Software Developer Job Description: Skills, Tasks, Requirements and Career Path
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Software Developer Job Description
Software Developers are IT professionals who create computer programs. They are involved in all phases of the software development lifecycle.
But what exactly does their job involve?
Software developers work on a wide range of programs, including management systems, industrial automation systems, e-commerce platforms, data analysis and visualization tools, mobile applications, firmware, antivirus applications, videogames and many more besides. Their first task in a new assignment is to carefully analyze and evaluate the requirements of their client (who may be an internal or external client). This will ensure that the software is designed and implemented around the client’s needs.
Software can be thought of as having two parts: a “front end”, i.e. the visible interface that users interacts with, and a “back end”, which comprises everything the program needs to work, such as databases and operating systems. Often, a software developer will specialize in developing one of these two parts. However, there are also expert software developers capable of handling both sides, who are known as Full Stack Developers.
Once software development has been completed, the testing phase begins. Software testing is carried out in accordance with established quality protocols and standards. Its aim is to ensure that the program works as planned and is free from bugs (errors). Once any bugs found have been corrected (a phase known as debugging) and the code has been optimized, the software developer implements and installs the program (the deployment phase) and checks that it functions as intended.
Software developers are also responsible for writing technical documentation, for maintaining and updating software and for training users to operate it.
In practice, the actual duties of a software developer may not necessarily include all of the activities described above. For example, software developers often do not write the code by themselves, but instead work as part of a development team together with other IT professionals, such as software analysts, programmers, software testers, web designers and IT engineers. Software developers are, however, responsible for coordinating the work through its various phases (coding, testing and documentation) and for validating the final product, with the aim of ensuring that the software developed is functional, efficient and well-documented. It is therefore very important for them to have good communication and project management skills.
Practically all areas of industry and business require software applications. Digital technology has penetrated almost every facet of our lives, but the hardware powering this revolution needs software in order to make it work. Accordingly, there are both employed and freelance work opportunities for software developers at companies and organizations in a wide range of public and private sectors, as well as of course with software houses and companies that specialize in contract software development work.
Software developers typically have standard full-time working hours, although they may be required to work overtime as a project delivery deadline approaches. They mainly work in offices, but are often given the option to work remotely - i.e. from home or from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Contact with clients and other software development professionals can also be conducted remotely, thus reducing the need to travel for business trips.
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Software Developer: Tasks and Responsibilities
The tasks of a software developer include:
- Designing software applications that satisfy client specifications and user requirements
- Programming back-end and front-end software according to guidelines
- Checking that software functions correctly and efficiently (i.e. testing)
- Correcting any errors (debugging)
- Coordinating the work of other professionals involved in the software development process
- Implementing software and confirming it meets project requirements
- Writing technical documentation
- Training up non-technical personnel to use program
- Developing new functions and optimizing code of existing processes and applications
Software Developer - Education, Training and Requirements
With a solid grounding in computer science, a software developer should be able to tackle both front end and back end software development and thus participate in all of the phases of the software development lifecycle.
Aspiring software developers without a formal computer science qualification can demonstrate their coding skills to potential employers by gaining certification in a programming language from a training organization.
Finally, with the information technology landscape constantly changing, evolving and innovating, software developers need to keep their knowledge and skills constantly updated by attending workshops, conferences and courses if they are to remain competitive.
Software Developer Skills and Qualifications
Software developers require the following skills:
- Knowledge of a range of programming languages
- Software design and development skills
- Knowledge of software development methodologies, approaches and models (e.g. Waterfall, Agile, Scrum)
- Software testing and debugging skills
- Knowledge of popular Integrated Development Environments (IDE)
- Ability to write technical documentation for software
- Planning, organizational and project management skills
- Analysis and problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Committed to ongoing learning
Software Developer Career Path
The career of a software developer typically begins in a position such as IT analyst, software tester or programmer, which provide an opportunity to gain the experience needed to move into software development work.
Expert software developers enjoy a wide range of professional development opportunities. These include specializing in a specific programming language (Java, C#, PHP, .NET developer), an operating system (Windows, Linux, iOS, Android developer) or a type of device (e.g. mobile developer).
Another option is to specialize in designing software architecture, databases and operating systems as a back-end developer or else to focus on devising engaging user interfaces and user experiences as a front-end developer. Finally, a third option is to master both of these aspects and work as a Full Stack Developer.
Opportunities for subsequent career advancement include progressing to a role such as IT Project Manager, which entails developing and implementing large, complex projects and coordinating the work of programmers and other IT professionals involved in coding, testing, debugging and deployment.
Top Reasons to Work as a Software Developer
Why should you consider working as a software developer?
There are a number of good reasons to pursue a career as a software developer. For those with a passion for IT, a job in software development offers the chance to be involved in the development of innovative applications and cutting edge technology projects. Front-end and back-end software developers are among the most sought-after professions on the job market, making employment easy to come by in a wide range of companies and businesses, from start-ups right through to multinationals. The reason for such excellent employment prospects is not hard to understand: practically all companies make use of technology-based solutions in their business activities, while our own personal and professional lives are becoming increasingly dependant upon an ever-growing number of electronic devices. And as the use of such devices grows, so too does the demand for people capable of programming them.
The high level of demand for software developers, as well as the complexity of the knowledge and skills required, is reflected in the very competitive salaries they command, which increase with experience.
Finally, an added attraction of the role is the high level of flexibility in terms of working hours and location enjoyed by freelance software developers who are able to work remotely.