How to Get Started as a Software Developer
Software engineering is a multi-billion dollar industry that provides services across all job sectors and industries. Because of this, it is one of the most rapidly growing career fields in the world. With so much demand for automated solutions, more efficient processes and a host of other services, it is no wonder that many software developers earn six figure salaries even when they’re employed by a company. That doesn’t even touch what some developers earn operating their own ventures.
Whether you enjoy the combination of math and programming, want to make an independent career for yourself or are tempted by the high-paying salaries that come with many developer jobs, there is a clear pathway toward becoming a software developer. We’ll give you a walkthrough of what it takes to become a software developer in the following article.
Pursue a Relevant Degree
The first step in becoming a software engineer requires formal education. While you can certainly learn how to program and develop software on your own, an increasing number of companies and businesses are seeking those with formal education in one or more areas.
Most software developer jobs today require a bachelor’s degree of some sort – even if it isn’t in a relevant field. If you are new to software development and want to make the most of your post-secondary education, then you’ll want to pursue a degree in either software engineering, computer science or other math-related field.
A degree in software engineering obviously involves taking classes that cut to the heart of what a software developer’s job will entail. You’ll take a variety of math and science classes, largely centered around computer programming. A degree in computer science tends to be more broad in nature, but touches on all of the main components necessary to be a successful software engineer. Those who are self-taught but have a math major of some sort will also be in high-demand in the software development industry.
It’s worth noting that those with basic software development skills may also be able to find relevant job opportunities with an associate’s degree or less, but the potential for career mobility is limited and you will likely be limited – at least initially – to entry-level jobs.
Practice Your Programming
Before, during and after obtaining a relevant degree, you want to be practicing and perfecting your programming skills as much as possible. Many soon-to-be software developers begin coding and programming as soon as they acquire basic skills, seeking out new opportunities alongside their education.
This can be beneficial in a number of ways. Not only might you develop an excellent idea that inevitably becomes something great, but you’ll be able to present potential employers in the future with a portfolio of prior software projects you’ve engaged with and developed. In the event you do create marketable pieces of software early on, it’s important to know how to protect yourself when dealing with clients and licenses – it’s highly recommended that you use software escrow services in relevant instances.
Inevitably, practice makes perfect. As you spend more hours in front of the screen, learning how to perfect your skills, you’ll inevitably be more efficient – and therefore more employable. Whether you’re learning Java, Python, C++ or a completely different language, use this time wisely to hone your skills.
While you may experiment with various software ideas while in school and/or perfecting your skills, you’ll sooner or later want to move on to actually creating software that is marketable. With your skills perfected and your formal education obtained, you should have all of the prerequisite skills necessary to develop a successful piece of software.
At this point, you’ll have to consider carefully where ample demand exists. Some products and services are heavily saturated with respect to software solutions; you’ll ideally want to solve a problem or provide a solution in an area where few have yet developed something. During this period, you’ll need to do market research, brainstorm ideas, and ultimately trust your instincts.
This part of the process is perhaps the most subjective and abstract period in a software developer’s career, and the nature of it can be quite scary for those trained to follow rigid standards and objective logic. Nevertheless, if you are successful at drumming up a great idea, you’ll now have the skills to begin working on development.
Seek Out Employment
Depending on your exact career goals, you’ll now decide whether you want to work as a software developer for a company or go your own way. Assuming you choose the former, you’ll need to be prepared for handling corporate culture.
Many developers first start out with internships. While this can be a somewhat difficult time – working for free – it is one of the best ways to obtain that formal experience that so many companies now require. During this time, you should also focus on expanding your skills, studying additional math, or earning a double major if possible. Depending on your college or university, you can also try consulting with your department staff about potential intern and paid opportunities.
The world of software development is filled with errors, mistakes and failures. It can sometimes be easy to become discouraged when your first (or second… or third) piece of software fails to gain traction or flops in some other way. This is completely normal: the industry is filled with stories of successful developers striking out for years before developing their first big hit, as well as plenty of software horror stories. If you are working for a company, however, then this won’t be an issue you face necessarily (as you’ll be designing solutions tailored to precise specifications).
Whatever your career path, it’s important to still understand that failures happen – just be sure to learn from those mistakes!
The world of software development is lucrative and an in-demand career that many people are now choosing to pursue. It does require a formal education plus real-world skills and experience, but there is always a path for those willing to fight. By pursuing a career in this field, you’ll ensure that your job prospects are forever strong and your creativity remains perpetually intact!