12 Software Developer Skills To Learn (With Examples)

Updated March 10, 2023

Professional software developers have a varied repertoire of technical skills that allow them to succeed. They know how to operate multiple software programs, configure hardware devices and develop important procedural steps that can help them create their own applications. By learning about different software developer skills, you can determine which option suits your preferences and can enhance your career opportunities.

In this article, we discuss what software developer skills are and include 12 technical competencies you can gain.

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What are software developer skills?

A person thoughtfully looks at a computer monitor.

Software developer skills are the technical capabilities an individual learns to create successful programs and applications. They typically involve using mathematical knowledge and a capacity for problem-solving to write source code, which is the sequence of words and symbols that allows a program to function. There are many types of skills to learn, including digital tools and computer systems. Many software developers learn them through classes in a computer science degree program or certification course.

Related: 7 Certifications To Boost Your Software Developer Career

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12 software developer skills

Here are 12 technical skills needed to become a software developer:

1. Coding languages

Coding languages are the different types of source code a person can write for a software program. It's important for software developers to specialize in at least one type of coding language so they can increase the number of job opportunities they can receive, as hiring managers often expect candidates to have expertise. To choose a language to learn, try to determine which type of program aligns with your interests. For example, some options may work better for mobile application development while others may suit video game design instead.

Here are some common coding languages to learn:

  • JavaScript: This option helps developers design the system for an interactive website application, like a webpage that displays certain information after a user clicks on a button.

  • HyperText markup language (HTML): You can use this standardized option to display text and image content on a website application, such as paragraphs, bulleted lists and charts.

  • Cascading styles sheets (CSS): This option allows you to add fonts, colors and spacing to text content on a website application. As a result, many developers know HTML and CSS and use both languages at the same time.

  • Python: This option is a multi-faceted programming language that allows you to accomplish varied software development tasks, including code writing for an entire program or tracking errors in the language. It has a simple structure, so it may be easier to learn than some options.

  • C++: This programming language can help you develop programs that optimize hardware capabilities, such as medical equipment software. Many video game developers use C++ as they can design complex gaming systems with high-quality computer graphics.

  • Java: This language can allow you to create programs and applications across different computer systems. Video game developers also use Java to create high-quality video games, as it has a similar structure to C++ with fewer complexities.

Related: 11 of the Most In-Demand Coding Languages

2. Database knowledge

Databases are electronic systems that allow individuals to organize and structure information, particularly records for a company. Software developers must know how to search for information, input new lines of data in a table format and update a system with new materials. They also understand how to secure a database and backup data to preserve a company's information during any unforeseen circumstances. To operate a database, it may be helpful to learn a standardized source code called Structured Query Language (SQL), which can allow you to operate varied systems for different companies.

Related: 10 SQL Skills For Programmers and Developers

3. Data structures and algorithms

Data structures are different organizational methods for storing information in a database, while algorithms describe the process required to complete tasks. Software developers often know many data structures and algorithms to determine which combination can help them optimize information in a program's code. For instance, a completed array structure can store different variations of the same type of data, such as a writing program that stores font information. If the developer used the correct algorithm, users can choose a type of font and its size.

To learn different data structures, it may be helpful to take a relevant course that teaches you how to build and implement them in a program. Here are some certification courses you can take:

  • Coursera's Data Structures and Algorithms Specialization

  • Udemy's JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures Masterclass

  • EdX's Professional Certificate in Data Structures and Algorithms

  • Udacity's Data Structures and Algorithms Nanodegree Certification

Related: 5 Common Algorithm and Data Structure Interview Questions and How To Answer Them

4. Source control

Source control management (SCM) describes a system that helps a software development team track updates and changes to a program's coding language. It allows each developer an opportunity to work on the code separately, then merge their efforts into one version. SCM systems can generate a list of code revisions and help you restore a language to a previous state if necessary. It may be helpful to learn how to use a type of SCM system, as companies often require software developers to work in teams on the same coding projects.

Companies and individual developers often use a program called Git, which is an SCM application that allows you to store different versions of a program code in one folder system. It uses a branch system to organize each project, meaning a primary branch represents the original version of a code, while any additional branches that connect to it represent alterations or modifications. Git is also an open-source program, meaning it's available for anyone to use.

Related: FAQ: What Is Version Control and How Can You Use It?

