Software Developer: Educational Requirements & Career Info

Software developers are required to have some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and skills required to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Computer software developers apply mathematic and scientific principles to the design and development of software systems and applications. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree and certification may be necessary.

Required Education Bachelor's in computer science or software engineering
Other Requirements Certification may be needed
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 23% for software developers of applications, 20% for software developers for systems
Median Salary (2013)* $92,660 annually for software developers of applications, $101,410 annually for software developers for systems

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Educational Requirements for Software Developers

Most computer software development jobs require bachelor's degrees in computer science or software engineering. These programs have significant math requirements that include a sequence in calculus, plus courses in differential equations and linear algebra. A sequence in physics is also required. Students typically complete these requirements in the first two years of a program.

The software engineering tracks of these programs teach students how to construct, analyze, and maintain software through lectures and laboratory sessions. Programs include topics in computer programming, operating systems, and networks. In many programs, the capstone requirement is a senior design project that allows students to apply the principles they've learned to an original concept. Students may also take part in cooperative internships to gain experience as part of an engineering program.

Computer software engineering students may want to consider programs that are accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, graduate schools, employers and certification boards may require that applicants hold degrees from accredited programs (


Software developers and engineers do not have professional licensing requirements but may need certifications. However, if one chose to certify, one possible option is certification from the Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which offers software development credentials for beginning and experienced software engineers.

Career Opportunities

Computer software developers often work in one of two major areas: systems or applications. Engineers working in the systems sector develop operating systems for computers. Those who work in the applications sector design computer programs and modify existing programs to perform specific tasks. Each sector requires engineers to be knowledgeable in development software such as C, C++ and Java.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers who work on systems software will see an employment growth of 20% from 2012-2022, while software developers who work on applications will see growth of 23% during the same time period. The employment increase is due to the growing use of computer technology and the need to replace workers who are either advancing or leaving the profession. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for software developers that work on systems software was $101,410 in 2013, and the median annual salary for software developers that work on applications was $92,660 in the same year.

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