Exploring Careers: How to Become a Software Developer

person at desk coding

If you’re eyeing a career in software development, you are far from alone. This lucrative field is drawing in people by the thousands and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this career will grow by 22% by 2030, with nearly 410,000 jobs expected to be added by then. 

And all for good reason, too. 

Thanks to a higher than average salary, flexible work options, and ample growth opportunities, this field landed at number five on the US News and World Report’s Best Jobs list in 2022.

So whether you’re choosing your college major or are embarking on a career change decades in, here’s what you need to know about becoming a software developer.

In this article…

What does a software developer do?

Software developers are responsible for far more than the app that you use to get to your destination or check the weather forecast. While some do develop the applications that you use on your computers or smartphones, others are responsible for the underlying operating systems and networks that consumer-facing applications need to operate properly.

While the duties of a software developer may vary depending on specialization, in general, developers:

  • Pinpoint software needs and analyze requirements by communicating with clients or users
  • Create software programs by writing code
  • Collaborate with other teams such as graphic designers, project managers, customer service, and development teams across an organization to build user-friendly, functional products
  • Monitor performance and test software for quality assurance
  • Upgrade existing applications

Today, software developers can find jobs in just about any line of business. Growing industries include tech, retail, healthcare, IT services, government and defense, and finance, just to name a few.

How much do software developers make?

The median salary for software developers in the United States is $110,140. The lowest-paid 25% make $84,020 or less, while the highest-paid 25% make at least $140,470.

In addition to a higher-than-average salary, many software developer positions are remote. This has opened up new, higher-paying job opportunities to people who were previously limited by location.

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How to become a software developer

While there’s no one singular path to becoming a software developer, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right knowledge and experience.


According to a Stack Overflow survey, around 75% of developers held at least a bachelor’s degree. Common degrees that developers seek out are software engineering, computer science, software development, data science, and information technology. Two- and four-year programs are designed to give a broad theoretical and practical foundation on topics across computer science, such as computer logic, data management, data structures, and more.

However, a college degree is not the only route that a developer can take, which is particularly good news for people looking for a quick career change. Coding bootcamps are growing in popularity and provide many of the same benefits of a college degree— like practical knowledge and networking opportunities— for a fraction of the cost and time. These full-time programs are intensive and immersive and teach students industry trends and relevant skills. 

Research shows that somewhere between 74% and 90% of coding bootcamp grads land a full-time programming job within six months of graduation— a promising number that mirrors that of four-year degree grads.

Industry certifications

There are a number of industry- and niche-specific certifications that you can earn in addition to your formal education. What certifications you’ll want to obtain will largely depend on your specific goals as a developer, but some common ones include:

  • Certified Software Development Professional
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
  • Oracle certifications in SQL, Java, database development, and more
  • Microsoft Azure certifications
  • Amazon Web Services Certified Developer certification
  • CIW Web Development Professional

Certifications can help bolster your resume and show potential employers that you have specific areas of expertise.

Hands-on learning

In the tech world, hands-on experience is often far more important than technical knowledge. Aspiring developers are encouraged to apply to internships, work on personal projects, volunteer, and seek out other practical work opportunities. 

Hands-on learning will allow you to build a portfolio of projects that you can use to show off your skills to potential employers. Additionally, it will help you hone your skills that aren’t necessarily taught in a classroom such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and creative problem-solving. 

two programmers working together at a computer

Key traits a software developer needs to be successful

Software is an ever-evolving landscape. A Harvey Nash tech survey revealed that nearly 30% of developers believe that their current skills will become obsolete and no longer be attractive to employers within three years. 

All developers should be prepared to do a good amount of self-directed learning at the beginning of and throughout your career. Employers will expect you to know and keep up with the latest best practices of the industry in any role.

That being said, a developer needs to master some general skills in order to land jobs and achieve success in their roles. Here are some of the most crucial skills and knowledge that you’ll need to have.

Software developer hard skills 

As a developer, you’ll need to know:

  • Coding languages such as Java, JavaScript, C++, Python, CSS, and HTML
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Integrated development environments 
  • Source control management 
  • Issue management systems

Software developer soft skills

There are also a number of soft skills that are important to any software developer’s career:

  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Teamwork
  • Analytical and strategic problem solving
  • Creativity

Though these skills can’t necessarily be measured or awarded a proficiency level, employers want to hear your real-world stories where you were able to communicate effectively or successfully work with a team to achieve a greater goal.

Explore a career in software development

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