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How to Become a Software Developer: Education, Skills, Salary

how to become a software developer

Becoming a software developer can be challenging, but it’s possible if you have the passion and drive to learn. In this article, we’ve outlined how to become a software developer, from education to careers! We’ve also included resources to help you continue learning and growing in your field.

Let’s dive right in!

What Does A Software Developer Do?

Every development process consists of phases: planning, analysis, designing, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Have you ever noticed how helpful computer programs are? In this case, the dedicated workforce behind these programs is a team of skilled software developers. Before jumping into the design phase, they carefully plan how to achieve the desired goals. Then they apply trained methodologies to do the wonders in the end. In brief, every piece of technology in our modern world is a blessing from these professionals, from computers to video games and operating systems.

Job Description

A software developer has countless responsibilities, such as:

  • Examining the requirements of people who use software
  • Designing a computer program according to users’ needs
  • Testing and giving the program a final look
  • Creating diagrams and necessary models to understand the flow of code required to develop a program
  • Regular maintenance of software to keep it working perfectly
  • Producing documents providing all-important information required for either maintenance or updates in the future.

Software Developer Career Outlook, Growth, and Salary

The BLS projects employment opportunities for software developers will increase by 22% in only ten years. This survey further claims that over 189,200 job positions open every year during this period.

The mean annual salary in this field was around $120,990 (as of May 2021). To illustrate, the mean hourly wage, it equals $58.17. The same is the case for individuals working as testers or quality assurance experts.

Additionally, regarding job openings for software developers, the state of California is listed on top with over 228,240 open positions. Texas and Washington are next, with 103,510 and 81,520 available jobs for software developers, respectively.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Software Developer?

A bachelor’s degree is a must to become a dedicated and professional software developer. However, earning this degree will take full-time students around four years. Don’t want to spend that much time? Then you can look for different courses in the software development domain. In fact, alternative approaches would only require a minimum time of three months.

Steps To Become A Software Developer

Like becoming a doctor, engineer, or business professional, a software developer should go through specific steps to reach the desired destination. The journey becomes easy and fun for those who are dedicated and consistent. Do you want to become a successful software developer? Looking to explore the whole journey? Then the necessary steps to follow are given below:

1. Choose the Right Software Development Program

Choosing the proper education plays a crucial part in becoming a software developer. This phase is the backbone of a professional career because it is what decides a specialty. If the domain selected matches interests, chances to excel become pretty high. Selecting a branch of software development opposite interest could be serious trouble in the long run. Therefore, be very careful when choosing the right program.

If we talk about employers, most of them ask for a bachelor's degree, particularly in software development. For example, having bachelor’s degrees in other domains like computer programming, computer science, computer engineering, etc., can also help your chances. While enrolling, seek out programs with regional accreditation because reputed employers always ask for this.

Colleges offer hundreds of bachelor’s programs for those dreaming of becoming software developers quickly. To illustrate, a list of a few credible software development-related bachelor’s degrees is attached below. These degrees will ensure a job as a software developer in different organizations.

2. Get Started With the Basics of Coding

The next step should be to learn the basics of coding along with pursuing a degree. Some may question whether learning the basics of coding is worth it or why they should know it. Will it help in the short term? The answer is a big YES. Learning these skills will sharpen problem-solving and self-dependence.

Coding teaches us how to think effectively and present a more creative version of ourselves. Additionally, coding develops a habit of thinking critically and makes it strong with time.

Similarly, programming or coding teaches people to benefit from reductionism – a popular approach to dividing a complex project into multiple tasks. Reductionism helps solve complicated problems quickly. It’s not only limited to programming; students can implement it in day-to-day life. A systematic approach works best to improve time management and planning skills.

Finally, coding requires attentiveness. A program becomes useless if even a single colon or semicolon is out of place while writing software.

Most professionals register in these courses to enhance their practical skills even after years of getting their degrees. Interestingly, companies and organizations prefer those with both degrees and certificates. Therefore, we advise courses related to already developed skills to increase the chances of getting a job. A list of the top-grade programming courses that can improve coding skills is attached below.

