Software developers are the brains and brawn behind computer programmes. They design, build, test and implement programmes that perform functions on almost every digital device we use. 

With an increasing demand for roles in the digital space, Randstad tells you everything you need to know about a software developer's career path and the type of salary you could command.

Software developer career paths.

Web development.

This is the most common path, building websites, back-end systems and plug-ins that power them. Developers who manage all web development areas earn the title 'full-stack developers'.

App creation.

Making apps for mobile, tablets and desktops began with the rise of the smartphone and has grown exponentially. You might want to specialise in Apple devices (iOS) or others Android – with some developers doing both.

Desktop applications.

This covers any programme that runs as a stand-alone on a PC or Mac and includes anything from common office software to specialist graphic design packages.


Leading companies such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft invest heavily in game development and as a result employ large teams. With gaming brands looking for expertise in everything from sound design to 3D modelling this is can be an attractive career path for creative developers. 

Data science.

Analysing 'big data' is important to almost every large businesses now and whether it's predicting consumer behaviour or improving user experience (UX), data scientists are playing an increasingly important role. Understandably, this career path is proving lucrative.

Web-based apps and cloud development.

Although these aren't always the same thing, the main similarity is that the software is always cloud-based. This includes any web-based app from email to web browser plug-ins to creating and maintaining whole developer environments (IDEs).


Developers who write the frameworks needed to test other software (automation) are always in demand. Consider this option if testing until failure excites you. Artificial Intelligence is another huge area of growth and developers with high levels of expertise in this field can expect to be in demand.

What languages do you need to know?

Whether you're a Python, Java or PHP person the best advice to follow is to not be a jack of all trades. Practically speaking it's very difficult to know all languages to the required level.

Some languages will be more useful than others - for example, programmers adept in SQL, JavaScript, Java, C# or Python are the ones most in-demand in today's job market.  However, PHP is still important for web development and HTML/HTML5 are still staples.

Advancing your career.

Employers are normally looking for good computer science-related degrees and a natural aptitude for problem-solving.  From entry-level to senior level developers rely on increasing their knowledge in an ever-evolving digital world.  The key to career advancement, therefore, is an ability to stay up to date with skills and remain alert to new developments.

Often software developers reach a natural limit to their earning power, with many companies having practical limits on what they can pay. Freelancers can normally earn competitive day rates while software engineers that are also entrepreneurs can have even more earning potential.

Some companies may offer career advancement through management – so if you fancy managing other software developers this is another option to consider.

Software developer salary.

A software developer earns an average salary of almost £31,000 a year. Most people with this job move on to other positions after 20 years in this field. A senior software developer and similar jobs earns an average salary of £46,000.

Working hours, patterns and environment.

You'll usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. You may need to do overtime and weekend work to meet deadlines or to fit around your client's business. You'll be office-based but may travel to meet clients and fulfil contracts. You may need a full driving licence.

A quick checklist:

  • decide between freelancing, employment or being an entrepreneur
  • choose the field you'd most like to work within
  • skill up with the appropriate language and developer skills
  • stay on top of changes within your field to advance your career