Software Development Career Track
If you like challenges and puzzles, a career in software development might be a good fit. Learn about this career path and common software developer salaries.
Updated September 15, 2022
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- Most software developer jobs require a bachelor's degree in computer science.
- The most successful developers combine both technical and creative skills.
- Software developers have high earning potential with an average salary of $110,140.
- Many developers work remotely, making it easier to find jobs anywhere.
Growing up, were you the kid who was constantly taking things apart to try and figure out how they work? Do you like to solve problems and find creative solutions? If so, becoming a software developer might be an excellent way to channel your curiosity into a lucrative and in-demand career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers earned a median salary of $110,140 in 2020. The BLS projects that jobs for these professionals will grow a staggering 22% between 2020-2030, much higher than the average projected growth rate across all occupations.
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Ready to start your journey?
Software development is a career path with plenty of room to find a role that captivates your interest and meets your needs. Whether it's a Fortune 500 company, a nonprofit, or a video game company, software developers are in demand everywhere, and that is not likely to change any time soon.
What Is Software Development?
Software development is the process of designing and coding pieces of software. Software developers make everything from your favorite games on your phone to the operating system on your computer to the programs you use at work every day. From the first steps of conceiving and designing to the final stages of testing and deploying, software developers breathe life into our apps, devices, and wearables.
There are four main categories of software that developers might work on.
Probably the most extensive grouping of software projects, this includes everything from social media and streaming platforms to the apps on our phones and tablets.
This includes larger-scale projects such as the operating system on your computer.
A rapidly growing segment of the market because of the internet of things. This includes the software in your car and smart appliances around your home.
The tools developers use themselves to edit code, run tests, and debug software.
What Do Software Developers Do?
There are numerous steps in the software development process. Software developers are often one of the few roles involved in the entire process of conceiving, designing, and building new software programs. As a result, software developers usually have diverse tasks they will work on throughout the project's lifespan.
In addition to coding, job requirements might include researching, prototyping, and testing. Unlike other computer science roles, software developers often work between teams to drive the overall development lifecycle and ensure that all required features are included, goals are met, and the software runs without bugs or issues.
Software Development Career Outlook
With new technologies and apps developing daily, software developers are in almost constant demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects demand for software developers to grow 22% between 2020-2030, well above the projected 8% growth rate for all occupations.
According to Payscale data from May 2022, the average starting salary for entry-level software developers is around $64,230 a year. However, it quickly rises to $84,240 for mid-level developers with 5-9 years of experience. The BLS reports that in 2020 the highest 10% of software developers earned more than $170,100 per year.
Salary will depend on multiple factors, including experience, education, industry, and location. However, software development is a good choice for those looking for a career they can do from any location. According to a 2022 State of Remote Engineering report from Terminal, the majority of developers and engineers are now working remotely with no intention of returning to the office.
Software Development Career Paths
Depending on the skills you develop, numerous career advancement paths are available to those working in software development. As you gain experience in different roles, your interests and talents may guide you toward new possibilities.
Web developers are responsible for creating visually appealing web applications that are easy to navigate and include any necessary features or tools. In addition to general coding fluency, web developers need to be creative with an eye for detail and style.
According to Payscale data from May 2022, the average salary for a web developer is $60,720 a year, with senior web developers averaging $87,990.
Web developers may come from more diverse educational backgrounds than software developers. Some complete web developer bootcamps, while others go for either an associate or bachelor's degree. Having a rich portfolio of work samples is often more beneficial to web developers than any particular degree or certificate.
Game developers are responsible for designing and developing all types of games played on consoles, phones, and computers. Their primary job is to translate the ideas put together by the design team into code, but they might also be involved in creative tasks such as level design or character development. Because of this, game developers often have a mix of technical and artistic skills.
A bachelor's degree in game development, game design, or a similar field is often required, especially within larger game development companies. According to Payscale data from May 2022, the average salary for game developers is $83,880.
