and insurance 10 $105,170
Manufacturing 7 $109,070
Management of companies and enterprises 5 $100,430
Source: BLS

Continuing Education for Software Developers

Software developers are often required to pursue continuing education credits to maintain their competencies and certifications. Software developers can access online resources and various educational programs to pursue continuing education credentials. Many professionals choose to continue their education online since it allows them to continue their careers without interruption. These programs feature online courses and exams to evaluate the skills and knowledge of participants. Often, even if professionals are not required to pursue continuing education credits, they still explore these opportunities to deepen their knowledge and expand their career opportunities.

How Do I Find a Job in Software Development?

Recent graduates looking to begin their careers as software developers can pursue different avenues. Many colleges provide students with the chance to pursue internships. Internships not only grant students with in-the-field exposure and experience, they also serve as gateways to career opportunities after graduation. Many students find their college internships serve as stepping stones to their career, finding full-time employment within the same company after graduation. Job fairs are also opportunities for graduates to explore different roles in their areas of interest. Additionally, professionals can network with others in their field to cultivate lasting professional contacts, often leading to job offers.

Professional Resources for Software Developers

Professional Organizations

  • Association of Software Professionals The Association of Software Professionals is a professional association for developers and authors of commercial, freeware, and shareware computer software.
  • Developers Alliance A nonprofit global organization, the Developers Alliance serves and supports the workforce for software developers, encompassing a network of more than 70,000 software developers.
  • IEEE Computer Society The IEEE Computer Society functions to advance the theory, practice, and application of computer and information processing technology and science.
  • The App Association The App Association is the premier source for mobile app development. The association represents more than 5,000 app developers across the country.

Professional Development

  • Hack Reactor Focused primarily on teaching JavaScript, Hack Reactor also covers topics including HTML, Express, CoffeeScript, AngularJS, among others.
  • Iron Hack A web development boot camp, Iron Hack offers locations in Madrid, Miami, and Barcelona, covering subjects like CSS, HTML, Sinatra, JavaScript, and Ruby on Rails.
  • Codeacademy Codeacademy is an interactive setup enabling aspiring coders to gain the skills they need to thrive in their industry including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Google Code Google Code is a searchable resource containing an archive of more than 1.4 million projects, serving as a critical resource for software developers everywhere.

Finding a Job

  • Indeed is an online search engine for jobs. Individuals can search for software developer jobs in a certain area or company. They can also apply to a variety of jobs directly on the website.
  • Monster is another online search engine for jobs, highlighting different categories and job locations, allowing individuals to find the job that best suits their needs.
  • features a variety of resources for software developers. The site outlines what software developers do, identifies key skills they need, mentions specific software they should know, and allows users to explore job opportunities.
  • CareerBuilder CareerBuilder allows professionals to discover opportunities in their area of interest and their ideal location.

Continuing Education

  • Udemy Udemy is a catch-all service, allowing students to take courses without investing too much time or money.
  • Udacity Striking partnerships with major companies to provide curriculums, Udacity has courses for a variety of technical skills. Users pay a monthly subscription that allows them to devote time to a topic.
  • LinkedIn Learning LinkedIn features a paid monthly service that allows them to access over 600 available courses for software development and 700 web development courses.
  • Coursera Ideal for individuals interested in traditional education, Coursera partners with universities around the world to make courses available online to students, allowing them to take an entire computer course from a major university without earning a degree.