10 Useful Skills from a Software Developer Internship

Updated 7 June 2023

Software developers design, develop, test and maintain computer software, systems and business applications for organisations. Enroling in a software developer internship is an effective way to gain practical hands-on experience and provides an invaluable opportunity to acquire essential skills that can advance your career in the tech industry. Recognising and developing these skills can help you maximise the internship and become a more competitive candidate in the job market. In this article, we explain what a software developer internship is and review 10 useful skills you can acquire from this experience and how they may benefit your future career.

Please note that none of the companies, organisations or institutions mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What's a software developer internship?

A software developer internship is a temporary and usually entry-level position that is eligible for students or recent graduates to gain practical experience by working with an organisation's development team on real-world projects. Companies hire software developer interns to evaluate potential future hires and they may extend full-time offers to suitable candidates who perform well. Interns are also a cost-effective way for companies to temporarily increase their workforce compared to hiring full-time employees. By allowing interns to participate and assist developers in real-world projects, they can develop the skills necessary to be successful in their future careers.

The internship work environment typically encourages collaboration and mentorship since interns are often integrated into existing project teams. The duties and responsibilities of a software developer intern can vary depending on the specific company and project they're working on. Here are some common job responsibilities:

  • assisting in the design, development and testing of software applications

  • participating in code reviews and team meetings

  • debugging and resolving software defects

  • collaborating with cross-functional teams to ensure software quality and functionality

  • learning and staying up to date with new technologies and tools in software development

  • documenting code comments and creating user manuals or technical documentation

Related: What Does a Software Developer Do? (With Skills and Salary)

10 useful skills you may acquire during your internship to become a software developer

If you aim to have a successful career in this field, it can help to learn these 10 useful skills you may acquire during your software developer internship. These skills are critical to performing the job and they include the following:

1. Programming

Completing an internship to become a software developer can help enhance your programming skills. Internships provide an excellent opportunity to work with frameworks and tools in a real-world context, including using various programming languages, such as Java, Python, C++ or JavaScript. Handling real projects and challenges can help improve your problem-solving abilities and allow you to gain a deeper understanding of how to write efficient, maintainable and scalable code.

Having a strong foundation in programming is vital for your career growth as a professional software developer. Expanding your programming skills and abilities during your internship can qualify you to work on more complex projects and help you distinguish yourself from other candidates when applying for a full-time position.

Related: What Does a Computer Programmer Do? (With Career Steps)

2. Knowledge of the software development life cycle (SDLC)

A software developer internship provides the opportunity to develop a thorough understanding of the SDLC. The SDLC comprises various stages, such as planning, design, development, testing and deployment, which are crucial to creating high-quality software applications. Interns can gain hands-on experience working within these stages and learning how to apply best practices in each phase. A deep understanding of the SDLC is key to delivering successful projects and meeting client expectations. Developers who possess this valuable skill can navigate the SDLC effectively, be more efficient at managing projects and collaborate better with team members.

3. Communication

Employers may rotate interns among different project teams where they collaborate with team members from various departments, such as product management, design and quality assurance. This exposure teaches them how to articulate their ideas clearly, listen to feedback and adapt to different communication styles. This helps interns to develop effective communication and collaboration skills that are essential for success in the tech industry.

Furthermore, interns may also participate in meetings, present their work and engage in code reviews. These experiences help them to hone their knowledge of complex technical concepts and train them to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical users. Having strong communication and collaboration skills is invaluable for fostering productive working relationships, ensuring project success and advancing your career as a software developer.

Related: Importance of Good Communication at Work (Plus Tips)

4. Time management

Interns often handle multiple tasks and deadlines, which requires them to learn how to allocate time and resources efficiently. Interns also develop critical time management skills, such as setting goals, prioritising tasks and managing their workload, which ensures that they meet deadlines and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

As a professional software developer, your ability to manage time and prioritise tasks is crucial to helping you organise your work and be productive. Developing effective time management and prioritisation skills enables you to complete your responsibilities efficiently, meet complex project goals and deliver high-quality results. This assures prospective employers you can effectively handle demanding projects under tight deadlines and builds your credibility in the field.

5. Proficiency with software development tools

Interns have the opportunity to work with a diverse set of tools and platforms, such as integrated development environments, build systems and version control systems. Familiarity with these tools can streamline your development process, help you identify and resolve issues and increase your overall productivity.

Being able to effectively use software development tools is beneficial as it can help you to efficiently manage projects and meet deadlines. Employers value developers who can quickly adapt to new tools and platforms, which can save time and resources in the long term. Developers with a strong foundation in software development tools are likely better able to handle new projects at a higher performance level, which may impress employers and organisations.

6. Debugging

Interns working on real-world projects may encounter various challenges. This process can teach them how to identify, analyse and resolve software defects. It's useful to develop strong problem-solving skills as a software developer because the role generally requires critical thinking, logical reasoning and persistence to find effective solutions to issues. Being proficient in debugging and having good problem-solving abilities enables you to efficiently solve complex issues and ensure the quality and reliability of your software applications. Employers seek developers who can quickly diagnose and fix challenges to enable a smoother development process and better end-user experience.

Read more: Debugging: Definition, How-To Guide and Strategies

7. Testing and quality assurance

Interns are often involved in various stages of the SDLC, which include testing applications for functionality, performance and security. They learn how to create and execute test plans, automate tests and identify potential issues, which can help ensure that they deliver high-quality and error-free software. Having expertise in software testing and quality assurance is essential to developing reliable and user-friendly applications.

Employers generally prefer developers who can prioritise quality and effectively identify and address potential issues before they impact the end user. This helps improve customer satisfaction and maintains the organisation's brand and reputation in the industry. Developing strong fundamentals in software testing and quality assurance during your internship helps ensure you're able to release successful software development projects.

8. Adaptability

Software developer interns often develop flexibility, adaptability and a mindset of continuous learning. New technologies, frameworks and programming languages emerge frequently in the technology industry. Interns learn to adapt quickly to new tools, techniques and project requirements, which further encourages them to be resourceful and open to learning.

Being adaptable and engaging in continuous learning is vital for staying relevant and competitive in the job market. Embracing new technologies and staying up to date with industry trends allows you to contribute to innovative projects and solutions. Fostering a growth mindset during your internship helps you to be more ready to thrive in the fast-paced software development work environment.

9. User-centric design competency

Interns may work with designers, product managers and user experience specialists to ensure that software applications address the requirements and preferences of the organisation's target audience. Through this, they gain a better appreciation of the importance of empathy, user feedback and iterative design in creating successful software products. Software developers who adopt a user-centric approach to design and development are better able to create applications that resonate with users and lead to customer satisfaction.

Employers value developers who understand the user experience and can effectively collaborate with multidisciplinary teams to bring innovative solutions to the market. By embracing user-centric design and development principles during your internship, you can confidently create engaging and successful software products in the future that can help boost your career.

Related: User Journey: Definition, Elements, Components and Functions

10. Organisation and project management

Interns often work on multiple tasks and projects simultaneously, which requires them to be methodical, set realistic goals and communicate effectively with team members. They learn and understand how to allocate resources, manage timelines and monitor progress to ensure a project's success. They also learn how to use agile project management tools, such as Jira, Trello and Asana, which can help them manage tasks, track progress and collaborate on projects.

Developers who effectively manage projects promote efficiency in the development process and better collaboration among team members. Developing strong management and organisation skills during your internship can help you manage additional workloads while still delivering results on time and meeting expectations.

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