How to become a software developer

How to Become a Software Developer

Have you ever wondered how your favorite app, computer program, or video game was made? Perhaps you’ve thought about creating a piece of software of your own. Or, maybe you’ve already come up with an idea for a program or app and a plan to make it a reality.

But what does a software developer do, exactly? Can you become a software developer without a degree? How long does it take to become a software developer? We’ll answer these questions and more in this guide, though rest assured – if you have excellent creative-thinking, management, and problem-solving skills, then a career in software development might be for you.


What Does a Software Developer Do?

The core responsibility of a software developer is to design and build computer programs or applications, but there’s more to it than simply sitting down and writing code all day. Depending on the company, developers usually do more than just coding.

Software developers play a similar role to a project manager in that they develop the idea behind a piece of software, then guide it through the programming process. With smaller companies, developers may do their own coding, but with larger companies, developers often hand off pieces of the project to dedicated programmers.

So, what does a software developer do? A developer’s main focus is to build software that meets their users’ needs. A developer analyzes what their users want and the technology they’re using – whether that’s a PC, a smartphone, a web browser, or another piece of tech – and then communicates the next steps with their programming team to ensure the software is created to address those needs. Here are some other responsibilities of software developers:

  • Outline the aspects of a program and plan how the pieces will work together
  • Show programmers the software code needed for an application via models or diagrams
  • Conduct maintenance and testing to confirm that a program continues to work
  • Document an application thoroughly for future maintenance


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Requirements to Become a Software Developer

There’s no concrete career path or requirements for software developers, which can be a blessing or a curse. Because of the various routes on a software development career path, almost anyone with the right programming knowledge and enough determination can transition to software development.

You might be wondering, “how long does it take to become a software developer?” or “can you become a software developer without a degree?” The answer to both is: It depends.


Education & Experience

Yes, you can become a software developer without a degree, but you’ll need a strong programming background, which is something a formal education can consistently provide. To get started, bootcamps and self-teaching tools like Flatiron School, General Assembly, or Udemy are available for learning various programming languages like Python, C++, or Java. Even YouTube has dozens of free coding bootcamps, but the effectiveness of those courses will vary. However, a traditional degree in computer science or software engineering will help you build other necessary skills as well prepare you for more job opportunities.

As far as how long it takes to become a software developer, most developers have at least two years of experience. You’ll usually allocate your first years in the industry gaining experience as a programmer or building a portfolio. If you decide not to get a degree, you’ll likely have to devote more time to honing your skills before becoming a software developer. Internships or apprenticeships are good options for earning on-the-job experience.


Software Dev education and experience


Qualifications & Skills for Software Developers

In addition to specific programming languages, employers on iHireTechnology frequently look for skills such as collaboration, design development, documentation, and management for software developers. You’ll notice many are design and project leadership-oriented skills rather than solely code-focused.


Software dev qualifications


Licensing and Certifications

Many software development licenses and certifications relate to specific development platforms, so if you know you want to develop iPhone apps, for example, getting your certification from Apple is necessary. Others, like a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification or Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification, will showcase your leadership skills. These certifications and licenses will help you stand out when looking for software development jobs:


How Much do Software Developers Make?

The tech world is known for offering highly lucrative careers. Often, software developers can potentially earn six figures. However, as with most jobs, your salary depends on your location and employer. Large companies in tech-hub cities will naturally pay more than a startup in your friend’s basement. Keeping that in mind, the average salary for a software developer in the U.S. is $72,534.

A software developer’s salary may also depend on the type of software you’re developing. For example, mobile developers can make up to $114,629, while embedded system software developers can earn up to $149,790. Check out iHire’s Salary Research Tool to find salaries in your desired area.


Software dev salary


Tips for Writing a Software Developer Resume

When writing your resume, tailor it to the position for which you’re applying. Doing so will not only make it easier for the hiring manager to determine if you’re a fit for the role, but more importantly, it will get you past the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS). Look for keywords in the job description and add those to your resume to ensure it gets in the hands of a real person.

This doesn’t mean you need to list on your resume every piece of technology or software you’ve ever touched. You don’t want to make your resume crowded and hard to read. Instead, include the technologies most relevant to the job description, and prepare to expand on your knowledge of those pieces of tech in interviews.

Don’t forget to showcase your project management and leadership skills on your resume. Being an expert in multiple coding languages is great, but it’s not the only thing employers are looking for in software developers. One method of displaying your different skills is to create separate skills sections – one for your tech portfolio, and one for your management abilities and keywords.

Finally, if you don’t have a degree, create a section to list your completed training courses, bootcamps, and certifications. Don't hesitate to include unpaid experience if it's relevant, especially if you're changing careers or don't have a degree. Many employers will overlook a lack of a degree if you have experience and a strong portfolio.


Work Samples and Portfolios

Preparing work samples or a portfolio is essential for aspiring software developers. Your portfolio will include the best examples of your recent work and serves as evidence of the skills you claim to have on your resume. A developer’s portfolio comes in many forms and yours should reflect your background. Whether it’s a dedicated website with samples of past projects or a GitHub page to display your best code is up to you, but it should be easy to read and find. If you’re unsure where to start, try searching for other developers’ portfolios.

Add your portfolio as a link on your resume, or create a separate document with links to your GitHub or website and brief explanations of each project.



Related Resources


Where to Find Software Developer Jobs

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By iHire | February 03, 2022
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