What Is an iOS App Developer? A 2023 Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

From programming languages to skills and next steps, learn how to be a successful iOS developer in this rapidly growing field.

[Featured Image] A woman works at a desk.

If you’ve ever used an app on an Apple device, you have an iOS app developer to thank. These developers are responsible for creating apps for mobile devices that run on Apple’s iPhone Operating System (iOS). Let’s take a closer look at what you can do as an iOS App Developer, along with some of the skills and requirements you can work toward to get started. 

What is an iOS app developer?

Developers have in-depth knowledge of how iOS works on different Apple devices, like the iPad, Apple Watch, and iPhone. iOS developers build, test, and fine-tune applications to suit the needs of their clients. Typically, iOS app development is done in one of two programming languages: Swift or Objective-C. You can learn more about what type of software products iOS developers create in the next few sections.

Mobile games

Gaming applications are the most popular category in the Apple app store [1]. A notable example is Apex Legends, Apple's iPhone Game of the Year in 2022 [2]. It was developed by iOS developers at Electronic Arts (EA), a video game publishing company. iOS developers specializing in game development may be employed by companies like EA or Ubisoft, work independently, or partner with other creatives for a specific gaming project. You can explore public code repositories, tools, and tutorials for iOS game development on GitHub.

Read more: What is a Game Developer (and How Do I Become One?)

Productivity applications

A good productivity app helps you solve a problem or get things done more efficiently. For example, Evernote is a robust note-taking app that stores text, links, images, files, and more. The Grammarly app checks content for grammar mistakes and makes suggestions for improvements to your writing. Creating a to-do-list-style productivity app is an excellent exercise for a novice iOS developer. Although the concept is simple, the execution has plenty of room for expanded features.

Business applications

Business applications are the second most popular category in the Apple app store [1]. As mentioned above, most businesses rely on applications to handle things like inventory management, billing, or customer relationship management. iOS developers may be employed by companies like Amazon or Etsy to work on applications that support essential business functions.

Where do iOS developers work?

iOS developers may be employed by a company directly, freelance, or be self-employed. Many iOS developers work remotely, although work-from-home flexibility varies from company to company. iOS developers can work in a variety of fields since most industries rely on applications for customer relations or product support. However, finance, technology, and retail are among the top industries employing iOS developers [3].

iOS developer skills

While proficiency in Swift and Objective-C is essential, many other skills are desirable for iOS app developers.

Insight from an engineer

"Knowing how to approach and tackle a problem you don't know how to solve is definitely a skill that I've had to constantly use at work," says Mari Batilando, a software engineer at Meta. "Meta's vast reach and scale means it has unique problems that you may not have encountered before. Knowing how to simplify and decompose these problems into smaller, solvable parts is important to contribute and make an impact in the company."


Non-technical skills

iOS developers must be able to work on a team. Team members may include other developers or employees in other departments, like marketing. At any level, it’s important for an iOS developer to be:

  • Patient

  • Flexible

  • Organized

  • Self-driven

  • Able to communicate well

  • Able to work well under pressure

Technical skills

Here are some technical skills to develop that will help ensure your success as an entry-level or mid-level iOS app developer:

  • Be familiar with Xcode, Apple’s own integrated development environment (IDE). It aids developers in writing code and assembling apps for use on different devices and operating systems. Xcode is used to design, code, test, and debug an app before sending it to Apple’s App Store. 

Once you’ve moved your way up to a Senior iOS Developer position, you'll need to be familiar with:

  • Software architecture

  • Concurrency

  • Reactive programming

  • Deploying animations

  • User testing

iOS programming languages

"As an iOS engineer, most of my experience required me to be knowledgeable in using Xcode, Swift, Objective-C, and a lot of Apple's proprietary iOS tooling and frameworks," says Batilando.

According to the creators of Swift, this programming language was created as a “general-purpose programming language built using a modern approach to safety, performance, and software design patterns [4].” Apple created it in 2014 to be the best available language for developers to use for a large range of projects.

A few other features of Swift include the following:

  • It is one of the more efficient languages to use when creating iOS applications.

  • Apps built with Swift can be used on devices dating back to iOS 7 or later. 

  • Swift is compatible with Objective-C, the other most commonly used language for creating iOS applications. 

Like Swift, Objective-C is also a general-purpose language. It was introduced in 1984 and based on the programming language C. Objective-C was the primary language used by Apple before the creation of Swift, but it still makes up a significant portion of Apple’s codebase. Due to its versatility, Upwork rated Objective-C as the top-paying programming language for freelance developers [5]. 

iOS app developer salary

On average, an iOS app developer in the US earns an annual salary of $97,875 [6]. Factors that can influence an iOS developer's salary include: company size, location, experience, education, and current demand. For example, salaries will likely be higher in larger tech hubs like San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta. A start-up will pay less than a larger company like Uber or Facebook.

iOS developer job outlook

As more and more companies look to grow their online presence, the demand for iOS app developers is rising significantly. Apple makes up a significant portion of that demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for iOS developers is expected to rise 25 percent between 2021-2031. This statistic translates into about 411,400 new job opportunities in the US alone [7].

How to become an iOS app developer

There are a few different pathways to becoming an iOS app developer. First, choose a language to learn or an iOS app developer certification course in Swift or Objective-C. 

These options should help you understand the programming language you’re using, the frameworks involved, and the concepts used for iOS development. Next, practice coding and build your portfolio. The more apps you build, the more proficient you'll become, and the sooner you’ll land your dream job.

Get started in iOS development with Coursera

Start learning one of the programming languages required for apple products today by enrolling in Foundations of Objective-C App Development. Or, learn from an industry leader and enhance your resume by obtaining a Meta iOS Developer Professional Certificate



Foundations of Objective-C App Development

An introduction to the Objective-C programming language. This will prepare you for more extensive iOS app development and build a foundation for advanced ...


(551 ratings)

31,279 already enrolled

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

iOS App Development, Computer Programming, Xcode, Objective-C


professional certificate

Meta iOS Developer

Launch your career as an iOS developer. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career and earn a credential from Meta. No degree or prior experience required to get started.


(549 ratings)

4,394 already enrolled


Average time: 8 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

iOS App Development, Application development, Mobile Development, Linux, Web Development, Bash (Unix Shell), Github, Version Control, Swift Programming, Web Design, Front-End Web Development, User Experience (UX), Accessibility, use navigation in your apps, Json, APIs, Core Data, • Create simple JavaScript code, • Create and manipulate objects and arrays, • Write unit testing using Jest, Web Application, React (Web Framework), React (Javascript Library), React, Software Architecture, UI development, Data Management, Pseudocode, Algorithms, Communication, Data Structure, Computer Science

Article sources


Statista. "Most Popular Apple App Store Categories as of 3rd Quarter of 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/270291/popular-categories-in-the-app-store/." Accessed December 23, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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