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What does a Software Developer do?

Software developers create software, overseeing the process from design to completion. As a developer, you may be involved in each stage of the software development process, from identifying user requirements to producing successive iterations of the product.

Software developer: the job description

Software developers develop rather than engineer software. As IEEE Computer Society defines it, software developers participate in the ongoing process of executing a software design. Software engineers, by contrast, focus on the initial design phase of software research and development.

Software developers work with the product from start to finish. Key steps in the software development process include:
  • Identify user requirements
  • Develop operational specifications for the software
  • Code the application
  • Test the product
  • Iterate coding and testing until the product meets specifications
Software developers may specialize in applications development or systems development. Applications developers work with other technical specialists such as database developers to produce specialized computer tools. Systems developers, meanwhile, create operating system software such as compilers and network utilities.

Training to become a software developer

Software developers train for the career with a college degree in computer science, software engineering or information systems. Most developers begin their career with a bachelor's degree, and may advance into supervisory or specialist roles with a technical master's degree in software engineering or management information systems.

Continuing education is an important component of software developer training. In order to remain at the top of your game, you can take advantage of professional certifications in particular vendor technologies or specialized software developer skills. Some of the leading software development certifications include Oracle (formerly Sun) Java certifications, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, Siebel and SAS certifications.

Software developer careers

Software developers earn their value to employers by bridging technical R&D and production. IEEE Computer Society sees opportunity for developers "who have the mindset of an engineer coupled with an ability to ensure that technology is aligned with business needs."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also cites a combination of technical and management skills as the recipe for a successful software developer career: "Employers will continue to seek computer professionals with strong programming, systems analysis, interpersonal and business skills."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, software developers can expect "excellent" job prospects, with 32 percent job growth in the coming years. Top-paying regions for software developers include greater Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley near San Francisco, Boston and greater Seattle.

Software developers can find demand for their skills at web development companies, gaming companies, mobile app startups, the federal government and data management firms. Key specialties in software development include cybersecurity, networking software development, e-commerce and web development, scientific R&D and mobile development.

With a technical degree, you can find a niche in the exciting world of software design and development. Begin your career as a software developer and work at the vanguard of high tech innovation.

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