3. Learn How To Work With Different Programming Languages

The best way to learn how to program languages is with hands-on experience. Since it is a complex process, focusing on a single language is a great approach. As a software developer, no rule says you must learn more than one language at a time. Once you’ve mastered one language, it is easy to become an expert and make decent money with that skill
The focus should be to develop solid programming concepts in one language and then move to another. Before switching, create a few diverse programs in the recently learned language. Once you’ve developed those, it will be easy to remember the syntax for that language.

Though the syntax deviates from language to language, the concept behind developing a program remains the same. For example, every language consists of operations like conditionals, iterations, looping, etc. As soon as these basics are understood, the future route becomes simple. Becoming a T-shaped developer isn’t to everyone’s liking. It takes many years for an individual to learn multiple languages and get a good grip over them.

Companies hire different specialists for different jobs. UI/UX designers work on the front-end, whereas back-end developers manage server-side assignments. Despite this, reputed organizations appreciate employees becoming full-stack developers and enhancing their skill set. A full scope of language should be your mission to stand out among millions of other developers.

T-Shaped Developer

An individual working exceptionally well in one technology with an understanding of other technologies with varying productivity levels. T-shaped developers are always better critical thinkers and problem solvers. For instance, say you have a good grasp of JavaScript and are learning HTML, CSS, and PHP. Then the chances of performing well are pretty bright while working individually or in a team.

4. Understand Software Development Methodologies (SDMs)

In simple terms, a software development methodology is a series of steps programmers follow when developing a software program. In other words, it’s a set of guidelines to be followed while creating a new program. SDMs outline how to organize a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). There are fundamental parameters an SDM focuses on, such as:

  • Keeping in mind the problem statement, planning the required features
  • Assigning responsibilities to every individual who is supposed to be part of the development team
  • The expected date to release the final version of the developed software
  • The type of testing required and when to perform

5. Master Object-Oriented Design Principles

Robert C. Martin has named SOLID the first five principles of Object-Oriented Design (OOD). The word “SOLID” is a combination of the first letters of each principle listed below.

  • Single-Responsibility Principle (SRP)
  • Open-Closed Principle (OCP)
  • Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP))
  • Interface Segregation Principle (ISP)
  • Dependency Inversion Principle (DIP)

To become a software development expert, master these five principles. Several online courses are available to learn them. One can enroll in any of such classes to get hands-on experience. It may cost a little, but getting these certificates will make your future brighter.

6. Gain Experience Through Internships and Apprenticeships

Internships and apprenticeships are good for getting practical exposure to the software industry. Internships are opportunities for the students to gain some industrial exposure. They are primarily unpaid and assign limited tasks to the students.

On the other hand, apprenticeships give fresh graduates a chance to start their careers. Apprenticeships offer payment, and then the participants must contribute to an organization’s success. Generally, apprenticeships lead to full-time opportunities at the same company. With a bachelor’s degree and a fellowship, organizations will prioritize you over less competitive applicants.

7. Polish Your Skills

Developing software skills is good, but programmers need to be an expert in them to stand out among others. The question here is: how can one polish their software development skills? All that’s needed is to follow the five steps below:

  1. Practice as much as possible to enhance your expertise in a domain
  2. Always set some strategic goals. It helps show what areas need more effort.
  3. Try writing the abstraction code to avoid duplications, which comes with practicing.
  4. Keep on working on critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to develop an unbelievable software program in the end.
  5. Get experience with multiple technologies. It will increase understanding of different systems and help programmers write effective programs with client needs in mind.

What are Software Development Methodologies?

When an SDM is effectively implemented, it is easy to meet deadlines efficiently. Hence, releasing the final program with more productivity and high precision will be easy. Let’s take a look at four prominent software development methodologies frequently used around the world:

1. DevOps Development Methodology

DevOps is known for reducing the gap and improving the collaboration between different departments working on other software parts. It increases collaboration between operations, development, and quality assurance. This approach is more than just a development methodology. It has proved to be an effective tool to support the overall structure of an organization.


