Hire Developers

What Does a Software Developer Do? Role Overview and Skill Expectations

Written By Ryan Loftus | September 1, 2022

A software developer builds software and applications that help users perform specific functions and tasks. Software developers are also responsible for implementing larger frameworks to support specific devices or technology in a network.

In this post, we explore the skills required to be a software developer as well as career paths and its projected job outlook.

What Kinds of Companies Hire Software Developers?

Any company that’s building software or applications will need to hire software developers. The employers hiring the most engineers with this skill set are, unsurprisingly, the world’s largest technology companies, including Amazon, Accenture, InfoSys, Microsoft, and Google.

Though it’s not just Silicon Valley and startups increasing the demand for software developers. Now, more than ever, all companies are becoming tech companies. Companies in every industry need technical talent to help them modernize and innovate their business practices. Finance, social media, aerospace, defense, consulting, retail, healthcare — the demand (and opportunity) for software development talent is endless. 

Software Developer vs Software Engineer

Software development shares a lot of similarities with software engineering, and some companies even use the terms interchangeably. Developers and engineers in these roles work with similar back-end technologies. However, there are fundamental differences in the training, experience, and responsibilities of a developer and an engineer.

  • Software developers are responsible for writing, managing, and maintaining software. They’re involved in the full lifecycle of software development, including research, development, testing, and launch. 
  • Software engineers are responsible for the design, implementation, and maintenance of complex computer systems. Software engineers develop, design, and test software applications and apply engineering principles to the process of building software.

Types of Software Developer Positions

Software developer titles can vary widely, especially depending on their experience and the company or industry in which they work. Because the “software developer” title is broader than other technical roles, developers and employers often use different terms to describe the same role. For example, web developer and software developer are different roles that are sometimes combined into the job title web software developer.

At the beginning of their career, a software developer typically starts with an entry-level title like junior developer or software developer I. A new developer spends a lot of time learning and studying the codebases and application lifecycle of internal systems. They’re tasked with creating code models and identifying coding bugs.

After gaining several years of experience in an entry-level role, developers might have the opportunity to move into mid-level roles. At this stage, they’re responsible for developing applications from concept to launch. Depending on their specialization, experienced software developers can expect to create anything from operating systems to sophisticated proprietary software.

From there, they may have the opportunity to move into more senior-level roles with hands-on development responsibilities. Titles at this level include senior software developer, lead developer, and senior software architect. How long it takes to reach senior-level depends on the company and the skill level of the developer. 

The key requirement to reach senior-level developer roles is the ability to handle a variety of programming languages, with an exceptional command of computational logic and flow-charting. While they spend several years developing their skills, their responsibilities expand to include taking more ownership of projects, working independently in a team environment, and mentoring project team members. 

Salary Comparisons and Job Outlook

Software developers can expect to earn an average of $96,903. This estimate is based on data aggregated from leading salary data sources: 

  • Payscale reports a range of $52,000 to $108,000, with an average of $$74,136
  • Glassdoor reports a range of $63,000 to $147,000, with an average of $95,843
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a range of $64,470 to $168,570, with an average of $120,730

Software developer salaries also vary depending on specialization, with in-demand competencies commanding a higher compensation. For example, the average salary for software developers who know Clojure is $106,644. In contrast, the average for those specializing in JavaScript is $65,580.

It’s worth noting that estimates from salary aggregators may be low or out of date. While this has always been true, market conditions have made technical salaries especially volatile since 2020. Total compensation packages, including equity and bonuses, are also changing rapidly.

Requirements to Becoming a Software Developer

Technical Skills

Software developers use a range of programming languages to build software and applications. These include:

  • C/C++
  • C#
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Scala
  • SQL

Recruiters and hiring managers looking for software engineers should also look for in-demand competencies beyond programming languages. These include: 

  • DevOps Skills
  • Linux experience 
  • Back-end frameworks (Ruby on Rails, Django, Laravel)
  • Cloud platforms (AWS, GCP, Azure)
  • Version control software (SVN, Git)
  • Relational database management systems
  • Non-relational database management systems

Soft Skills

Technical competence isn’t enough to succeed in software development. Analytical, mathematical, and problem-solving skills are a common part of any technical job. And in a remote or digital-first environment, soft skills are even more critical.

Employers value a number soft skills, such as:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Project management
  • Time management

Experience

After skill competencies, the most important qualification for software developers is experience. For many employers, “real-world” experience and training is a critical requirement.

When it comes to education, about 70 percent of developers worldwide have a bachelor’s degree or higher. If you’re recruiting, screening, or hiring engineers, it’s most likely that many of them have a degree. And many companies still require engineers to have four-year degrees.

Lately, companies looking to hire engineers are starting to recognize other forms of education and experience. Competition for skilled software engineers is high, and it’s not uncommon for job openings that require a degree to go unfilled. But employers that prioritize real-world skills over education alone gain access to a much larger talent pool.

Resources for Hiring Software Developers

6 Things Developers Wish Technical Recruiters Knew