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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about blockchain development fundamentals, relevant skills, and technical FAQs.

[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. However, blockchain technology is less mysterious than its reputation suggests. The article below demystifies blockchain technology and development for all levels of expertise. Learn more about career paths, job requirements, and FAQs.

What is a blockchain?

A blockchain is a type of database used to store and organise information. Traditional databases arrange information into rows and columns that make up tables. This makes the information easy for computers to recognise. 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 organisation or administrator.

What is blockchain development?

Blockchain development involves building, maintaining, and designing blockchain applications and systems. Overall, it seeks to use blockchain technology's unique features 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 conceptualise 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 build and maintain the architecture of blockchain systems. They design protocols, develop security patterns, and supervise the network. 

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 UK government is dedicated to remaining at the forefront of financial technology. It has taken several measures to ensure blockchain and crypto technologies are accepted and widely supported in the UK. Because of this, the demand for professionals with blockchain development skills will likely remain high and continue to grow. 

Gaining skills related to a rapidly growing technology can help make you a more competitive job candidate. Additionally, many blockchain developers' salaries are high. Glassdoor reports an average salary of £58,115 per year for blockchain developers in the UK [1].

How to become a blockchain developer

If you are new to the blockchain industry, you will likely start by learning how to code. Many blockchain developers begin their careers with computer science or information technology degrees. Once you’ve gained a foundational knowledge of software development and computer programming, you'll focus on specialising 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 specialisations. 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 CV) through Courses, certifications, or a computer science degree. There are many paths to becoming a blockchain developer, so take your time and find the one that suits you. 

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 through 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. Automated compliance enables two parties to execute agreements without an intermediary. You may want to become certified in smart contract development to work with smart contracts. The second Course in the Blockchain Specialisation series focuses on smart contract expertise.

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

  • Blockchain architectures. Understanding each type of blockchain architecture helps identify an area of career focus. There are four types of blockchain architectures: public, private, consortium, and hybrid.

The Blockchain: Foundations and Use Cases Course will help aspiring blockchain developers expand their knowledge of blockchain architecture, applications, and use cases. 

Blockchain Architecture TypeDefinition
PublicPublic blockchains are permissionless and decentralised. Anyone can join, and all nodes (servers or computers) have equal access to the blockchain. They 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 organisations 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. XinFin, a blockchain built on Ethereum and Quorum, is an example of a hybrid blockchain.

3. Familiarise yourself with the blockchain development industry.

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

Get ahead with Coursera.

If you are a beginner, consider taking a Course like Meta's What Is the Metaverse? on Coursera to understand Metaverse fundamentals such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and more. Alternatively, you can use the Blockchain Revolution Course to learn the basics of blockchain technology.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor UK. “Blockchain Developer Salaries in United Kingdom, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/uk-blockchain-developer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN2_KO3,23.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed May 21, 2024.

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