How Much Do Software Developers Make? And 5 Other Career FAQs

illustration of software developer working on laptop

You’ve had an interest in technology for as long as you can remember. Now you’re ready to turn that passion into a career, and that means narrowing down your options in this growing field.

Software developer is one of the job titles on your radar. But you have some big questions before you can commit to pursuing this career. For one—how much do software developers make? You need to choose a career that can support your needs, after all!

We’ll answer this burning question and more with these six FAQs about software developer careers.

6 FAQs about software developers

You need to understand all aspects of life as a software developer before you commit to this career, like where they work, what they do all day and whether or not you have the qualities you need to succeed in this career field.

Read on to learn all the details about a career in software development.

1. How much do software developers make?

First things first, you need all the details about a software developer salary! There are two main types of software developers: applications and systems software. Both career paths have strong income potential.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for applications software developers was $103,620 in 2018, with the highest ten percent earning more than $161,290 and the lowest ten percent earning $61,660 .1 Those focusing on systems software development earned slightly more, with a median annual salary of $110,000 in 2018, and the highest ten percent of earners bringing home more than $166,960, and the lowest ten percent earning $66,740.1

You’ll be happy to hear that software developers can also expect a positive job outlook as the technology sector continues to grow. Both types of software developers are predicted to be in demand in the coming years. The BLS projects that applications software developers will see a 26 percent increase in employment from 2018 to 2028, with employment of systems software developers projected to grow by 10 percent.1

2. What do software developers do?

You probably have a mental image of software developers huddled over a computer all day, but you might be surprised by the variety of tasks they accomplish in the workplace.

“My typical duties are meeting with clients to understand what they need us to build, reviewing what we’ve built so far to see if it matches their vision for the product, talking with the delivery team about adjustments on features or priorities for the project, and of course, writing code,” says Joe Wilson, owner of custom software development company Volare Systems.

The BLS shares that software developers have a hand in every phase of a project, from meeting with clients to determine the functionality of an app or program, to writing the code itself and performing rigorous testing.1 Check out our article, “What Does a Software Developer Do?” to learn more about the ins and outs of life as a software developer.

3. Where do software developers work?

Many different industries have a need for the specialized skills of software developers. The BLS reports that about one-third of software developers in both specialties work in computer systems and design related services.1 The rest find a home in industries like finance and insurance, manufacturing and software publishers.

Software developers should be prepared to work in a highly collaborative environment. “Successful software developers collaborate with the team and the client to build great software,” Wilson says. “I work on teams with developers, testers, project managers and system admins.”

People in this career field typically have the benefit of working standard workday hours, though some companies may have a more fast-paced work environment than others. Software developers may also be able to work remotely or become self-employed, working directly with clients.

4. What skills do software developers need?

It should be fairly obvious that software developers need specialized technical skills to be effective, but with a vast array of coding languages to choose from, it can be hard to know what employers are actually looking for.

We consulted Burning-Glass.com for this list of in-demand technical skills real-life employers are looking for:

Technical skills2

  • Java®
  • Software engineering
  • SQL
  • JavaScript®
  • Python®
  • C#
  • Linux
  • Oracle®
  • C++
  • DevOps

Working in software development isn’t just about technical know-how, though. Transferable, or “soft,” skills are important to aspiring developers who want to put their best foot forward in the workplace.

These in-demand transferable skills from Burning-Glass.com will help you work together with a team and meet clients’ needs:

Transferable skills2

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Troubleshooting
  • Writing
  • Research
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Mentoring

5. What are important qualities for software developers to have?

You can see that being a software developer is about more than just coding skills. Your natural qualities and characteristics can play a large part in this tech position. Because this job relies on collaboration with others, strong teamwork and communication skills are a necessity, according to Wilson.

“It helps to have a humble personality where you have your own ideas, but know they can be improved by working with others, who also have good ideas,” Wilson adds.

Other qualities that can come in handy on the job are creativity as you approach problems in new ways, and curiosity and a drive to continue learning in the ever-changing technology field.

6. How do you become a software developer?

If you’re thinking that software development sounds like an appealing career, you’re probably wondering how you can land this job. (And if you’re still on the fence about whether or not this is the career for you, take a look at these 8 Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Software Developer to help you decide.)

Don’t be intimidated by the technical skills required to become a software developer! A degree program in computer science or a related field can give you the foundation you need to impress employers.

The BLS writes that “developers must have a strong background in computer programming. They usually gain this experience in school.” The data from Burning-Glass.com agrees, with 90 percent of software developer employers seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree.3 You may also have the opportunity to gain real-world skills by completing an internship.

Developing your future career

You’ve learned a lot about some of the fundamentals of a software development career—including how much software developers make. But there’s still plenty to learn if you’re interested in taking the first step toward getting started in this career. Get a glimpse of the path ahead in our article, “How to Become a Software Developer: Experts Expose Their Best Advice."

Java, JavaScript and Oracle are registered trademarks of Oracle Corporation.
Python is a registered trademark of The Python Software Foundation.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed Nov. 23, 2019]. Salary ranges represent national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,059,238 software developer job postings, Nov. 01, 2018 – Oct. 31, 2019).
3Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 590,797 software developer job postings by education level, Nov. 01, 2018 – Oct. 31, 2019).

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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