working through the software developer career path.

Whether you would like to be a freelancer, software entrepreneur or regular, pay-cheque kind of engineer then the world of software development offers a vast array of career options and a myriad of specialisms. Here's our guide to forging a smart career path.

Make your mind up.

As there are so many options available in software development, have a clear goal in mind and don't spread your skills too thinly.

Here are some of the more common career paths available:

Web development – this is the most common path, building websites, back-end systems and plug-ins that power them.  Some developers manage all web development areas, earning 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 all the others (Android) – with some developers doing both.

Desktop applications – this covers any programme that runs as a stand-alone on a PC or Mac.  Includes anything from common office software to specialist graphic design packages.

Gaming – leading companies such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft spend millions on game development and 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 more creative developers. 

Data Science – analysing 'big data” is important to pretty much all large businesses now. Whether it's predicting consumer behaviour or improving user experience (UX), data scientists are playing an increasingly big role. Understandably, this career path is proving lucrative.

Web based apps and cloud development – although these aren't always the same thing, the commonality 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).

Automation – developers who write the frameworks needed to test other software (automation) are always in demand.   Consider this option if testing the hell out of other developers work excites you.

AI – Artificial Intelligence is another huge area of growth.  Developers with high levels of expertise in this field can expect to be in great demand.

Which language?

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, you just can't know all languages to the level required anyway.

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 up 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 more, and 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 can be an option.
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

apply for software developer roles

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