What Does a Software Developer Do?

The next time you’re posting on social media or using a computer program, thank the creative minds that made your task easier.  

Software developers conceive and design the computer programs behind everything from your favorite app or game to a computer operating system. They are needed across all industries. 

Some developers, called applications software developers, develop applications for mobile or desktop use. Others, called systems software developers, work on the operating systems that keep computers functioning properly. They may work on backend and frontend web applications, embedded software, computer networking software, software infrastructure or domain-specific software.

Depending on the size of the team, software developers may also use various programming languages, such as Java or Python, to write the code that drives the software. 

This is a job that requires the technical skills needed to get the task done and the soft skills needed to work with everyone involved. 

If this mixture sounds like you, keep reading to learn more about this creative, in-demand career and what kind of training you’ll need.

$ 56,000 - $ 162,000
$ 107,000
A software developer sits at a computer and writes code
Strong analytical skills and a knack for innovation drive the software development process. (Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Job Responsibilities

  • Research and understand users’ needs
  • Design and develop software programs, keeping in mind how the software will interact with other elements of the system 
  • Write code or translate the concept for a programmer to code
  • Test, maintain and improve applications
  • Document all aspects of the process
  • Recommend software upgrades

How To Become a Software Developer: FAQs

What is required to become a software developer?

Many, but not all, software developers earn a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering. 

That trend is changing, and many employers will accept candidates who have earned certificates or learned through bootcamps, internships or other on-the-job training. 

All pathways require a focus on learning how to build software and how to write computer code, which is the foundation of the occupation. However, it’s worth noting that writing code is not what many software developers do every day.

There are several paths to advance or branch out, including IT project management and other roles that focus on aspects of the software development process. That's just one of the reasons it's considered one of the hottest, most in-demand skilled jobs

A developer can also move laterally in the information technology industry and become a network and computer systems administrator.

Are there any other qualifications?

Certification isn’t always required. However, it’s a good way to show potential employers that you are well-versed in a specific area, such as cloud computing. 

There are hundreds of certifications available. For a security focused role, you could earn Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. For data management, you could earn Certified Data Professional (CDP) certification. Pick the certifications that are most applicable to your area of expertise.

How long does it take to become a software developer?

It can take anywhere from several months for a certificate or bootcamp to four years for a bachelor’s degree. The time it takes depends on the path you choose and what kind of job you seek. 

If you want to learn about the different pathways to becoming a software developer, watch this video about one software developer's journey

Software developer vs. software engineer: What’s the difference?

Sometimes these titles are used interchangeably, but not always. In some workplaces, there’s a difference in the work they do. Software developers tend to focus on consumer-based apps and all aspects of the development process. Software engineers tend to focus on enterprise-level systems or computer system design and communicating with the different stakeholders. 

What is the job outlook for software developers?

The need for software developers is expected to grow 22% by 2030. Job openings will be driven by an increased need for new apps, especially apps for health and insurance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful developers tend to possess these traits: 

  • Quick learner and eager to understand new technologies
  • Creative
  • Detail-oriented
  • Analytical
  • Able to explain complex procedures
  • Strong communication skills
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Collaborative
The bottom line:

If you have the mix of soft and hard skills for this in-demand career, you can expect to work hard and be paid well for your efforts. Take the first step and check out the training recommendations on SkillPointe.

Day in the Life of a Software Developer

Since technology is constantly changing, software developers like Rachel Meltzer are always learning and expanding their skillsets.

Day in the Life of a Software Developer

Rachel Meltzer says it's time to put aside stereotypes about software developers, including what it takes to get and do this job. It boils down to an eagerness to learn.
“Regardless of having a degree or what your degree is in, technology is a rapidly changing industry that requires continuous on-the-job learning,” she says.

It's also a rewarding, fun career that involves a wider variety of skills than you may think. 

As she says, there's a lot more to this job than writing code.

Ask the Expert

'Communication and collaboration are extremely important parts of our job,' said software developer Daniel Lieberman.

Ask the Expert

Daniel Lieberman learned early that he loved being able to harness the power of a computer to do what he wanted it to do. Now’s he’s a software developer, and he’s using his skills to make a difference. 

He also thinks it’s exciting that the degree pathway he took isn’t as necessary as it once was.

“Many people are breaking into the industry nowadays by self-teaching and coding bootcamps.” Learn more about why he thinks being a software developer is such a satisfying job.

Software Developer Training in Your Area

School logo for Butler Community College in El Dorado KS

Web Development Certificate

Butler Community College
El Dorado (81.0 Miles)
School logo for Butler Community College in El Dorado KS

Software Developer, A.A.S.

Butler Community College
El Dorado (81.0 Miles)
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Hutchinson Community College logo

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Oklahoma City Community College
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Oklahoma City Community College logo

Web Design and Development, A.A.S.

Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma City (156.7 Miles)
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Web Design Certificate

Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma City (156.7 Miles)
Oklahoma City Community College logo

Web Development Certificate

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School logo for Missouri State University - West Plains in West Plains MO

Computer Graphics and Programming, A.A.S.

Missouri State University - West Plains
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Grayson College logo

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Grayson College
Denison (239.5 Miles)
University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College logo

Computer Information Systems Option: Computer Programming, A.A.S.

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
North Little Rock (248.8 Miles)
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Front End Software Developer Bootcamp

Southeast Community College - PT
Lincoln (261.8 Miles)