Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or other device, while others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.
Because computers are such an integral and crucial part of our lives, the occupation is growing at a rapid pace. Since 2010, 70,872 jobs have been added; that’s a growth of 7 percent in just three years*. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of software developer jobs is projected to grow 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations, mainly due to a large increase in the demand for computer software.
Adding to the occupation’s allure is how lucrative it can be. The median annual pay for software developers is $92,500. Yet companies can’t find enough qualified people for their open positions; there’s just one active candidate for every 10 job openings. So job seekers who have or are willing to learn the necessary skills will have ample job opportunities.
The typical education level acquired by software developers varies. Fifty percent have a bachelor’s degree, but others choose to go on for more advanced degrees:
- Doctorate or professional degree — 4 percent
- Master’s degree — 29 percent
- Bachelor’s degree — 50 percent
- Associate degree — 5 percent
- Some college, no degree — 9 percent
Some of the common secondary educational courses taken by software developers include computer science, information technology and information science studies. So if you’re interested in this occupation but don’t know what programs to pursue, consider these as some of your top options.
Skills and experience
When employers are hiring software developers, they’re looking for people who possess certain skills that will help them succeed at their job and benefit the company’s bottom line. Those skills include engineering and technology, mathematics, critical thinking and operation analysis.
Adaptability is another important quality that IT workers should possess. Technology is changing at such a rapid pace, so it’s vital that workers in the industry keep up with current trends and learn new skills. This can be done by staying abreast of industry news, taking professional courses or earning certifications through industry associations or educational institutions.
Employers are also seeking workers who have strong project management skills and can demonstrate their ability to take a project from inception to completion. Since IT workers are often juggling multiple projects or clients at the same time, those who can manage those projects effectively will have a successful IT career.
Experience is another thing that employers value. Twenty-four percent of software developers have six to 10 years of experience, and 21 percent have 11 to 15 years of experience.
Where and how to find jobs
The cities with the highest concentration of software developer jobs are Washington, D.C.; Boston; San Jose, Calif.; and Seattle. While not everyone will be able to pick up and move, if you’re flexible and would consider relocating for the right opportunity, these are the cities on which to focus your job search.
When searching for open positions, you may find that software developer is called a few different things. Some alternative job titles include Web developer, computer programmer, information security analyst and computer systems analyst. Expanding your search to include these titles will help you find additional relevant jobs and make your search more efficient.
Considering everything we can do with computers now, it’s hard to imagine the capabilities these systems will have in the future. Working as a software developer will put you at the front lines of what is sure to be an exciting field in the years to come.
*All data from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. unless otherwise specified.