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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 September 2022 | Published 13 September 2021

Updated 21 September 2022

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software developers build applications and programs that allow people and businesses to perform a wide range of functions on their computers and digital devices. These professionals create products designed for the end user, such as applications for streaming videos online or operating systems that power servers and cloud systems. Knowing the duties and responsibilities of a software developer can help you determine whether you have the skills, education and experience required to enter the industry. In this article, we discuss what does a software developer do, the skills software developers need, their salary and entry requirements.

What is a software developer?

A software developer is a tech industry professional who creates, designs, implements and improves a software system. Developers store, retrieve, update and manipulate data to analyse the function of software products and systems to ensure they perform according to requirements. Depending on the level of experience, qualifications and job responsibilities, software developers can take part in some or every phase of the software development life cycle.

Developers work with project teams, clients, management, users and other stakeholders to determine the functionality, usability, scalability and quality assurance aspects of a software development operation. As a developer, you may work with other coders, software testers, project managers, technicians, product designers and engineers to deliver a project to specification and on schedule.

What does a software developer do?

Here are some of the specific job duties and responsibilities of a software developer:

  • Designing and improving new and existing software systems

  • Working with technical and non-technical teams to set product performance requirements

  • Assessing software to identify bugs, fix problems, adapt to newer hardware, upgrade user interfaces, improve performance and lower threats

  • Supervising programming teams during software and documentation development

  • Collaborating with clients and customers on technical issues that can affect user experience and software performance

  • Working with engineering teams to assess software hardware interfaces and design specification

  • Advising on installation, upgrading or modification of existing software systems

  • Generating reports and delivering presentations to key stakeholders on project status for review and improvement

Related: What Does an Application Developer Do? (Duties and Skills)

What skills do you need to be a software developer?

Here are vital skills software developer candidates need to excel in their role:

Programming languages

To be a successful software developer, you can gain proficiency in the most popular programming languages in your industry. In many industries, Python and JavaScript are the most important coding languages. However, you can find out the dominant language in your preferred niche and learn how to code in it to attract good offers from employers.

Data structures and algorithms

Software developers require an in-depth knowledge of data structures and algorithms to work effectively. Having mastery of these two aspects of development can make your work faster and more professional. It can also improve your chances of getting employment. You can learn these skills online via several online classes and platforms.

Text editors

Text editors are multitasking tools that can help software developers work faster and more efficiently. There are several free and paid text editors you can use to practise coding. These tools not only make your work smarter, but they can also boost your productivity and make it easier to collaborate.

Source control

Source control platforms make it easy for developers to manage, store and share their work with other programmers. If you are a software developer, chances are you may need to work as part of a team. Being proficient in version control concepts can make it easier to collaborate with remote teams on a wide range of projects.

Operating system

There are two types of software: operating systems and application programs. As a software developer, it is important to understand how operating systems work to build effective applications. Applications depend on the operating system to work, and you can allocate the correct amount of resources for them in the operating system for users to have a seamless experience. Some applications also work across multiple operating system environments, and this requires knowing the performance characteristics of each platform to design compatible programs.

Databases

Effective software developers have at least foundational knowledge of database management. You can learn about SQL and its many variants because you may design programs for database management software. Having this knowledge can improve your efficiency, enhance your earnings and help you take on larger scale projects.

Problem-solving

Besides technical skills, software developers are also excellent problem solvers. The role requires the ability to diagnose and troubleshoot software and hardware issues that might lead to poor performance. In an organisation, end users may also seek the help of the software developer if they can't use programs on their computers.

Related: What Does a PLC Programmer Do? (Plus Skills and Salaries)

Communication

Software developers work with several stakeholders, many of whom do not have a technical background. To pass information to such parties without confusion, you can develop excellent verbal and written communication skills. Developers are also good listeners and instructors because their directions can affect the development team's efficiency and productivity.

Analytical and detail-oriented

Software development requires being analytical and detail-oriented. These attributes are vital for anticipating and solving issues during and after delivering a product. Being detail-oriented can also prevent errors and make it easier to meet client expectations.

Related: What Does It Take To Be a Software Engineer?

How much does a software developer earn?

Software developers make an average salary of $88,668 per year. The amount you earn depends on several factors, including your employer, the location, the job duties and responsibilities, qualifications and experience. For example, front end developers earn an average salary of $81,382 per year, back end developers earn a yearly average salary of $89,995, while full stack developers get an average salary of $92,605 per annum.

Is software development a good job?

Software development is a good career option for several reasons, including:

Growing job opportunities

As more organisations go digital, there is a growing need for computer applications to run a wide range of administrative and corporate functions. These programs require the expertise of software developers. Plus, many firms adopt the software as a service business model, which involves turning services into web and cloud-based items users can pay to use. These developments and the growth of remote work suggests software developers are likely to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Low entry barrier

It is not that software development is an easy profession, but you don't need a university degree to enter the industry. If you have the relevant skills, experience and the zeal to upgrade your competencies, software development promises good pay. It can also provide diverse opportunities to create products that can impact lives and industries.

Flexibility

Software development is one of the jobs you can do as a remote employee. The job doesn't require going to the office every day, so long as you can convince your employer to agree to such an arrangement. If remote work is something you love, working in software development can help you better manage your time and work while achieving your career goals.

Related: Q&A: What Is Remote Work?

How to become a software developer

Here are steps you can take to become a software developer:

1. Earn a degree

Many employers require software development candidates to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or related disciplines. However, some companies can consider people with relevant experience and skills without a degree. Some employers may require an advanced degree, such as a master's or doctorate for senior software development roles.

2. Gain work experience

You can use programming projects completed during your undergraduate studies as work experience if it applies to the employer's needs. Internships that relate to an employer's work can also qualify as relevant work experience. You can also include freelance work you complete for other clients on your resume, but add only projects that can boost your candidacy for the job.

Related: The Best Times to Apply for an Internship (Plus Tips From a University Career Coach)

3. Master a specialisation

As a software developer, you either develop applications or operating systems. To achieve mastery in a specialisation, you can gain proficiency in the programming language for the industry and participate in projects. You can keep your projects on online platforms for easy access, collaboration and sharing with potential clients.

4. Get certifications

Earning certifications can boost your professional standing as a software developer. There are hundreds of certifications so many certifying bodies and companies may consider you because of the industry clout of your credentials. Choose certifications that have future prospects, such as those related to the cloud and database management, so they can remain relevant for longer.

5. Start applying for roles

Once you have the education, experience and industry credentials to get jobs, you can start applying to companies. Create a tailored resume for each position to improve your chances of getting employed. Before writing your resume, try to go over the job description to identify the key technical skills and personal traits the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate and incorporate the information in your document.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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