Software Developer: Skills, Languages, Salary, Job Outlook

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Software developers use programming and creative skills to build software. They enjoy problem-solving and working as part of a team.

[Featured image]. Software developer in a blue sweater develops computer software

Developing and implementing new software applications is rewarding for those passionate about finding new and innovative ways to accomplish tasks. As a software developer, you will analyze the needs of the enterprise and develop software solutions to improve its functionality. Software developers also find bugs or glitches and create solutions to software problems using deductive reasoning and intuition, much like detectives. 

Software developers need programming language skills and knowledge of operating systems. Explore more of the skills needed, and discover the job opportunities and salaries you can look forward to should you choose a career in software development.

What exactly is a software developer, and why are they in demand?

Software developers create the programs we use every day. Whether you’re playing the latest video game release, listening to music, or text messaging, you’re doing so because a software developer played a role in its design.

Software developers test programs to ensure they’re working correctly. They check for the pesky bugs that slow or freeze computer programs.

Increased digital platform development and people accessing computers and other electronic devices are continually growing, and the demand for computer developers will likely follow. Many career titles are available in software development, from gaming to computer programming and network administration.

Read more: How to Become a Software Developer | 9 Tips

What is the difference between a software developer and a web developer?

A web developer builds websites and web applications, and a software developer builds computer programs. They also test websites and web applications to ensure they’re working correctly. A web developer needs to know programming languages such as HTML and JavaScript.

Conversely, a software developer creates programs for computers and electronics and tests the programs for functionality. A software developer needs to know a programming language different from a web developer. A software developer should know languages such as Python and SQL. 

A software developer typically requires a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, and a web developer can often enter a job with an associate degree. Some employers prefer a software engineer to hold a master’s degree.

Read more: A Guide to the Online Master's Degree in Computer Science

What do software developers do?

Software developers design and build software applications and ensure they work correctly. They write code and often work with other programmers. The job duties can vary, depending on the needs of the company or organization they work for and their experience level. Look at some of the common job duties assigned to a software developer. 

Designing code for new software, apps, and websites

You may be primarily responsible for designing software programs as a software developer. The programs you’ll build will depend on the industry. A software designer communicates with other team members about any needs or problems.

Debugging or correcting code errors

A software developer will test the program throughout the development process to ensure it functions correctly. In your role as a software developer, you may be required to design software system testing, or you might lead the process. 

Ensuring software code security

If you're interested in software development and cybersecurity, a relatively new field has opened that combines computer programming and security. The position requires thorough knowledge of security threats and how to integrate cybersecurity into software programs.

Updating the code of existing software

Your role as a software developer typically includes updating software programs to ensure they’re running smoothly and efficiently. The updates generally are minor. A software developer also performs upgrades, which are not the same as an update. An upgrade is a new version of the software program.

The valuable skill set of a software developer

Among the essential skills you’ll need as a software developer is knowledge of coding language. Some of the most common languages are JavaScript, HTML, and Python. Knowledge of operating systems and debugging are essential skills for a successful career as a software developer.   

To achieve the desired results, software developers often work closely with other software specialists, such as software engineers, architects, and programmers. The overlap between these roles can be substantial. As such, software developers are often interchangeably referred to as:

  • Database developers

  • Computer programmers

  • Web application developers 

  • Research and development specialists

These job titles' core responsibilities and tasks can have substantial similarities. As an educated and qualified software developer, your skill set will prepare you to explore a career in any of the above fields. There is a vast selection of potential job opportunities for those with the skill set necessary to be a software developer.

Other skills that may be required include:

  • Knowledge of text-editing software

  • Spreadsheets

  • Cloud platforms

  • Problem-solving 

  • Self-evaluation

In-demand programming languages for software development 

Programming languages are the backbone of software development. As a developer, you might only need to use one or two languages, but the more you master, the more competitive you’ll be in the job market. Take a look at some of the most common and sought-after languages.


Python is an excellent language to learn for those just starting. It’s a beginner language that’s easy to understand. Often used for backend web development, Python is one of the few programming languages with simple, easy-to-understand syntax rules, making it far easier to read than many other programming languages. 