5. Testing procedures

Every software program requires an intricate testing process before a company can release it to consumers. It involves using a series of digital tools to ensure that a product functions and fulfills its design requirements. It also involves checking a program's ability to function on different hardware devices and store confidential information. As companies often design their testing processes based on a few critical components, it may be helpful for a software developer to understand fundamental aspects before applying to job positions.

Here are three components of software testing that developers know:

  • Unit testing: This test involves evaluating individual lines or areas of code to determine if they require modification. Developers often create a different unit test for every project they complete to ensure they examine a program's key elements.

  • Integration testing: Software developers use this testing process to determine whether they can merge different areas of a program's code successfully. They can also use integration testing to observe how one software program interacts with the code of another.

  • System testing: After integration testing is complete, an external testing professional typically conducts this process to determine if a product fulfills user expectations. It's important for a software developer to understand the steps of this process, as testing professionals often communicate critical suggestions for alterations.

Related: Understanding Different Software Testing Methodologies

6. Debugging knowledge

Debugging is a software development process to address and remove errors in a program's coding language. It involves running a program through specialized software to observe each error, then using problem-solving skills to determine which part of a code caused it to occur. Many software developers debug their code while writing it to better ensure it's functional in the testing stage. It's important to learn how to use debugging software so you can learn fundamental strategies for removing errors and developing an effective process.

Related: What Is the Debugging Process? (Plus 8 Strategies To Try)

7. Operating systems

Operating systems describe software that configures a device's hardware and allows a program to run. Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux are the primary operating systems for computers, while iOS and Android are two common options for mobile phones. It may be helpful for a software developer to develop some expertise in the aforementioned different types, as you can better conduct testing procedures and transfer lines of code between them. Depending on your preferences and the requirements of a job position, you can also specialize in developing program code for one system.

Related: 6 Types of Operating Systems (With Functions and Examples)

8. Text editing software

Text editing software is a program that allows developers to create and edit plain text, which is a standard file that removes any formatting used in word processors. Software developers often use text editing software to write the text and symbols required for a coding language, as it allows them to transfer the code into another system and add formatting seamlessly. It's important to develop expertise in one type of text editing software so you can list it as a skill on a resume and streamline your software development process overall.

Here are some examples of common text editing software:

  • Atom: This option is open-source and optimized for software developers, meaning it provides access to Git and other useful program tools.

  • TextMate: You can use this software on macOS operating systems and it includes interface support for all programming languages.

  • Notepad++: This open-source software works on Microsoft Windows operating systems and has multiple customization options, including the ability to merge with another development program.

  • Brackets: You can use this program on Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems and merge it with software that uses Git or similar development tools.

9. Cryptography

Cryptography is a method of obscuring confidential data using an encryption code or password, often called a key It involves using an algorithmic formula to develop a corresponding decryption code, which can reveal the original data to a user. Software developers often use encryption techniques to prevent external agents from learning information about a product. Two primary types of cryptography to learn include symmetric encryption, which involves one key, and asymmetric encryption, which involves two keys to unlock the original data.

Related: How To Become a Cryptographer

10. Software frameworks

A software framework is an application that developers can use to create a program using previously established information, such as lines of code you previously wrote or software knowledge from other developers. Each operating system has a different framework that typically incorporates the most common programming languages. They may include some predetermined structures and features that can streamline the development of software code. For example, you can use the .NET framework to create code on a Microsoft Windows system, use Cocoa for a macOS computer system or Cocoa Touch for an iOS mobile device.

Related: What Is a Framework? (Definition and a Guide to 6 Types)

11. Cloud platforms

Cloud platforms describe the hardware and software required to run a company's remote database, now often called the cloud. Configuring this type of platform typically involves knowledge about coding languages and server management, which are common skills for software developers. As many companies use these platforms to store information, it may be helpful to build a skill in developing programs and applications that use cloud-based technology. For example, you can become certified in using Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is a cloud platform brand multiple businesses purchase and use.

Related: A Complete Guide To AWS Certification Training

12. Spreadsheet software

Spreadsheet software allows individuals to organize data sets and make calculations. It may be helpful to learn how to use a spreadsheet program, as a company may require software developers to track their data and project progress. You can also use a spreadsheet to solve any necessary equations or organize information before transferring it to a larger database system.

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

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