FAQ: What Degree Does a Software Developer Need?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 9, 2021

If you enjoy working with technology and solving problems, you might like a career as a software developer. Software developers help develop innovative technology systems and applications while earning high salaries. Before becoming a software developer, it's important to understand what type of degrees may help you find employment in this field. In this article, we answer frequently asked questions about software developers, such as what they are, what degree they need and how to become one.

Related: What Is a Software Developer? Definition and Skills

What is a software developer?

A software developer is a technology professional who conceptualizes, designs, creates and tests computer programs. They also upgrade or maintain existing software. Some software developers specialize in creating programs that perform certain tasks, such as word processing, spreadsheet or email automation software. Others focus on creating the underlying operating systems for various devices like laptops or smartphones. Software developers can work in nearly any industry, including technology, health care, business development and finance.

What degree does a software developer need?

There are no standard degree requirements for software developers. However, most software developers have a bachelor's degree. Software developers with an associate degree may be able to find employment opportunities if they also have other relevant experience. Before deciding on the best type of degree for you, research the industries or companies you want to work in as a software developer and see if they have any specific requirements.

Software developers also vary in their major or field of study. Here are some academic disciplines to consider if you want to become a software developer:

  • Computer science: Computer science is one of the most popular degree options for aspiring software developers. A computer science degree can teach you about many of the subjects and skills you regularly use as a software developer, such as computational logic, computer mathematics and both front- and back-end software development.

  • Software engineering: Software engineering is another popular option for students who want to become software developers. Studying software engineering gives students a technical understanding of how computers and software codes operate.

  • Information technology: Information technology programs teach students about many of the systems and devices that support software applications. These systems and devices include networks, routers, servers, desktop computers and tablets.

  • Software development: Some academic institutions offer degrees specifically for software development. However, these types of programs aren't as common as those for computer science or software engineering.

  • Data science: Data science programs teach students about how to build and maintain data analysis programs and systems. This type of degree program can teach aspiring software developers many of the technical skills they need if they want to develop various operating systems.

  • Mathematics: Careers in software development require professionals to have strong mathematical abilities. A mathematics degree can teach students about mathematics related to computer programming.

Related: 10 Great Reasons To Be a Software Developer

How do you become a software developer?

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

1. Earn a degree

Get at least a bachelor's degree in an academic discipline related to computers. Most software developers hold a bachelor's degree in a field like software engineering or computer science. You may find it easier to distinguish yourself as a candidate to a prospective employer if you have a bachelor's degree.

However, it is possible to become a software developer with an associate degree or even without getting a college degree. Some professionals prefer to teach themselves the skills and knowledge of software development. These professionals typically then build a portfolio that can demonstrate their abilities to potential employers. Other aspiring software developers may prefer to begin their careers by attending a coding boot camp. Coding boot camps typically provide professionals with intensive training in various programming languages and techniques over just a few weeks or months.

2. Get an internship

Apply for internships or entry-level positions in software development. An internship can be a great way to gain the practical experience necessary for software development. Some internships may also eventually lead to full-time job offers. Complete your internship either while you're in school or shortly after graduating with your degree.

Related: The Differences Between a Software Developer and a Software Engineer

3. Gain additional credentials

Consider earning additional software development credentials. Some companies may prefer to hire software developers with certifications, master's degrees or both. Getting one or more certifications is one of the more popular ways for software developers to hone their skills and improve their qualifications. A software developer can earn certification in specific operating systems or devices made by certain companies. Other certifications may focus on software development for specific types of applications, like databases or cloud computing.

In addition, or instead, you might think about getting a master's degree. A master's degree can help you specialize more in an area of software development, such as front or back-end development. This credential may also assist you in advancing your career in software development, such as by becoming a project management specialist or computer and information systems manager.

What skills do software developers use?

Here are some abilities and sets of knowledge that software developers use on the job:

Teamwork

Software developers typically collaborate with not only other developers but a range of other professionals. A software developer works closely with their computing coworkers, such as programmers or DevOps engineers, to ensure that all aspects of their computing system or application function smoothly together. Software developers also often work with colleagues outside of their department, like product development teams or company leaders, as software developers help transform company ideas into functional applications. Teamwork skills that software developers can benefit from developing include negotiation, persuasion, active listening and compromise.

Related: How To Write an Entry-level Software Developer Resume

Communication

Communication abilities can help software developers clearly convey instructions to programmers or other professionals they're collaborating with on a project. A software developer often communicates with their colleagues through a range of channels, such as in-person, email, instant messaging and the phone. Software developers also know how to explain the benefits and functions of their new application to prospective or current customers using simplified language.

Organization

Software developers use organizational skills to successfully balance their range of responsibilities. These duties may include analyzing their clients' needs in relation to new software, developing diagrams that can help programmers create code, devising software upgrades or fixes and carefully documenting all of their processes. Knowing how to efficiently manage their time, prioritize tasks and create schedules can help software developers accomplish their duties while giving their highest-quality job performance.

Coding

Programmers typically spend more time coding than software developers. However, a software developer still possesses some knowledge of various coding languages and best practices. Coding skills enable software developers to design diagrams that guide programmers in generating or revising specific lines of code. Knowledge of coding can also help software developers figure out how to solve specific errors during the debugging or troubleshooting process.

Related: 12 Software Developer Skills To Learn (With Examples)

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting and debugging are important aspects of developing new software or upgrading existing programs. Software developers understand the processes and techniques for solving program errors and glitches prior to their application launch date. A software developer can also use a range of tools related to debugging, such as frameworks and sandboxes.

Creative thinking

Many of a software developer's responsibilities are highly technical. However, software developers also use creative thinking skills to approach their application's features, design elements or upgrades in unique ways. Creative thinking abilities can also help software developers figure out how to design innovative programs that both function well and meet market needs.

How much do software developers earn?

The annual salary for software developers varies based on their exact job title and specialization. Here are the average salaries for some types of software development positions:

  • Back-end developer: $115,522 per year

  • Front-end developer: $102,454 per year

  • Full-stack developer: $106,582 per year

  • Application developer: $80,567 per year

  • Mobile developer: $119,835 per year

It's important to remember that individual salaries for all types of developers can depend on other factors too. These factors include your geographic location, the industry you work in, your years of experience and your training or credentials.

Related: 20 Software Developer Positions (With Salaries and Primary Duties)

What is the career outlook for software developers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for software developers, testers and quality assurance analysts are predicted to grow by 22% between 2020 and 2030. This rate is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations and equals an increase of approximately 189,200 new jobs each year. The BLS predicts this increase in part because of the growing number of people who use laptops, smartphones and other technology devices regularly for both professional and personal reasons.

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