How To Become a Software Developer

Learn how to become a software developer with this actionable guide. From coding languages to career paths, we cover it all to help you get started.

How To Become a Software DeveloperBecoming a software developer is an exciting and rewarding career path, and software development is one of the largest tech occupation categories with more than 1 in 4 (27%) of the 5.8 million tech jobs in 2023 being software developers. With more than 1.1 million job postings for software developers in the United States, it’s no surprise that software developers are in high demand, reaching nearly 2 million by 2033 – 180% above the national rate.*

And it pays to be in this lucrative tech field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for software developers as of May 2021 is $120,730 – 164% higher than the median national wage for all occupations.

Ready to get started? In this guide, we’ll outline the steps you can take to start your career as a software developer and answer some frequently asked questions.

5 Steps To Becoming a Software Developer

Pursuing a career as a software developer can be challenging and time-intensive, so it’s good practice to plan out your career journey ahead of time. There’s no single path to becoming a software developer, but there are steps you can take to help you get started.

Step 1: Determine Your Career Goals

While studying and researching different job opportunities, start defining your short- and long-term career goals to help narrow down opportunities to those that best suit your desired career path. You can also take this time to determine and develop your specialization or niche, which will help give you a competitive edge.

Step 2: Learn the Fundamentals and Get Qualified

Whichever path you decide to take—pursuing a degree or earning certifications—both require you to learn the fundamentals.

Start by developing some foundational knowledge like coding, software development methodologies and how to use the tools you will need to create programs and applications. Getting a broad overview of software development can also help you decide if this career path is right for you.

Many successful software developers don’t have a degree, but standing out from the competition in this field can be difficult. That’s why earning certifications or completing a bootcamp is a great way to boost your salary potential and capture the attention of recruiters and potential employers. Even after you get your first software developer job, it’s important to keep pursuing career development opportunities to upskill as your career progresses.

Step 3: Gain Hands-On Experience 

Once you’re qualified and have the basics under your belt, you can begin practicing and further developing your skills. You can gain important skills through real-world, hands-on experience like internships and apprenticeships, personal projects, workshops, hackathons and experiential learning.

When it comes to deciding what projects to work on, pick a topic that you’re interested in, figure out what common problems people are having and create something that solves that problem. As you complete coding projects—such as web applications, mobile apps or open-source contributions—be sure to add your work to your portfolio or GitHub profile to showcase your ability and creativity to hiring managers. This is especially important if you don’t have formal education or experience.  

Step 4: Network, Network, Network!

Establishing relationships with industry experts and building your network is crucial. Your network may provide inside information about what’s happening in your field of interest, provide mentorship support and help you with the job search process.

There are various ways you can start networking, such as using LinkedIn to connect with peers you make within the industry, attending events and participating in online forums communities like StackOverflow or GitHub to help you stay up-to-date with new technologies and job opportunities.

Want to learn more? Check out Networking: Connecting with People Who Can Help You Get the Job

Step 5: Start Applying for Introductory Software Developer Jobs

You have the fundamental knowledge and hands-on experience to start your career as a developer. Now, it’s time to build and refine your resume and start applying.

Start looking and applying for potential jobs on employment websites or job boards, like ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn. Be sure to thoroughly assess the job description to see if it matches your skills and interests and apply to positions even if you don’t feel 100% qualified for it. Your skills, portfolio and enthusiasm are often more important than meeting every requirement in the job description. 

Check out the rest of our career resources series:

Key Skills Software Developers Need To Learn

When it comes to hiring software developers, one thing stands out above everything else – skills. In fact, employers listed 3 million job postings in the United States seeking candidates with skills related to software development, according to Lightcast.

Many employers are looking for a mix of durable and technical skills, so it’s important to develop your professional skills just as much as your technical know-how in order to work effectively in teams, understand user requirements and deliver high-quality software.

Technical/Hard Skills

Durable/Soft Skills

Programming languages (Java, Python, C#, React, etc.)


