Occupations involving computer programming have been a good bet for job-seekers since the 1990s, and it would be difficult to find any career hotter in the field than software developer.
With high demand and strong salary potential, software developer is projected to remain one of the fastest-growing careers through the end of this decade. U.S. News & World Report ranked the job No. 2 on its list of the best jobs of 2012, citing high demand as well as good job satisfaction and salary.
Software developers are needed across most private industries, as well as in government and the military. Basically, if an organization has a computer system, it needs a developer – sometimes called a software engineer – to design, implement and manage the system.
Job Duties for Software Developers
Generally, software developers write the computer programs used for everything from the systems that allow computers to run properly to the latest software applications for mobile devices. It’s an expanding field that requires creative minds who want to be on the cutting edge of finding new uses for technology.
Software developers typically spend their days analyzing the needs of clients and then designing a system to meet those needs. They might also recommend software upgrades to existing systems. More detailed work comes in the form of designing the step-by-step flowcharts for computing systems that show how program code must be written in order for it to work properly.
Software developers document all of their tasks to ensure that subsequent users can diagnose and fix any problems that might arise in a system, as well perform any maintenance.
Salary and Job Outlook for Software Developers
Securing a job as a software developer requires education and training; in return, skilled developers may enjoy better-than-average compensation. The median annual wage of software developers was more than $90,500 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For developers specializing in systems software, the average rose above $94,000.
The BLS predicts a 30% increase in employment of software developers between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the 14% growth rate anticipated for all occupations.
Although there are numerous factors behind these projections, the primary underlying reason is that computer software is needed in almost every industry. The need is especially pronounced in businesses moving into mobile technology and in the healthcare industry, where records are being transferred into electronic databases.
The career and salary potential of software developers is influenced by local market conditions, as well as by work experience, education and other factors.
Software Developer Education and Training
Getting into this in-demand profession typically requires a bachelor’s degree, most likely in computer science or a related field. Some software developers have a degree in mathematics, according to the BLS.
As with many occupations, attaining an advanced degree can result in software developers securing jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.
Whichever degree is pursued, aspiring software developers should primarily focus on learning the skills needed to write, implement and maintain software. However, students may also want to have an understanding of the industry in which they wish to work – healthcare, for example, or finance.
A degree in business administration with an emphasis on computer science is one possible pathway to a career in software development, as it provides a solid business background as well as specific technical training.
Career Paths for Software Developers
Generally, software developers find work in one of two main areas: writing code for software or writing code for computing systems.
Application software developers design systems for consumer applications, such as those used in games, according to the BLS. Depending on client need, they may develop custom-made software for consumer applications or design databases for organizations.
Systems software developers design computing systems, including the user interface. These can include systems used within companies as well as operating systems for electronics such as mobile phones.
Servicemembers and veterans preparing to transition to civilian life may find the job of software developer shares skills and attributes with numerous military occupational specializations.
Titles vary among military branches, but the jobs typically involve operating and maintaining military computer systems and databases. Such positions include information technology specialist, cyber systems operations specialist and computer systems programming specialist.