On this page 0
How to Become a Software Developer: Steps and FAQs

How to Become a Software Developer: Steps and FAQs

You want to become a software developer but have no idea where to start when it comes to education paths, training, or certifications. This guide can help you take the first step. Keep reading to learn more about how to become a software developer.

If you’re looking for a career path with long-term growth potential, flexibility, stability, and high earnings, pursuing a software development job could be a great fit for you. 

The software development field is booming — let’s break down some of the biggest stats from the BLS:

  • The median annual pay for a software developer in the US is around $127,260 
  • There are over 1.7 million software developer jobs in the U.S.
  • The industry is expected to grow by 26% in the next decade — much faster than average

A software developer is a tech professional who builds, designs, creates, and maintains computer applications and programs according to specifications. The job has a unique ability to shape the future through the technology we use. Millions of lines of code combine to influence how people live, work, and play every day.

In this article, we’ll explore the tasks and responsibilities of a software developer, the critical skills needed to succeed, step-by-step instructions for pursuing a career in software development, and some intriguing specializations. 

Whether you’re a current college student exploring career options or a seasoned professional looking to make a career switch, you can use this guide to help you navigate the path ahead. 

What Does a Software Developer Do?

Software developers are the architects behind the applications and programs we use daily. They design, code, and test software to meet specific user needs. Some of their tasks include:

  • Writing code in various programming languages
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams
  • Debugging and troubleshooting software issues
  • Updating and improving existing software

These responsibilities demand creativity, problem-solving skills, and a keen attention to detail. Software developers play a crucial role in shaping the digital landscape we interact with.

The software developer job title covers a wide range of specialties, including front- and back-end developers and full-stack developers. This blog post from Trio helps break down the different types of software developers in detail.

What is the Difference Between Software Developers and Software Engineers?

While the titles for software developer and software engineer are often used interchangeably, there are nuanced distinctions between the two roles.

Software developers focus primarily on coding and implementing software solutions, while software engineers take a broader approach, incorporating engineering principles into the entire software development process. Think of software engineers as overseeing the entire lifecycle, from design to deployment.

Both software developers and software engineers can play crucial roles in their companies. To learn more about each path, check out this guide from Coursera.

Is becoming a software developer right for me?

The job is more than just being able to code. You should first determine if software development aligns with your interests and skills. You need a clear understanding of both the hard and soft skills that you excel at, with the latter becoming increasingly important in the tech world. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Do you enjoy problem-solving? Software development is akin to solving puzzles. If you find joy in overcoming challenges, this might be the right fit. Critical thinking skills are essential if you want to be a successful software developer. 
  • Are you detail oriented? Precision is vital in coding. If you appreciate fine-tuning and meticulous work, software development could be fulfilling.
  • Do you like continuous learning? The tech landscape evolves rapidly. If you’re eager to stay updated and embrace ongoing learning, you’ll thrive in this field.
  • Are you a team player? Collaboration is integral to software development. If you enjoy working with diverse teams, your interpersonal skills will be valuable.
  • Can you handle ambiguity? Projects may not always have a clear path. If you’re comfortable navigating uncertainties, you’re well-suited for the dynamic nature of software development.

Other necessary skills for software developers include strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and patience.

Reflecting on these questions will help you decide if a career in software development aligns with your passions and strengths. 

How to Become a Software Developer: Step-by-Step

If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a software developer, it’s easy to get started. 

In this section, we’ll share step-by-step instructions on how to become a professional software developer. Whether you’re exploring degree options, honing coding skills, or preparing for job interviews, this guide will walk you through the key stages of becoming a standout software developer.

A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field is a great place to start your journey. 

Computer science, software engineering, mathematics, and information technology degrees are common bachelor’s degrees for professional software developers. However, the field is evolving, and some employers may consider degrees in related disciplines.

While a degree provides a strong foundation, it’s possible to become a software developer without one, especially with the rise in online courses, coding boot camps, and self-taught routes. If you’re looking for a quicker or more flexible learning option, one of these nontraditional formats may work better for you.

Step 2: Decide Which Coding Languages You Want to Learn

Choosing the right programming languages is a crucial step in your journey to becoming a software developer. According to HackerRank, JavaScript has been consistently cited as the most commonly used programming language globally.

However, you should research the languages in demand based on your career goals. Other popular choices include Python, Java, and C++. Understanding the most in-demand skills will help set you up for success later in your career. 

One factor that can help you decide which programming language to learn is understanding why you want to code. This helpful chart can help guide you through your options based on what type of work you want to work on.

Step 3: Attend Coding Boot Camps and Other Software Development Trainings

Coding boot camps provide intensive, hands-on training, making them an efficient way to acquire software development quickly.

A coding boot camp is a short, intense way to learn coding and programming skills. Boot camps often offer specialized tracks, allowing you to tailor your training to specific areas like cybersecurity, UX/UI design, or data analytics.

The boot camps can take place in person or online and can run anywhere between 12 weeks to seven months, giving you maximum flexibility for your studies. Typically, coding boot camps will cost several thousand dollars, much less than the average cost for a bachelor’s degree. 

Popular coding bootcamps and certificates include Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate, IBM DevOps and Software Engineering Professional Certificate, and Meta’s Front-End or Back-End Developer Professional Certificate.

Additionally, you can earn certifications through IEEE Computer Society to strengthen your knowledge and skills in software. These include Associate Software Developer, Professional Software Developer, and Professional Software Engineering Master. These certifications are used as a benchmark for hiring by many top companies, including Siemens, IBM, and Oracle.