Web development technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)

Analytical and strategic thinking

Version control systems (Git)


Software security

Project management

Operating systems (Linux, macOS, Windows)


Integrated development environments (IDEs)


Software development process


Database management systems (SQL)

Effective communication



Database systems


Data structures and algorithms


Agile software development methods


Software developers also utilize a variety of tools and technologies to streamline workflows, enhance productivity and collaborate more effectively. Below are some common tools that developers use, but you may not need or be expected to use all of these.


Studio 3T


SQL Sentry


AWS Cloud9

Apache NetBeans

Zend Studio


CodeCharge Studio


HTML5 Builder


Visual Online


Data Studio




Enterprise Architect





Additional skills that are a plus include:

  • Object-oriented programming and design
  • RESTful APIs using XML and JSON Java frameworks
  • DevOps principles and best practices

Best Certifications for a Software Developer

Earning industry-recognized certifications is a great way to verify your skills. And there are a variety of reasons to get certified, like differentiating yourself in a challenging job market, heightening career advancement opportunities and setting yourself on a lucrative career path.

Some certifications that can help you along your journey to becoming a developer include:

If you’re already pursuing a degree, check to see if your current curriculum includes certification preparation and examination.

Check out the CompTIA Career Roadmap to see what other certifications can help you become a software developer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Does a Software Developer do?

A software developer—sometimes referred to as a software engineer—designs, creates and modifies internal/external applications and computer systems. They work with clients or users to understand their needs, develop software solutions and ensure that the software is bug-free and user-friendly.

A software developer’s main responsibilities include:

Meeting with internal and external clients to discuss desired outcomes and project scope

Working individually or with other programmers, designers and QA analysts as part of a team

Verifying and validating proper functionality of applications

Creating flowcharts and logic workflows

Performing requirements analysis and functional unit tests to identify gaps and other potential issues

Troubleshooting and improving existing applications and software

Analyzing and formulating software requirements

Reviewing system performance and evaluating results

Writing and debugging code and implementing larger frameworks to support specific devices or technologies

Developing and maintaining technical documentation as a reference for functions and use cases of applications

What Are the Most Important Programming Languages To Learn?

The specific computer programming languages you should learn depends on your career goals.

A web developer should be familiar with HTML and CSS for front-end development, while back-end developers should know SQL and server-side languages like Python, Java, JavaScript, C++ and Ruby. A full-stack developer should have a good understanding of both front-end and back-end development technologies.

Is It Hard to Become a Software Developer?

Becoming a full-time software developer can be challenging, but with dedication, hard work and a passion for learning, landing your dream job is achievable. It’s worthwhile to reiterate that a strong foundation in computer science, programming skills and software development methodologies are essential to succeed in this field.

Can You Become a Software Developer on Your Own?

Yes, you don’t need to enroll in a degree program to be a developer. In fact, many self-taught individuals have become successful software developers. Online resources, tutorials and coding bootcamps can help aspiring developers like you learn the necessary skills to get the job.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Software Developer?

There isn’t a hard-and-set timeline. The time it takes to become a software developer varies depending on your education, experience, employer requirements and dedication to learning. A bachelor's or master’s degree in computer science, information technology or a related field typically takes years to complete, while a coding bootcamp or earning a certification can take just a few months to complete.

You might first get a job as a junior software developer before moving into senior or lead developer positions, and then later advancing to management positions. Software developers can also follow a pathway to different fields, such as cybersecurity, data analytics, data science and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML).

Wondering how much you could make as a software developer? Check out the CompTIA IT Salary Calculator.

Becoming a software developer can be a tough journey, but equipping yourself with the right tools and knowledge can take you on the path to success.

Get the in-demand skills you need with CompTIA certifications and training solutions. Download the exam objectives to get started.

*Source: CompTIA State of the Tech Workforce 2023 | U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Lightcast

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