Full-stack developers are the total package, combining both front-end (what the user sees) and back-end (the code behind the curtain) skills. According to May 2022 data from Payscale, the average starting salary for a full-stack developer is $65,520 but increases to $93,630 for those with 5-9 years of experience.
A bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field is often required, with many full-stack developers choosing to go on and complete further certifications to increase their skill set. Depending on the role and company, a coding bootcamp and/or relevant experience may also be sufficient to get in the door.
What Skills Do Software Developers Need?
The skills that software developers need vary as much as the jobs themselves. While a bachelor's degree in computer science is a great place to start, 69% of developers report that they are at least partially self-taught. New technologies and tools come out every year, and it's crucial for anyone working in the tech world to keep up with new developments.
Attention to Detail
If you find paying attention to small details difficult, you likely will have some frustrating moments if you go into any coding or computer science job. One tiny error in a line of code and the whole thing can stop working until you comb through and spot it.
Many who work with code treat this process as a kind of game and come to enjoy it. However, if you don't enjoy these sorts of challenges, it can be incredibly frustrating.
Programming Language Knowledge
Learning multiple programming languages will help you advance in your career and become a vital resource for companies. To determine which language to learn first, start by identifying your goals and work backward to identify the programming language used most for that task.
Data Structures Expertise
Knowing data structures and algorithms is one of the more essential skills for software developers. Arrays, linked lists, and data structure trees will help you organize your data and solve problems quicker, easier, and cleaner. Luckily, data structures are not too complicated to learn, and there are several free resources online to learn and practice. Writing clean code that is not clunky or too slow is an art. Learning proper data structures will help you get there.
Is a Career in Software Development Worth It?
Absolutely. Software development can be a stimulating and fulfilling career path that can also be incredibly financially rewarding. Even if you realize that software development is not for you, the skills you learn will be useful in numerous other computer science career paths.
While big Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple and Google hire a massive number of software developers, the majority of jobs are with start-ups and smaller companies around the world. This makes it easier than many other professions to find a job you love close to home. Overall, software development can offer great growth potential, an almost limitless pool of job opportunities, and financial security.
Frequently Asked Questions About Software Development Careers
What education is needed to become a software developer?
Most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science, but more and more companies report they are also open to candidates who graduate from technical training programs.
Once you complete your education and gain your first entry-level job, there are plenty of ways to learn additional skills, either independently or through coding bootcamps.
Because technology is rapidly changing, software developers and other tech workers need to constantly learn and develop new skill sets to stay relevant. Collecting different certifications or working on diverse projects is a great way to upgrade to higher-paying positions with more challenging tasks.
Which developer type has the highest salary?
Salaries depend on multiple factors, including your specific skills, the responsibilities of the position, the company and industry, your experience and education, and location. The more experience you have, the higher your salary will likely be.
According to Payscale data from May 2022, software developers earned an average salary of $73,570, full-stack software developers earned an average of $79,650, and games developers earned $83,880. Web developers earned an average of $60,720, though senior web developers earned $87,990.
In general, computer and information technology positions earn much more than other fields. The BLS cites the median wage for these workers at $97,430 in May 2021, which more than doubles the median wage across all U.S. occupations ($45,760).
What skills do you need for coding?
Coders spend a significant amount of time tinkering with and editing their code, so they need to be self-reliant and patient. It also takes strong attention to detail to ensure no errors slip in to cause problems.
In many ways, coding is similar to playing a complex video game. You need to understand the game's basic rules, but then there is a lot of room to play and explore within that framework. It can also be frustrating if you get stuck, but you can always find a way to make it to the next level with enough tenacity and abstract thinking.
Is software development hard?
Like anything else, software development takes time and practice to master. At first, this different way of thinking can be quite difficult if you don't have a background in tech. There are also so many skills and programming languages available that it can seem overwhelming at first to identify what will be the most important to focus on throughout your learning process.
However, once you dive in, it tends to get progressively easier. Since tech work is a very in-demand job market, there are also plenty of ways to learn at your own pace and numerous active online communities to help and support you.
Software Development Bootcamps
Software Developer vs. Software Engineer
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