As soon as we try to picture a software developer, we think of a programmer sitting alone in front of a screen trying to make sense of a matrix of numbers flashing in front of him/her. But software is not limited only to the math prodigy with an unharnessed genius. This is a myth that prevents many talented individuals from taking up programming in the fear that they may not be “brilliant” enough.
Truth be told, in order to excel as a developer, you’ll need to have an interest in the subject, to put in the hard work, and be excited about learning.
Careers in software development include various specialties like mobile and computer games, internet applications, computer networks or coding computer security solutions. Join us as we discuss the education options, skills, and and job preparation tactics that will make you a successful software developer.
Skills Required to Become a Software Developer
Computers touch everyone’s lives today, directly or indirectly. The people responsible for this development are software engineers and developers who’ve spent years honing their skills in developing, analyzing, evaluating, testing and modifying software to make life more efficient
A software developer is no longer a loner sitting in the isolation. With tech permeating into the business world, it’s likely that a developer will be part of a company working with a team consisting of designers, QA engineers, project managers and executives. So while coding, writing and executing are still the primary responsibility of a software developer, soft skills play an important role in professional development.
Here are some essential soft skills for software developers:
- Time management
Here are some essential hard skills:
- Programming languages and frameworks
- Data structures and algorithms
- Source control testing
Education Options and Qualifications for Software Developers
Since software engineering is so uniquely scientific and technical in nature, a formal education or special training is generally encouraged.
In terms of formal education, a computer science major is the best college degree available.
But you don’t necessarily have to commit four years to your education. Luckily, there are other options available to those who want to stay away from the campus-based education with expensive tuition fees.
Here are some alternative routes to become a software developer.
Educating yourself and building a portfolio without a degree in computer science is perfectly doable with the help of a coding bootcamp.
An intensive bootcamp prepares and equips students with skills on the same level as that of a college-degree holder. You'll spend less time learning theory, and more time building an applicable skill set.
If you don’t have the funds for a proper degree in computer science or a bootcamp, you can still choose the self-taught route. You’ll need to be specific about your niche, and start by choosing a program that you want to master. Then find the right resources, build a learning plan, and put in the time and hard work. If all goes well, you’ll land your coveted software engineering job.
Most certification programs in computer science are designed to advance your professional career. However, they may also serve as a preparatory course for your bachelor’s or master’s degree.
The length of these may vary based on different institutions, but they’re mostly completed within one year or less. Students here enjoy flexible modules in the learning process as many institutions are offering part-time, full-time and distance learning courses.
Software developers don’t necessarily need professional licensing to get hired, but they may decide to earn a certificates for certain high paying jobs such as: security manager, systems engineer, network administrator, software developer and project manager where proven credentials are important.
A graduate in computer science can earn a job in government organizations, tech companies, research facilities, universities and other educational institutions. In a period of four years, you will learn how to construct, analyze and maintain software.
Gaining Experience to Become a Software Developer
A traditional course in computer science may not provide all the hands-on practice you’ll need to succeed. You also have to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. You can do that through internships, freelancing, or volunteering.
For a career in software development, an internship is one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the tech industry. As an intern, you will be mentored by a senior engineer who will guide you and help you learn on the job. A really good internship program may even provide you with a letter of recommendation or turn into a full-time job. Here are some typical internships for aspiring software developers:
- Front-End Engineering Intern
- Back-End Engineering Intern
- Full-Stack Software Engineering Intern
- Information Security Intern
- Mobile Engineering Intern
- iOS Engineering Intern
- Android Engineering Intern
Freelancing as a software developer is a lucrative career path that can enable you to earn twice the pay of a full time employee. But it’s easier said than done.
Starting a successful freelancing business requires tremendous investment of time and resources, patience, good work ethic and a strong network of clients.
If you are beginning your coding journey, you can volunteer at nonprofits, organizations and communities to leverage your knowledge or skills. This will not only make a big impact on these organizations, but it also gives you experience for your resume.