Whether you want to earn a spot at a specific company or pursue a specialized path through an online boot camp, you have a wealth of opportunities to further your training as a software developer. 

Step 4: Gain Experience in Different Coding Languages

Experience is vital in software development. While you start learning one language, building upon that knowledge and learning another is easier. 

Seek internships, contribute to open-source projects, or work on personal projects to build a robust portfolio showcasing your skills. Many companies value practical experience over formal education. 

You have plenty of online resources that can help get you more programming experience — and can help boost your visibility as a developer. 

First, create a GitHub repository to showcase your code and collaborate with the developer community. This website allows you to contribute to open-source projects, post your projects, build free websites, and show off skills to potential employers. StackExchange is another programming community, composed of nearly 100 million developers, that you should know about and be a part of. Codewars can help you improve your development skills by solving a variety of challenges, known as katas, to improve your ranking.

Other ways to expand on your coding experience include competing in coding challenges and developing side projects. FreeCodeCamp shares a helpful list of top coding challenge websites. Challenges range from React and SQL to data science (such as AI and ML) and other computer science fields, so you can explore which topics and disciplines interest you most.

Step 5: Apply for Jobs and Prepare for Interviews

Once you’ve done all of the requisite training, start applying for jobs and preparing for interviews in your field. 

Tailor your resume to highlight relevant skills (both hard and soft) and projects that you’ve completed. Use online platforms like LinkedIn and professional networks to explore job opportunities. Prepare for technical interviews by practicing coding challenges and honing your problem-solving skills. Showcase your ability to work collaboratively and adapt to evolving technologies. Networking within the industry can also open doors to job opportunities and mentorship.

Don’t forget to engage in online communities like Stack Overflow to learn from other developers and find help as you conduct your search.

Software Development Specializations to Consider

Aspiring software developers can tailor their career paths to various specializations. Each niche offers unique challenges and opportunities. Explore some of the prominent specializations below to guide your journey.

How to Become a Video Game Software Developer

Video game developers are responsible for the development of the software behind any video game. The video game industry is now a multi-billion-dollar behemoth industry ripe with many job opportunities.

At the core of this role, you’ll have the responsibility of crafting the intricate software that brings virtual worlds to life. Video game designers create immersive and captivating experiences for players by crafting the game’s core features, including characters, their goals, and the visually stunning environments around them.

If you’re interested in pursuing this specialization, focus on acquiring skills in graphics programming, physics engines, and game design. You can opt for degrees like NEIT’s associate degree in video game design. Actively participating in game jams — intense, time-limited collaborative events where developers create playable games — will provide you with a unique platform to highlight your creativity and problem-solving abilities.

This guide from New England Institute of Technology offers specific advice for pursuing a career as a video game software developer if you’re interested in learning more.

How to Become a Software Development Engineer

Becoming a software development engineer involves using a targeted approach to skill acquisition and academic advancement. Start by earning an advanced degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field to deepen your theoretical knowledge. This foundation can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of algorithms, data structures, and system architecture.

Develop expertise in programming languages commonly used in software development, such as Java or C++. Proficiency in these languages is vital for writing efficient, scalable, and maintainable code. Engage in hands-on projects and internships to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios, honing your problem-solving abilities.

Try to engage in hands-on experiences, whether through internships or personal projects. Contributing to open-source projects, such as collaborating on the Linux kernel or working on projects hosted on GitHub, not only provides you with exposure to real-world coding challenges but also showcases practical contributions to the developer community. 

Networking within the software development community is crucial for staying on top of industry trends and building professional connections. Attend conferences like Google I/O or Microsoft Build, join online forums like Stack Overflow, and participate in local meet ups or developer groups.

How to Become a Systems Software Developer

Systems software developers are among the most highly paid technical specialists in today’s workplace and are a great career option if you are interested in IT. 

These roles involve designing and maintaining operating systems. To become a systems software developer, immerse yourself in low-level programming languages, delve into kernel development intricacies, and master the nuances of system optimization. Aspiring systems software developers must also possess a comprehensive understanding of computer architecture, programming languages like C and C++, and the ability to troubleshoot complex issues.

With practice and practical experience, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a systems software developer. 

How to Become a Full Stack Software Developer

Full stack developers excel in both front-end and back-end development.

Begin by mastering JavaScript, a cornerstone in web development, and understand its frameworks like React for creating dynamic user interfaces. Dive into back-end development with languages such as Node.js or Python, with frameworks like Django for robust server-side functionalities.

You should have a strong knowledge of databases, so familiarize yourself with both relational (e.g., MySQL, PostgreSQL) and non-relational databases (e.g., MongoDB). Try to gain hands-on experience in designing and managing databases, ensuring seamless integration with your applications.

For front-end development, delve into responsive design using CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and learn about state management with tools like Redux. On the back end, explore RESTful API development and understand how to implement authentication and authorization protocols.

Practical application is key for any full stack developer. Contribute to open-source projects and create a diverse portfolio showcasing projects that demonstrate your ability to handle end-to-end solutions.

This guide from Columbia University’s School of Engineering offers an in-depth look at how to become a full-stack developer if you’re looking to learn more.

How to Become a Python Software Developer

Python developers are proficient in creating, designing, and delivering computer applications and other programs in Python. A python developer is also responsible for locating and correcting errors (debugging) in Python-based development projects. You’ll learn how to leverage the versatility of the language for web development, data analysis, and automation.

Python is an excellent, beginner-friendly programming language. Master Python frameworks like Django or Flask, gain proficiency in database management, and contribute to the Python community. Build a strong portfolio displaying your Python projects to demonstrate your skills.