Mobile Application Development Career Track

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By Bethanny Parker

Published on January 14, 2021

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As ownership of smartphones has grown, so has the number of smartphone apps. The number of apps in the Apple App Store reaches almost 2 million, and the Google Play Store lists over 2.8 million apps. These apps all have one thing in common: They were created by mobile app developers.

Mobile app developers have challenging but often fun jobs, and they can earn lucrative salaries.

Mobile app developers have challenging but often fun jobs, and they can earn lucrative salaries. As the demand for mobile apps grows, the need for mobile app developers grows as well, making this an opportune time to enter the field.

This guide explores the career outlook for mobile app developers and takes a closer look at exactly what they do on a daily basis. It also addresses how to become a mobile app developer, including the option of attending a coding bootcamp to receive training.

What Is Mobile Application Development?

Mobile app development is the process of creating applications that run on mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. Apps can be found across many different industries, including entertainment, finance, healthcare, and more.

The mobile app development process includes many stages. It usually starts with strategy and planning, followed by user experience and user interface design. At this point, the programming of the app by the mobile app developers takes off.

Mobile app developers may work alone or in a team to code the back end (the functionality that occurs behind the scenes to make the app run) and the front end (the part of the app users see and engage with) of the app. They use the programming language or languages most appropriate for the mobile platform the app is designed to run on.

After the app has been coded, testing begins. Testing usually results in improvements to the app, and there are often several rounds of testing before the app finally gets released to the app store.

What Do Mobile App Developers Do?

Mobile app developers create mobile apps. These can include games, complicated mobile banking apps, health and fitness trackers, social media platforms, email and messaging services, insurance portals, weather information apps, calculators, and more.

App developers can often code in several programming languages. Many different languages are used to develop mobile apps, but the most commonly used languages include Java for Android apps and Objective-C and Swift for iOS apps.

As part of the development process, app developers often test the app to ensure that it works properly, and debug the app when problems arise.

Types of Mobile App Development

Mobile apps belong to three main categories: native, web, and hybrid apps. Native apps are designed to work with a specific mobile operating system. Since they are optimized specifically for one type of operating system, native apps have the advantage of running efficiently on the devices they were developed for, but the disadvantage of not working across multiple types of mobile devices.

A web-based mobile app runs directly from a web browser instead of on the mobile device's operating system; as a result, it can be accessed by different types of mobile devices as long as they have an internet connection. These apps are created using languages common to web development, such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Hybrid apps are a mix of native apps and web apps.

Native and hybrid apps typically target one of the two main mobile operating systems: Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Mobile app developers often develop products for both Android and iOS, although they sometimes specialize in just one or the other.

iOS App Development

Apple's iOS platform powers mobile apps on Apple devices. Users download iOS apps from the Apple App Store. These apps are designed using Apple's Xcode integrated development environment, a software program that helps iOS mobile app developers code, test, and debug apps for Apple devices. Developers of iOS apps mainly employ two programming languages: Objective-C and Swift.

Android App Development

Google's Android platform powers mobile apps on Android devices. Users download Android apps from the Google Play Store. They are designed using Android Studio and the Android Software Development Kit. Most app developers use Java to create Android apps.

Mobile Application Development Career Outlook

Mobile app developers are typically well-paid, with 90% of mobile app developers included in PayScale's data reporting an annual salary above $50,000. According to PayScale, mobile application developers earn an average salary of $73,400.

mobile application developers earn an average salary of $73,400

As the demand for mobile apps grows, it makes sense that the demand for mobile app developer jobs would grow as well. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report exact data on mobile app developers' career outlook, it does project that jobs for software developers will increase by 22% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

The outlook for mobile app developer jobs is promising for both bootcamp grads and developers who have a college degree. Bootcamp grads have been hired by companies such as Google, IBM, Apple, and Amazon. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Indeed, the majority of employers think bootcamp grads enter the tech workforce just as prepared as college-educated coders.

How to Become a Mobile App Developer

The exact path to a mobile app development career looks different for everyone, but here are some common steps to follow if you want to become a mobile app developer:

  1. Determine if you want to specialize in a particular type of mobile app development.
  2. Decide if you will pursue training in a college degree program, a coding bootcamp, or through self-study.
  3. Research and apply to training programs, if applicable.
  4. Train and practice your coding skills.
  5. Build a professional portfolio that you can show potential employers.
  6. Create your resume and begin the job hunt.

Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree

Should you go to a coding bootcamp or get a computer science degree? Both options come with pros and cons.

If you attend a coding bootcamp, you may get a job much sooner than if you enroll in a four-year degree program. Many bootcamps can be completed in 3-6 months, and graduates qualify for junior mobile app developer positions.

In addition, bootcamps typically cost much less than a college education. The average total cost of tuition at a four-year college is about $65,000, based on tuition prices reported by the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2018-19 academic year. The typical bootcamp, on the other hand, costs about $13,500, according to data from over 600 bootcamps collected by BestColleges in 2020.

Although bootcamp students cannot access federal financial aid, many bootcamps offer special payment plans that allow students to wait to pay most or all of their tuition until after they receive a full-time coding job.

When is it a good idea to get a bachelor's degree in computer science? If you want to advance to a higher management position, you may find that a four-year degree is required. Some job listings also advertise that a bachelor's degree is required or preferred. Having a bachelor's degree can give you an edge over the competition in the job market.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mobile App Development Careers

Is mobile app development a good career?

Mobile app developer ranked first on the list of the best jobs in the U.S. posted by CNN Money in 2017. Mobile app developers typically earn a high salary -- an average of $73,400, according to PayScale.

Additionally, the demand for mobile app developers appears to be high, with the BLS projecting a 22% increase in jobs for software developers (which includes mobile app developers) between 2019 and 2029. Mobile app developers may also be more likely to work from home than other professionals, which could be a perk for some individuals.

What kind of skills do mobile app developers need?

Mobile app developers need strong programming skills -- typically in multiple languages, including Java, Objective-C, and Swift. They also need soft skills like the ability to solve problems, think creatively, and communicate effectively. These professionals also need to collaborate well with others as they often work in teams and some may interface with clients directly.

Where do mobile app developers work?

Most mobile app developers work in an office environment, but some work from home. Since most development work is done from a computer, this profession lends itself well to remote work.

Mobile app developer jobs tend to be concentrated in tech-heavy areas, such as Silicon Valley, New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles, but these jobs can be found in just about any major city.

Why pursue a career in mobile app development?

Mobile app developers earn a good salary and are in high demand. The job frequently offers perks such as being able to work from home and getting to try out the latest Android and iOS gadgets. It can be a challenging career, but one that also offers high job satisfaction.

You can start a mobile app development career relatively quickly and inexpensively by attending a mobile app bootcamp. Major cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle host in-person coding bootcamps, or you can take an online bootcamp and learn mobile application development from home.