Become a Software Developer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a software developer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in software development. View article »

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  • 0:02 Become a Software Developer
  • 0:45 Career Requirements
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Video Transcript

Become a Software Developer

If you pursue a career as a software developer, you'll be responsible for creating many different kinds of software for a variety of applications. Commonly, you could be categorized as either a software systems developer or software applications developer. You'll typically spend time generating models and flowcharts that tell programmers how to write code for software, and you'll be involved in all aspects of software development, including constructing, designing, testing and maintaining software.

Your day will frequently include collaborating as part of a team and working closely with computer programmers. You may work long hours, and your work might be done in an office or from another location, if the company permits telecommuting.

Career Requirements

Requirements for a career as a software developer commonly include a bachelor's degree and relevant work experience. You'll also need strong programming skills and knowledge of various programming languages and software including SQL Server, C++, Java, and Visual Basic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers earned a median yearly wage of $100,690 in May 2015.

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Software Developer Career Steps

Let's now step by step through the process to follow to become a software developer.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Although a bachelor's degree in computer science is the most common for software developers, students can also explore programs in other related areas, including software engineering and mathematics. Computer science bachelor's degree programs instruct students in a wide variety of essential applications and fundamentals. Students in this program will typically use and build computer hardware in addition to reading, writing and designing computer software programs. The curriculum also includes principles of programming languages, operating systems, computer networks, computer architecture and data structures.

There are also a few things you can do to be more successful during your time in college or university.

First, use your time in school to get relevant experience. While in school, aspiring software developers can consider part-time employment or student positions in a variety of employment settings that require the use of programming languages and technical skills. This will allow students to enhance their technical skills and familiarity with programming languages. It will also help students build a resume and develop a professional network of contacts.

Second, develop strong technical skills and knowledge of programming languages. Employers strongly prefer candidates with knowledge of a variety of programming languages and technical skills. While in school, students should focus on classes that are centered on building software and developing strong computer programming skills. Commonly used programming languages include Visual Basic, C++, Java and Python. By increasing skills and knowledge of these and other programming languages, students can become more marketable after graduation. To get an idea of the programming languages that are the most in demand, students can look at job postings by employers and work on becoming more familiar with them.

Step 2: Consider Certification

Though there are no licensing or certification requirements for software developers, voluntary professional certifications are available. By participating in opportunities for certification, recent graduates and current professionals in the field can verify their understanding of essential software engineering principles and demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to software development. Doing so may help one become a competitive candidate in the job market.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society offers opportunities for certification. The Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) is intended for entry-level software professionals, and the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) is for mid-career professionals. Oracle and Microsoft also offer a variety of certifications, including Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert, Java Professional Programmer and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD). To obtain these certifications, one must apply for and take an exam.

Step 3: Maintain Certifications

While the CSDA does not require re-certification, individuals who are CSDP-certified must undergo re-certification every three years. Re-certification options for the CSDP include retaking the exam or earning 30 professional development units and paying a fee. The MCSD certification must be re-certified every two years. Upgrading Oracle certifications is not required; however, doing so is highly recommended.

Step 4: Consider a Graduate Program

Graduate certificate and master's degree programs are available in the field of software engineering and may allow students to study areas like systems engineering, engineering management or embedded software. In order to enroll, an applicant must hold a bachelor's degree, and it may need to be in computer science or a related subject. Coursework can include topics like quality assurance, data modeling, project management and software architecture. Graduate seminars may also be included in master's degree programs. A master's degree would allow an individual the opportunity to become an Information Technology Manager, also known as a Computer and Information Systems Manager. These types of managers are responsible for overseeing the development process.

To summarize, a software developer needs a bachelor's degree, expertise in several programming languages and often some work experience.

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