Here are some organizations where you can volunteer your coding knowledge:
Create your own opportunity
- Up For Grabs
- Code Triage
- Coder Dojo
- Code Your Feature
- Donate Code
- Social Coders
Choose a Specialty in Software Development
The world of software development is a diverse one, so it’s important to choose a specific area of focus. Going for a niche specialization could actually help you land a paying job sooner, since you’ll position yourself as an expert who’s passionate in one area.
Here are some of the most common career paths to follow:
- Software Programmer
- Solutions Architect
- App Developer
- Front-end Developer
- Back-end Developer
- QA Engineer
Finding a Software Development Job
The challenge for a software engineer is not so much to find a job, but to find the right one. The process of job hunting can be a confusing one since there are hundreds of thousands of postings on many sites with similar job listings and opportunities.
Here are some other ways you can speed up the job search.
Hiring competent people is difficult and expensive for a company. How do they select the right candidates from thousands of applicants? This is where networking is important for job seekers.
One way to get noticed is to connect with other industry professionals. You can check the company’s website for new opportunities, connect with current employees on LinkedIn and other social media platforms or attend seminars, conferences and meetups.
These are some of the best methods to extend your networking as a software developer:
- Contribute to open source projects
- Join developer conferences
- Join meetups
- Write your own blog
Joining an Online community
Software development is such a challenging field that it’s hard to succeed in isolation. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or learning the basics, you need peers. Joining an online community helps you learn new things, connect with like-minded people, share ideas and also perhaps find a guide and a mentor.
Here’s our list of some of the best online communities for software developers:
- Stack Overflow
- Women Who Code
- Digital Ocean
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment opportunities for software developers to grow by 22% between 2019 and 2029. That growth is much faster than the average rate for all occupations.
So you can be confident that once you have some programming knowledge, you’ll be entering a stable and growing field. Once you're ready to kick off your career in code, you can start building your portfolio and prepare for an interview.
Popular roles in software development have thousands of applicants, and hiring managers have finite time to select the right candidates. In this daunting competition, you need a resume that stands out. Here are a few pieces of advice from the experts:
- Use a spelling and grammar checker
- Make your resume is concise and easy to scan
- Carefully read the job description and ensure that you match the requirements
- Focus on projects and results over formal education
Cover Letter Tips
If you’re applying for the position of a software developer, it’s important to complement your resume with a cover letter that displays your interest in the particular role, and why you’re a good fit.
Explain in a few sentences the value you bring to this particular role and why they should hire you. Write about how this opportunity connects your past accomplishments, making sure what you write is in alignment with the requirements listed in the job description.
Conclude your letter by thanking the employer for considering you for their time and this opportunity.
First off, you can congratulate yourself if you’ve landed a job interview. Then, start preparing.
Software engineering interviews are notoriously tricky, especially if you’re completing a technical interview. So here are a few tips that’ll help you prepare for your big day:
- Start by researching the company
- Practice for both technical and behavioral assessments
- Prepare succinct responses in advance
Ready to Become a Software Developer?
Software development is one of the most sought-after skills. If you have a creative, problem solving mind with an inclination towards computers and technology, it might be the ideal time to take up a career in software development.
What are the education requirements to get a job as a software developer?
You don’t need a formal degree to your name to get hired as a software developer. You just need to demonstrate that you know how to code, and have a portfolio of original work to share with hiring managers.
What will I do on a daily basis as a software developer?
As an entry-level software developer, most of your day will be spent writing and correcting code. As you move up the ranks in your organization, you’ll spend more time attending meetings, presenting new software to upper management, and training junior developers.
What skills do I need to become a software developer?
If you want to work as a software developer full-time, you should be able to build a web page from scratch. You should know the basics of a few different coding languages. You should also have some soft skills, like communication and collaboration, to ensure you can successfully work within a team.