There is a lot of potential for software developers in the working world today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for software developers, testers, and quality assurance analysts is projected to grow 25% between 2021 and 2031. That’s much faster than average compared to all positions. In 2021, there were 1,622,200 jobs in the U.S. From 2021 to 2031, an expected 411,400 new jobs will be added.
The BLS reports individuals in these positions typically need a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. Some companies will require software developers to have a master’s degree in information technology. Micro-credentials, like the Secure Software Development and Quality Assurance Micro-credential, can help IT pros strengthen their software development skills.
In addition to education, experience in the field can help software developers grow their careers. We talked with Purdue Global faculty member Brian Myers about how to get experience as a software developer so that you can pursue more advanced titles or leadership positions in your industry.
What Does the Software Development Field Look Like?
Software developers create computer applications that enable users to perform specific tasks. They analyze user problems and strategize how to create software that satisfies those needs.
“Software has become ubiquitous,” says Myers. “You probably don’t think about all the areas of your daily life that use software, and there are very few areas of business not touched by it as well.”
Software developers work in diverse fields. According to the BLS, the largest employers of software developers and the percentage of software developers who worked for them were:
- Computer systems design and related services: 32%
- Finance and insurance: 11%
- Software publishers: 10%
- Manufacturing: 9%
- Management of companies and enterprises: 5%
“There is always new software to create, existing software to keep running, and software to replace,” Myers continues. “As new industries come into being, or existing industries adjust to the current market, software typically drives those changes.”
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What Is It Like to Be a New Software Developer?
New software developers may work on entry-level tasks ranging from analyzing user needs to informing software development strategy to creating diagrams to help programmers write computer code. Other duties might include:
- Recommending software upgrades for existing systems and programs
- Designing specific pieces of systems and applications and determining how they work together
- Ensuring programs work through testing and maintenance
- Documenting application and system development for future upgrades and maintenance
When considering which developer skills to focus on to advance their career, Myers says many developers need to choose a specific coding language, skill, or technology to specialize in. Myers says it may also be useful to become a “T-shaped person.”
“This means you have a broad set of skills, but you’re also deeply skilled in certain areas,” Myers says. “The broader your skill set, the better off you are in the long term. If you’re able to do front-end and back-end work, as well as database work, you’ll have a broader appeal to employers and your current employer.”
Myers says it’s best to be a full-stack developer, which means you can work on the front end with technologies like React and on the back end with APIs like C# or Java. You’ll also be able to work within the database using tools such as Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, or PostgreSQL.
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Myers also advises you to plan for your future by considering which technologies and languages you want to learn next. Using those techniques, you can work on side projects and then apply them in your current or next position.
“Put together a list of the technologies or languages you see in job postings, then merge them to find similarities if you’re looking at multiple jobs or companies,” Myers says. “Most likely, you’ll find a handful of technologies and languages listed. Look at the list, and see what you don’t have experience with so far. Learn those technologies or languages by building side projects.”
What Are the Best Ways for a Junior Developer to Get Experience?
In addition to working on your daily duties at work, there are various ways to gain more developer experience. These include:
- Internships and contract work
- Side projects
You can pursue these activities if you’re a career switcher wondering how to get a job as a junior software developer or if you want to develop new skills beyond what you do at work.
A hackathon is an event in which many programmers meet to engage in a collaborative event, such as building or improving a program. They typically take place during a 24-hour or weekend event, so many are easy to do in addition to working as a full-time junior software developer.
“A hackathon is the equivalent of side projects,” Myers says. “During this event, you are given a problem to solve. That can also be a great way to learn software development.”
Internships and Contract Work
If you have yet to gain experience and are wondering how to get your first job as a software developer, consider temporary internships or junior contract-based opportunities. Working with an employer where you can learn more in a real-world setting under their guidance can help bolster your resume.
Myers recommends side projects as the top option when a developer wants to learn more. They’re beneficial for someone who’s already beginning work in the field.
“I think side projects are the best way to gain experience as a junior software developer,” Myers says. “A side project is any project you build that is not for your day job. Don’t think about this as something you’re going to sell; think about the project for learning purposes.”
Side projects offer the advantage of completing them on your own time and choosing the subjects you work on. They provide a flexible way to build up your developer expertise, even when you’re working full-time.
Which Degree Plans Will Benefit a Software Developer Most?
As we mentioned, the BLS reports most software developer employers prefer at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related field. At the same time, some would like developers to have a master’s degree for more advanced positions.
“Having a degree or certificate shows you have discipline and learned the basics,” Myers says. “With any degree in IT or software development, such as those from Purdue Global, you learn the basics of software development and dabble in several different languages.”
Purdue Global offers several degrees to help aspiring and current software developers build their expertise.
Purdue Global also offers a Secure Software Development and Quality Assurance Micro-credential that focuses on secure software concepts, software analysis and requirements, software design, software testing, and coding. A bachelor’s degree is required to pursue this micro-credential.
If you’ve already completed IT certifications or credentials such as IEEE Professional Software Developer or Oracle Certified Professional (Java), you may be able to use your previous software development certification as a transfer credit for specific software developer courses at Purdue Global toward your degree.
Software Development Offers Continuous Learning Opportunities
In software development careers, there’s always something new to learn. That’s why many people enjoy this career field. You can constantly develop your skills and hone in on the tasks and work you’re passionate about.
“It seems every week, there’s a new app that everyone is using or a new software startup everyone is interested in,” Myers says. “Although apps and software startups get the hype, all organizations use software daily. Many larger companies build their own software because they can’t find anything off-the-shelf or feel they have specific needs. All of that requires software developers.”
If you’re interested in creating software applications that help people complete necessary and valuable tasks, a career in software development may be for you. You can advance your career with convenient online education that provides access anywhere on a flexible schedule.
Purdue Global offers a wide range of online information technology degrees. To find out more, contact us today.