Career Path for Software Developers

Career Path for Software Developers

Technology continues to advance, triggering the need for professionals with up-to-date skills in the field of software development and programming. As it has a shifting nature, there are many different entry points into this profession. However, there is no single way of achieving this. But no matter how your introduction to software development comes to pass, all aspiring programmers eventually need to ask themselves the same question. How can I turn my passion for coding into a career? In this article, we’ll outline the software developer career path, prepare you for your professional journey, and show you how you can succeed as a software developer.  

Step 1: Think About What Kind of Work Appeals to You

First, let’s get something straight: working in software development doesn’t consign you to a single job description. While all developers do share a set of core responsibilities, the details of your assigned role and its responsibilities will vary widely depending on your employer, the industry you work in, and your career interests. As with any career, you can pursue a variety of avenues in web development — and when you do, you’ll need to tailor your education to your chosen sub-field. It is crucial to figure out your professional interests and map your preferred software developer career path well before entering the job market. Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to play catch-up before you can land your dream job. Generally speaking, software development often falls into four broad categories: front end, back end, full stack, and mobile development. So, which specialty should you choose? The decision is up to you. Below, we’ll touch on these four fields and the coding skills you’ll need to know as a specialist in each.

  • Front End Developer
Front end developers need to have a keen eye for design. These aesthetic-minded coders craft all aspects of a website or app that users can see and interact with. Front end developers specialize in website design and functionality. Over the years, the role has grown increasingly complex as designers are tasked with optimizing websites for smartphones, tablets, and desktops alike. Today, front end developers need to strike a delicate balance between designing for functionality, structure, and aesthetics. These professionals often collaborate with back-end engineers and user experience designers to cultivate a compelling application or site design. To accomplish this, front end developers use the “building block” languages of web development HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to determine the look, feel, and function of a site. While some diehard coders don’t rely on libraries to speed up their building process, most front-end developers use predefined packages and software that make it easier to customize and maintain sites. All that said, front end developers can’t get very far without the support of a talented team of back-end developers.

  • Back End Developer
Back-end developers create the underlying computation-based logic of a website, as well as any proprietary software that their employer might need. These professionals ensure that the data and resources requested by an end-user are delivered correctly and quickly. The back end consists of two components: the server and the database. While the database stores permanent information the user profiles or product listings the server is responsible for fulfilling client requests. For example, a user attempting to sign into their profile would make a request to the server via a login portal, which would then pipe the user’s authentication information to the database and match it against a list of accounts. Back-end developers work directly with data, application integration, APIs, and other back-end processes. The role requires extensive technical know-how and knowledge of several back-end programming languages.

  • Full Stack Developer
As the name suggests, full stack developers do it all. These versatile professionals have extensive training in both front and back-end programming, and so can shift effortlessly between the two disciplines. In the development world, the term “full stack” refers to the entire base of languages, frameworks, and technologies used to service a business website. The front and back end are inseparably linked in a functional system; when a user interacts with a feature on the front end, the back end should immediately fulfil any requests that they might make. As a jack-of-all-trades, full stack developers should have a holistic understanding of how an entire operation function. However, they may have more experience in one discipline or the other.

  • Mobile Developer
As you might have guessed from the name, mobile developers create software specifically for mobile devices. These programmers build applications tailored to the unique characteristics of mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. There’s no question that mobile developers are and will continue to be in-demand. Any business that operates an online website or web service can use a mobile app and may want to develop specific mobile applications in-house. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to take advantage of the mobile development hype, you will need to learn a few languages outside of programming’s common core; these include Swift, C#, and Java for Mobile.

Step 2: Acquire the Skills and Training

Now that you’ve identified a few areas of interest, let’s address the specific skills you’ll need to succeed. Regardless of your specialty, all software developers are required to have the same core set of skills. Once you’ve charted a general direction for your software developer career roadmap, you can start working to obtain the skills you’ll need to succeed in your chosen role. As we mentioned earlier, all software developers will need to build the same foundation of core programming skills; however, you may need to pick up additional coding languages or capabilities if you want to tailor education to one of the specialties mentioned above. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will one day be done with your programming education. As in every tech-centric field, there will always be more to discover. Adopt a learning mindset and dedicate yourself to learning any and all languages that pique your programming interest. As you progress, you may find interest in some languages that don’t fall within your chosen specialty. Feel free to explore and seek inspiration but don’t use your interest as an excuse to avoid learning core skills that you need to know for your immediate career. The core skills for all software Developers include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, NoSQL, jQuery, Additional Skills for Front End Developers, Version Control/Git, Bootstrap, Browser Developer Tools, Additional Skills for Back End Developers, Python, R, PHP, Additional Skills for Mobile Developers, C# & Java Below, we’ll run through the most tried-and-true educational pathways for getting up to speed with these skills.

  • Software Development College
College is perhaps the most straightforward and traditional route towards landing a fulfilling role in software development. A college education has its benefits. For one, you can trust that you will acquire hands on practical skills, college programs often take a deep dive into the practical concepts that underlie coding practice. Students learn to think like programmers and are often compelled by their curricula to create projects for their professional portfolios. A comprehensive education in coding languages, algorithms, and data structures equips students with insight into how computers operate under the hood. Moreover, college students often have easy access to the resources they need to develop industry connections, land internships, and, in some cases, land entry-level jobs immediately after graduation. Keep in mind, college offers a fantastic learning path but it’s by no means your only option.
  • Boot Camps
Want to learn foundational programming skills, but don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to enroll in a full-time degree program? You might want to consider a coding boot camp. Boot camps are fast-paced training programs that equip learners with in-demand, marketable programming skills. These programs generally cover a wide range of subjects, including algorithms, design principles, server-based coding languages, version control, and database management. However, specific coursework will differ significantly between different boot camps. Why are boot camps so popular? The lower cost and faster pace probably play a role. Not only are boot camps a whole magnitude less expensive than a traditional college program, but they can also be completed within weeks to a few months. While university programs put a heavy focus on coding theory, boot camps focus specifically on what employers want developers to do on the job. Boot camps are also much more flexible than conventional degrees. Depending on your needs, a program can be conducted online, in-person, or part-time. Boot camps have made it easier for those who might not otherwise have the time or money to attend a full-time, four-year program to get their footing in the industry. However, there is no right or wrong way to learn software development. While you consider your options, make sure to keep your priorities and goals in mind. Not every path is suitable for everyone — and that’s all right.

Step 3: Get an internship

Navigating the software developer career roadmap can be tricky as a newly-minted developer. Before you start applying to jobs, you’ll want to curate a stand-out resume and portfolio that will set you apart from other candidates. We suggest pursuing a software developers’ internship to help show your relevant experience. Interns get industry experience in documenting, testing new applications, assessing ideas, and developing solutions to company problems. Internships also provide learners with the opportunity to collaborate with senior software developers and shadow seasoned professionals. Before you apply, try to develop a personal project outside of your coursework that demonstrates your experience with languages that the company uses. You may also need to gather references from teachers and brush up on technical interviewing challenges prior to applying for intern roles. Software developers aren’t just confined to the tech industry, either. The chances are good that the vast majority of companies you interface with provide computer-based services. Key industries such as healthcare, education, government, finance, and non-profit all rely on software developers’ labour. As a new developer, you get to choose what missions most closely align with your interests. You have the power to select the set of real-world problems you want to solve. Has this software developer career roadmap inspired you? Start exploring your educational options and plotting your career path today!
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