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Software App Developer Career Paths

Software application developers design software, including database, word processing, and gaming applications, for either customer or commercial use. A developer's knowledge and skill-set can open up advancement opportunities in multiple areas, such as management, teaching, and research, which are discussed in this article.

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Software Application Developer Career Advancement

Software application developers create commercial and customer software, including gaming, word processing, and database applications. Developers typically have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a similar field and are proficient in programming and computer languages. A common advancement opportunity for an application developer is a supervisory role as an information technology (IT) project manager. However, advancement options aren't limited to the technology field. An experienced developer could transition into the education field as a computer science teacher, or into the science field as a computer and information research scientist. All three of these advancement opportunities are explained below.

Job Title Mean Annual Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-26)* Qualifications
Computer Science Postsecondary Teacher $96,200 8% Master's degree in computer science or related field
Information Technology Project Manager $152,860 (computer and information systems managers) 12% (computer and information systems managers) Related work experience; master's degree may be required
Computer and Information Research Scientist $123,850 19% Master's degree in computer science or related field

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Computer Science Postsecondary Teacher

Experienced software application developers who enjoy sharing their knowledge with others may find the role of computer science instructor a natural next step. A postsecondary teacher is responsible for teaching students at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Additional responsibilities can include providing student guidance, participating in college committees, and publishing scholarly research. A master's degree in computer science or related field is a common minimum requirement for a postsecondary teacher, though some community college adjunct (part-time) positions may accept a bachelor's degree accompanied by a minimum number of years working in the field. University positions will probably require a PhD.

Information Technology Project Manager

Information technology (IT) project manager is common advancement for a software application developer with strong leadership, vision, and communication skills. IT project managers coordinate a company's computer-related projects. They are responsible for assessing technology goals, determining costs, and supervising other IT professionals. The bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field plus several years of work experience are minimum requirements for this role, though some organizations require a master's degree. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a common graduate degree for IT project managers.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

A developer who enjoys the theoretical side of application development, as well as the challenge of solving complex computing problems, may find the transition into computer and information research a perfect fit. Computer and information research scientists create new ways to interact with computers that often lead to improved efficiency and performance. This includes the invention of new tools, languages, software systems, and more. A few areas of focus include data analysis, robotics, and programming languages. Computer and information research scientists often work with engineers or scientists, and their research is presented at conferences or published in scholarly journals. A master's degree in computer science or a related field is a common requirement for this career.

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