  • Improves efficiency
  • Minimizes disruption
  • Reduces the failure rate
  • Lowers the bug-fixing time


  • Demands cultural change
  • Requires continuous updates
  • Needs extensive and frequent testing
  • Human interaction causes delays

2. Rapid Application Development (RAD)

This development approach is high in demand because it focuses on creating high-quality software programs with minimum investment. According to Scott Stiner, the RAD methodology allows programmers to adopt changing market trends quickly. To illustrate better, a major effect of Rad is that investment cost gets reduced. Further, the phases of RAD include:

  • Planning the requirements
  • Designing a program
  • Giving it a final look
  • Cutover


  • Performs well for projects that are not computationally complicated
  • Works perfectly for small and medium-level time-sensitive software development projects


  • Requires users and developers to have an in-depth understanding of the developed application
  • Not suitable for a company that doesn’t have a highly skilled and experienced workforce

3. Agile Development Methodology

This methodology involves creating a computer program in different phases to minimize the risk factor. The agile development approach comes in various forms, including future-driven development, extreme programming, crystal, and scrum.


  • Software releases in multiple iterations
  • It makes the development process more efficient


  • Difficult for the new users because it uses real-time communication
  • It engages more labor and needs strict commitment to time

4. Waterfall Development Methodology

The waterfall model consists of successive steps, including requirements, designing, implementation, verification, and periodic maintenance. Every phase should be completed before moving to the next one because there is no way to go back and modify the earlier stage. It is one of the traditional approaches used to develop a software program.


  • It makes software development super easy to manage and understand
  • Performs amazingly for projects having clear goals
  • It works well even for teams having less experience


  • The rigid structure makes this approach slow
  • Tight controls make it costly

Which One Of The Above Four Is The Best?

These four methodologies are used frequently in the software development domain. Every method has its own set of drawbacks and benefits; therefore, the efficiency of each process varies with the circumstances. Hence the best way to increase project efficiency is to take elements from different systems and ensure it runs smoothly. It’s commonly known as a hybrid software development methodology.

How do I find a software development mentor?

If you are an entry-level software engineer, then the first place you should look for a mentor is the company or organization in which you work. Senior software developers or a team lead can be your ideal mentor. Similarly, you can attend workshops and conferences to look for a mentor. Furthermore, you can contact your friends to find you a potential source. Also, another way to find a software development mentor is to explore online mentorship programs. Both free and paid programs are available. You can try any of them.

What education do I need to become a software developer?

According to a Stack Overflow survey conducted in 2021, over 65% of software developers earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, the first minimum goal should be enrolling in a relevant bachelor’s program.

What books should I read to learn how to code?

Well, if you are looking forward to enhancing your coding skills, the top five books you should read in 2022 are listed below.

  1. “Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software”
  2. “Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition.”
  3. “Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship”
  4. “Learning Javascript Design Patterns”
  5. “The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master”

Where can I find online coding courses?

Hundreds of online platforms offer coding courses. But, finding the most trusted ones often becomes a challenging task. The five top-rated platforms to find online coding courses are listed below.

  • Coursera
  • Udemy
  • Envato Tuts+
  • Skillshare
  • Free CodeCamp

What is the difference between a software engineer and a developer?

As far as software engineers are concerned, they work on a bigger scale. For instance, an engineer builds new tools to support the software development process. In contrast, a developer uses pre-existing tools to write new programs.

Also, only a few software developers fall in the category of software engineers. On the other hand, almost all software engineers are also software developers.

Find an Online Software Developer Certificate Today!

Want to become a software developer? Then you should start your journey by enrolling in an online bachelor’s degree in software development. Especially if your interests are broader, computer engineering, computer programming, computer science, or software engineering! For a complete career guide, don’t miss reading through the above discussion.

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