Software Developers

Software developers are among he highest paid technology professionals. While the average annual pay for software developers is roughly $87,000 a year, some developers make well into the six figures. Why are they so highly paid? Well, it's pretty simple really. There's a huge demand for software developer and there aren't ton of good software developers out there. Software developers are the minds behind computers. They develop the code that tells a computer how to process information and run complex routines. They're involved in just about every aspect of digital technology, networking, and anything else that has to do with computers.

Some of the more common tasks and duties performed by software developers include:

  • Design, develop, test and troubleshoot software to meet the needs of users
  • Upgrade software and computer systems
  • Design computer applications and computer networks
  • Develop schematics for programmers to help them develop computer code
  • Maintain and test software to ensure it's up to date and functioning correctly
  • Work with other computer specialists to optimize software programs

While many IT professionals, including programmers and technicians, contribute to the development of software, software developers oversee the entire development process from beginning to end. They start by analyzing a customers needs and then designing a software schematics to meet those needs. They provide detailed instructions to computer programmers, who then develop the code necessary to support all aspects of the software program. Once a software program as been developed, it's tested and re-tested to make sure it meets all requirements and is user friendly. When a software program is taken to market, software developers are often required to maintain the program, provide technical support and troubleshoot glitches that may arise.

Software developers often fulfill the role of software designer, developer and programmer. However, they typically will work with a team of skilled computer programmers on most development projects. Developers whose primary function is supervision of software development projects are called information technology project managers. They supervise a project's progress to make sure code is up to spec, costs are controlled, and deadlines are met.

There are two primary types of software developers. These include the following:

Applications software developers design, develop, and modify computer applications and programs, including specialized software and utility programs. Application developers are often employed by clients to develop custom software applications designed to address specific issues. They also develop commercial applications that are sold to the public. They're involved in the development of complex databases. A growing number of application developers are involved in the creation of web-based applications for use on the Internet.

Systems software developers, as the title suggests, develop and maintain computer systems. Systems developers work on local area networks, wide area networks and intranets for organizations and corporations. The also develop and maintain computer systems sold to individuals or develop custom systems for clients. Systems developers design user interfaces that allow consumers to interact with computers. Systems software developers are also responsible for developing, maintaining and updating the operating systems used in most consumer electronics, including cell phones and automobiles.

Work Environment

There are currently about 900,000 software development jobs in the United States. While this may seem like quite a few, this figure includes all levels of software development – from novice to expert.

Many software developers are employed by computer systems design firms and related corporations. Others work with software publishers or as independent contractors. The following include the industries where software developers are most frequently employed.

  • Computer systems design – 32%
  • Computer and electronics manufacturing – 10%
  • Financial services – 8%
  • Software publishing – 7%

How to Become a Software Developer

The most common path to becoming a software developer is to earn a bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field of study. A bachelor's degree in mathematics is also an acceptable degree for aspiring software developers. However, the bachelor's in computer science is the most common degree, as it cover a broader array of relevant subjects. Whichever degree pursued, students should also take courses in computer languages, programming, software design and software development. A master's degree is also recommended, as more employers are looking to fill entry-level positions with highly skilled developers.

As developers create software for specific industries, it's important that they have have an intimate knowledge of the industry where they plan on working. For example, students who intend on developing accounting software will often complete a degree in both accounting and computer science.


The median salary for application developers is $88,000 a year. Professionals just getting started in application design and development can expect to start out making about $55,000 a year. Seasoned developers can make up to $135,000 or more.

System developers make even more than application developers. The median annual salary for system developers is approximately $94,000. For systems developers with several years of experience an annual wage of $140,000 a year is not unheard of. The starting salary for new system developers is about $61,000.

Developers work long hours. It's not uncommon for developers to work over 40 hours a week.

Job Outlook

With a projected average grow rate of 30% in new jobs over the next decade, software development will be one of the fast growing of all career fields in the United States. At 28%, growth in application developer jobs will be slightly lower than growth in systems developers jobs – which are projected to grow at 32% over the next ten years. Either way, job opportunities in software development are on the rise.

The ongoing demand for software application developers will be spurred by an increase demand for new applications to support mobile technology and mobile devices. Growth in the healthcare industry will foster growth in both application and computer systems development. Greater and more imminent threats to information security and concerns over cybersecurity will result in more professionals trained to develop software programs designed to protect the integrity of computer networks.

In short, as long as world societies continues to indulge their addiction to consumer electronics, mobile digital devices, computerized appliances and Internet programs, software developers will be in high demand. Outsourcing of software development to foreign countries, where expertise is high and costs are low, will put some downward pressure on wages domestically. However, given the need for close interaction between developers and their customers, outsourcing of development projects will be limited.

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