Java shouldn’t be confused with JavaScript. JavaScript is used to make web pages interactive. Java is a cross-platform program used to create interactive applications and browsers. It’s a complicated language to learn, but those with the skills are usually highly paid.


Structured query language (SQL) is used primarily for databases, such as Microsoft Excel. Many businesses and organizations use databases to organize large quantities of data, so it’s an excellent skill.

C / C++

C was one of the first programming languages created and remains a foundation for present-day languages. C is now more commonly used in hardware devices such as those found in medical equipment. It is also used in operating systems like Linux and Windows. Knowing C programming language allows software developers to understand many programming languages that rely on C’s core concepts.  


Interactive websites are exploding in popularity, and JavaScript is the programming language most used to give users that immersive, interactive experience.  Unlike some programming languages, JavaScript will likely remain relevant far into the future as exciting new applications continue to be explored and a wide array of enterprises around the globe use the language.

Read more: What Programming Language Should I Learn?

How much do software developers earn?

Software developers earn a median annual income of $126,730 as of February 2023, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1].

Several top industries have the following median annual wages as of February 2023.

Software Developer IndustryMedian Software Developer Salary
Software publishers$130,180
Management of companies and enterprises120,710
Computer systems design and related services103,010
Insurance carriers and related activities124,390

Job outlook

The BLS projects that software developer jobs will grow by 25 percent between 2021 and 2031 [2]. Thirty-two percent of the job opportunities are in computer systems design [3]. Most positions are full-time.

The increasing number of software products will present you with new opportunities as a software developer. Consumer electronics and other products, like cell phones and appliances, are frequently integrated with computer systems. There may be more investment in security software to protect computer networks and electronic infrastructure as a result of concerns over threats to computer security.

Getting started

Most employers require a computer science or engineering bachelor's degree to be a software developer. A computer science bachelor's degree generally makes you more appealing to employers when they are information technology, engineering, or mathematics-related. Learning the correct programming language can also set you apart from other applicants. Additionally, you can earn online certifications to show your knowledge of different programming tools, which helps enhance your employment prospects. 

How do I start my career in software development?

Regardless of work experiences, such as internships, full-time jobs, freelance work, and volunteer work, the suitable skill set, hard work, consistency, and other factors are always prioritized when landing a developer job. Despite having no experience in the software development field, many people get hired by tech giants based on their skills and dedication. But you may want to:

Expand your knowledge

One of the best ways to learn about computer programming is to participate in coding challenges and competitions. CodeChef, HackerRank, TopCoder, and others are renowned coding challenge platforms. 

Depending on the platform, you may receive different badges and certifications you can show during the interview process. Progressing through these programming languages will allow you to refine your skills to become an efficient programmer. 

Reading is also a fantastic way to build your knowledge base and improve your understanding of software development. The internet is great for finding industry-specific resources to amplify and solidify your knowledge. 

Network with other developers and make connections

A developer meetup is an excellent opportunity to learn and network with your peers. You can contact the company's officials directly and connect with them on networking platforms such as LinkedIn and  Meetup.

Attending worthwhile events such as seminars, meetups, and conferences can help you build your professional network and make the most of your career opportunities. 

Build an impressive portfolio of personal and client projects

You can compile your portfolio of applications you develop as you practice programming. A portfolio of your best work shows potential employers that you can put the skills listed on your resume into practice. 

If you wish to demonstrate your web development skills, you can host your portfolio on your domain or a free hosting site like GitHub or GitLab. 

Ready to get started on your software development career?

Visit Coursera to explore courses that can help you get started or advance your career as a software developer.  IBM’s Introduction to DevOps offers computer science professionals an excellent continuing education opportunity.

Learn how to master the software engineering interview at the University of California San Diego and be successful during your job search. You can also consider a master’s degree in Master of Computer and Information Technology from the University of Pennsylvania to advance your career. 


Master of Computer and Information Technology

Penn Engineering

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics.”Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers,” Accessed February 9, 2023.

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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