How to Become a Software Developer

Written by Coursera • Updated on

There are many ways to become a software developer, from earning a degree or certification to self-directed learning. Learn more about how to become a software developer and how to take the next step.

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If you’ve made the decision to pursue a career as a software developer, there are a number of paths you can take to achieve your goal. Teaching yourself, earning a certification, or enrolling in college to earn a degree are all steps you can take—either one or any combination of the three can help you get the job done.

What is a software developer?

Software developers research, design, and develop software and applications using different programming languages. While creating these programs, they’re also responsible for testing the software to make sure it works. After the project goes live, it’s a software developer's job to fix any bugs, refactor old code, make updates, and more. 

Recommended skills

The job of a software developer can look like many different things, so holding a few essential skills will help ensure your success in this career. As a software developer, your role may involve turning a client’s idea into a working application. Other times you may be working with a team, having tickets assigned, or developing small pieces of code that fit into the larger application. No matter the project, the following skills can help you be successful as a software developer.

Sharpen your workplace skills.

  • Patience: The process of developing software can be tedious and time-intensive. Developing, testing, and, finally, deploying the project can be an excellent test of patience. After completing the project, it may need updating or debugging. Patience will also come in handy when working under tight deadlines or with other developers and coworkers. 

  • Clear and concise communication: Having excellent communication skills will be a tremendous asset when working with colleagues and clients alike. Clear and effective communication with the rest of the development team will make for a much smoother project. Being able to communicate effectively and find out precisely what the customer needs their software to do is a necessary skill of an effective software developer.

  • Problem-solving: It’s not uncommon for issues to arise when developing software. Having excellent problem-solving skills can help you better handle issues efficiently, without significant disruptions to the project. 

  • Adaptability: Adaptability demonstrates the ability to handle changes that are typically found in software development. For software developers, it’s essential to be versatile and ready to adapt as plans change and technology evolves.

Develop your technical skills and learn common tools.

  • Git and Github: Git is free version tracking software for code and the industry standard. It allows developers to save snapshots of code (commits) as they work on a project and lets them roll back to an earlier version of the project. It enables developers to safely experiment with new features with a reduced risk of introducing bugs. GitHub is a code hosting platform that allows collaboration on projects from anywhere, sending code after making a comment. Being familiar with both tools is essential in working as a software developer.

  • Full-stack developer skills: A full-stack developer is essentially a jack of all trades. As a full-stack developer, you can work with both the back end (server-side) and the front end (customer-facing side) of an application. For someone to be considered a full-stack developer, they would also need to have knowledge of UX/UI, databases, and sometimes graphic design. It also helps to be familiar with a few widely used languages like Python, Ruby, HTML, and JavaScript. Having these technical skills gives you the ability to create and fix pretty much any part of an application.

  • Specialized developer skills: If full-stack doesn’t sound appealing, there is also an option of specializing in one or two languages. The advantage of being specialized is that you have a deep understanding of the intricacies of their language or framework. Specialized developers are categorized as either front-end or back-end developers. 

Degree programs to consider.

Many companies hiring a software developer may require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. Many different degree pathways can help you reach your goal of being a software developer. Here are a few of the most common degree choices: 

Software engineering

With a degree in software engineering, you focus more on developing technical skills such as designing, building, and employing software. The courses required for this degree often overlap with those in a computer science degree.

Computer science

A computer science degree combines math, science, and engineering to study and develop everything from software to networks and computers. Many choose to pursue a degree in computer science with the goal of becoming a software engineer, but it also affords opportunities for many other careers in the field.   

Information technology 

Information technology majors study the development of networks, databases, computer systems, web applications, and more. These majors also study the hardware required for all those digital processes. A background in IT can help a hopeful developer gain the skills needed to become a software engineer.

Read more: Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education

Certify your way to success.

There are many different software development certificates that you can earn to gain the software developer skills you need. Some courses are free, and some require payment. There are options to attend either in person or online.

If you’d like to know how to become a software developer at home, online courses will likely allow you the opportunity to learn at your own pace,  making it easy for those looking to either make a career change or further their education to squeeze in necessary education hours. Certifications help you stay up-to-date in this quickly evolving field, and you can pursue certifications at various levels in your career, from beginner to advanced.

Read more: What Are Certificate Programs? A 2022 Guide

Self-taught developer

For someone who wants to learn how to become a software developer without a degree, self-learning is probably the best way to get started with skills like programming or writing code. There are many excellent tools for learning basics like Java programming and software engineering, variables, loops, if statements, arrays, and more. 

Self-learning gives future developers the ability to start with any language. The language you choose may depend on what you want to build with code. Python is very popular and has a reputation for being easy to learn, and Ruby or JavaScript can be excellent places to start. Swift is great for building iPhone apps, and video games are typically built with C++, Godot, Unreal Engine, or Unity. When it comes to self-learning code, Google and YouTube are excellent, free resources. There are even games designed to help people learn to code. 

Take the next step.

Are you looking for the next steps towards a career in software development? It may be helpful to first dabble in coding basics to ensure it’s something you genuinely enjoy. Next, it’s essential to think about which path is right for you on your journey to becoming a developer, be it a bachelor's degree, certifications, self-learning, or any combination of those options. To aid in making this decision, look at education requirements for your dream job or position. Once you choose a path, you can be on your way to a fulfilling career as a software developer.

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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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