What Is a Blockchain Developer (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the fundamentals of blockchain development, relevant skills, and technical FAQ. 

[Featured Image] A female blockchain developer uses a laptop while working late in her office.

Many misunderstand blockchains—even those with a strong grasp of technological concepts. For this reason, entering or transitioning into blockchain development might seem challenging. But blockchain technology is less mysterious than its reputation suggests. The article below demystifies blockchain technology and development for all levels of expertise. Read on to learn more about career paths, job requirements, and FAQs.

What is a blockchain?

A blockchain is a type of database used to store and organize information. Traditional databases arrange information into rows and columns that make up tables. This makes the information easy for computers to recognize. With blockchains, however, information is digitally formatted and collected into clusters or blocks. Each block has a limited storage capacity.

Once that capacity is reached, the block closes and links to the preceding block via cryptography, creating a chain. Cryptography creates an unchangeable timestamp when one block links to another. This permanent record verifies the accuracy of sensitive information like transactions. Traditional databases, on the other hand, are typically controlled by a central authority. Sensitive data may be managed and maintained by an organization or administrator.

What is blockchain development?

Blockchain development refers to building, maintaining, and designing blockchain applications and systems. Overall, it seeks to use the unique features of blockchain technology to solve problems and create opportunities. 

An example of innovative blockchain development is the smart contract. Smart contracts are documented agreements between two parties, just like regular contracts. Unlike ordinary contracts, however, smart contracts are also programs stored on a blockchain. These programs are triggered to run only when both parties meet the agreed-upon terms and conditions. This automated compliance ensures the correct execution of a contract in real time.

Comparing smart contracts to parking meters is a great way to conceptualize their utility. You insert the correct payment and receive the parking validation corresponding to that payment. There is no need for third-party involvement like a cashier because the agreement is fixed.

What does a blockchain developer do?

A blockchain developer is a software developer who focuses on blockchain technology. Developers program, develop, and test software and systems. There are two primary types of blockchain developers:

1. Core blockchain developer. Core blockchain developers develop and maintain the architecture of blockchain systems. They design protocols, develop security patterns, and supervise the network as a whole. 

2. Blockchain software developer. Blockchain software developers build applications onto existing blockchain platforms. They handle front-end and back-end development, design, and maintenance.

What are the benefits of becoming a blockchain developer?

Demand for blockchain developers is high because they work with disruptive and exciting technology. As a result, job opportunities in this field are abundant. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 22 percent growth in software development jobs between 2020 and 2030 [1]. Studies suggest the blockchains market will climb to over $39 billion by 2025 [2]. 

Gaining skills surrounding a rapidly growing technology can help make you a more competitive job candidate. Additionally, many blockchain developers' salaries are high paying. Glassdoor reports an average salary of $119,780 per year for blockchain developers in the United States [3].

How to become a blockchain developer

If you are brand new to the blockchain industry, you will likely start by learning how to code. Many blockchain developers begin their careers with degrees in computer science or information technology. Once you’ve gained a foundational knowledge of software development and computer programming, you'll focus on specializing in blockchains. The following section explores three action items for aspiring developers and those transitioning into blockchain development from a related role.

1. Understand the fundamentals of blockchain.

First, you will need to gain a fundamental understanding of blockchain technology. Building foundational knowledge will prepare you for more advanced subjects and specializations. It’s similar to the way you need to know basic cooking principles before attempting a complicated dish. You can get started with an entry-level course like Introduction to Blockchain Technologies.

Then, build your skill set (and enhance your resume) through courses, certifications, or a computer science degree. There are many different paths to becoming a blockchain developer, so take your time and find the one that suits you. 



Introduction to Blockchain Technologies

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2. Learn essential skills.

The list below covers some core concepts for blockchain developers. 

  • Programming. As mentioned above, coding will be the framework of your blockchain development expertise. Beginners can learn the fundamentals of coding with courses like Duke University’s Programming Fundamentals

  • Programming languages. Expand your skill set by learning a few of the most common programming languages blockchain developers use. Python is one of the most popular languages in blockchain development due to its versatility. Google's Crash Course on Python is a highly regarded introduction to it.

  • Cryptography. Cryptography is an integral component of blockchain technology. It protects sensitive information by ensuring the contents of a message can only be seen by the intended recipient. Those interested in learning more about cryptography or becoming certified in cryptography might consider Cryptography 1 from Stanford University

  • Smart contracts. As mentioned above, a smart contract is a program stored on the blockchain. Through automated compliance, it enables two parties to execute agreements without an intermediary. If you want to work with smart contracts, you may want to become certified in smart contract development. The second course in the Blockchain Specialization series focuses on smart contract expertise.

  • Data structures. For blockchain developers to successfully build and implement networks, they must be able to work with a variety of data structures, like Merkle trees. Learn more about common data structures and how to implement them with the Data Structures Specialization offered by the University of California San Diego.

  • Blockchain architectures. Understanding each type of blockchain architecture is helpful in identifying an area of career focus. Currently, there are four types of blockchain architectures: public, private, consortium, and hybrid.

Through the Blockchain: Foundations and Use Cases course, aspiring blockchain developers can expand their knowledge of blockchain architecture, applications, and use cases. 

Blockchain Architecture TypeDefinition
PublicPublic blockchains are permissionless and decentralized. Anyone can join. These types of blockchains allow all nodes (devices such as servers or computers) to have equal access to the blockchain. Public blockchains are most commonly used for mining and exchanging cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is a public blockchain.
PrivatePrivate blockchains are sometimes referred to as managed blockchains. They are permissioned, meaning a single entity controls the blockchain. This authority dictates which functions each node is permitted to perform. Hyperledger Fabric is a private blockchain that enables enterprises to develop blockchain solutions and products.
ConsortiumConsortium blockchains are managed by a group of organizations rather than just one. For example, the Global Shipping Business Network Consortium allows supply chain members to collaborate seamlessly.
HybridHybrid blockchains are controlled by one entity, similar to a private blockchain. The difference between the two is that hybrid blockchains include a level of oversight by a public blockchain. Ripple, a business-to-business currency exchange platform, is an example of a hybrid blockchain.

3. Familiarize yourself with the blockchain development industry.

Although blockchain development is a specialization, it encompasses several focus areas. Consider choosing a few of the topics that piqued your interest from the list of relevant skills above. Reading blogs or watching YouTube videos about that specialization can help you stay current on industry trends and in-demand skills. You can also follow industry leaders in your desired field of interest on social media. 

Get Ahead with Coursera

If you are a beginner, consider taking Meta's What Is the Metaverse? course to understand Metaverse fundamentals such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and more, or using the Blockchain Revolution course to learn the basics of blockchain technology. Those transitioning from a similar role can complement their existing experience with a Blockchain Applications Certification


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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-1.” Accessed May 18, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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