Software Developers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a software developer with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Software Developer Jobs

  • Software Development Engineer - Terso Solutions - Madison, WI

    Terso utilizes a streamlined Agile methodology, and you would be instrumental in this process. We are seeking an individual who seeks to improve

  • Back End Software Development Instructor - Turing School of Software & Design - Denver, CO

    The first module focuses on the fundamentals of object-oriented programming, algorithms, and data structures. In the second module, students learn

  • Software Developer - Ecosystems - McLean, VA

    Create web applications with intense focus on data visualization and user experience • Ecosystems is more about the 'who' than the 'what', but the

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What Software Developers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

Duties of Software Developers

Software developers typically do the following:

  • Analyze users' needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
  • Recommend software upgrades for customers' existing programs and systems
  • Design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
  • Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that show programmers the software code needed for an application
  • Ensure that a program continues to function normally through software maintenance and testing
  • Document every aspect of an application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
  • Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software

Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program. They may begin by asking how the customer plans to use the software. They must identify the core functionality that users need from software programs. Software developers must also determine user requirements that are unrelated to the functions of the software, such as the level of security and performance needs. They design the program and then give instructions to programmers, who write computer code and test it.

If the program does not work as expected or if testers find it too difficult to use, software developers go back to the design process to fix the problems or improve the program. After the program is released to the customer, a developer may perform upgrades and maintenance.

Developers usually work closely with computer programmers. However, in some companies, developers write code themselves instead of giving instructions to programmers.

Developers who supervise a software project from the planning stages through implementation sometimes are called information technology (IT) project managers. These workers monitor the project's progress to ensure that it meets deadlines, standards, and cost targets. IT project managers who plan and direct an organization's IT department or IT policies are included in the profile on computer and information systems managers.

The following are examples of types of software developers:

Applications software developers design computer applications, such as word processors and games, for consumers. They may create custom software for a specific customer or commercial software to be sold to the general public. Some applications software developers create complex databases for organizations. They also create programs that people use over the Internet and within a company's intranet.

Systems software developers create the systems that keep computers functioning properly. These could be operating systems for computers that the general public buys or systems built specifically for an organization. Often, systems software developers also build the system's interface, which is what allows users to interact with the computer. Systems software developers create the operating systems that control most of the consumer electronics in use today, including those used by cell phones and cars.

Work Environment for Software Developers[About this section] [To Top]

Software developers, applications hold about 831,300 jobs. The largest employers of software developers, applications are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 35%
Software publishers 10
Finance and insurance 10
Manufacturing 7
Management of companies and enterprises 5

Software developers, systems software hold about 425,000 jobs. The largest employers of software developers, systems software are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 31%
Manufacturing 18
Software publishers 6
Finance and insurance 6
Engineering services 4

In general, software development is a collaborative process, and developers work on teams with others who also contribute to designing, developing, and programming successful software. However, some developers work at home.

Software Developer Work Schedules

Most software developers work full time, and additional work hours are common.

How to Become a Software Developer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Software Developers near you!

Software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science and strong computer programming skills.

Education for Software Developers

Software developers usually have a bachelor's degree, typically in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Computer science degree programs are the most common, because they tend to cover a broad range of topics. Students should focus on classes related to building software to better prepare themselves for work in the occupation. Many students gain experience in software development by completing an internship at a software company while in college. For some positions, employers may prefer that applicants have a master's degree.

Although writing code is not their first priority, developers must have a strong background in computer programming. They usually gain this experience in school. Throughout their career, developers must keep up to date on new tools and computer languages.

Software developers also need skills related to the industry in which they work. Developers working in a bank, for example, should have knowledge of finance so that they can understand a bank's computing needs.

Advancement for Software Developers

Software developers can advance to become information technology (IT) project managers, also called computer and information systems managers, a position in which they oversee the software development process.

Important Qualities for Software Developers

Analytical skills. Developers must analyze users' needs and then design software to meet those needs.

Communication skills. Developers must be able to give clear instructions to others working on a project. They must also explain to their customers how the software works and answer any questions that arise.

Creativity. Developers are the creative minds behind new computer software.

Detail oriented. Developers often work on many parts of an application or system at the same time and must therefore be able to concentrate and pay attention to detail.

Interpersonal skills. Software developers must be able to work well with others who contribute to designing, developing, and programming successful software.

Problem-solving skills. Because developers are in charge of software from beginning to end, they must be able to solve problems that arise throughout the design process.

Software Developer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for applications software developers is $100,080. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $157,590.

The median annual wage for systems software developers is $106,860. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $64,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $163,220.

The median annual wages for applications software developers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Software publishers $111,250
Manufacturing 107,280
Finance and insurance 101,520
Management of companies and enterprises 98,020
Computer systems design and related services 97,720

The median annual wages for systems software developers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Manufacturing $117,360
Engineering services 110,760
Finance and insurance 108,720
Computer systems design and related services 105,250
Software publishers 104,040

Most software developers work full time, and additional work hours are common.

Job Outlook for Software Developers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of applications developers is projected to grow 30 percent, and employment of systems developers is projected to grow 11 percent. The main reason for the growth in both applications developers and systems developers is a large increase in the demand for computer software.

The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets will help increase the demand for applications software developers.

The health and medical insurance and reinsurance carriers industry will need innovative software to manage new healthcare policy enrollments and administer existing policies digitally. As the number of people who use this digital platform increases over time, demand for software developers will grow.

Systems developers are likely to see new opportunities because of an increase in the number of products that use software. For example, more computer systems are being built into consumer electronics and other products, such as cell phones and appliances.

Concerns over threats to computer security could result in more investment in security software to protect computer networks and electronic infrastructure. In addition, an increase in software offered over the Internet should lower costs and allow more customization for businesses, also increasing demand for software developers.

Job Prospects for Software Developers

Job prospects will be best for applicants with knowledge of the most up-to-date programming tools and for those who are proficient in one or more programming languages.

Employment projections data for Software Developers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Software developers 1,256,200 1,555,700 24 299,500
  Software developers, applications 831,300 1,084,600 30 253,400
  Software developers, systems software 425,000 471,000 11 46,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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