How to become a software developer in 5 steps (Plus tips)

Software development is the process of designing and creating software programs. If you want to pursue a career in software development, knowing the education, training, and qualifications required is crucial. This is why so many students are seeking to earn a software developer degree. Understanding the steps to follow to become a qualified software developer is also vital to succeeding in this field. In this article, we explain how to become a software developer in five simple steps and provide tips for getting into software development.

What is a software developer?

A software developer is a skilled professional in the technology industry who constructs, designs, develops, and maintains computer applications and programs based on specific requirements. Using various coding and programming languages, they write efficient and effective code to meet client needs. Software developers also diagnose software issues and propose solutions to potential problems. While typically based in an office, they may also work remotely, as much of their work is computer-based. Common employers of software developers include banks, software development firms, financial services companies, and marketing agencies.

How to become a software developer

Here are the five steps to becoming a software developer:

1. Get qualified

To become a software developer, the first step is gaining the necessary qualifications that demonstrate your competence and understanding of software development. There are several pathways to achieve this:

Earn a Degree:

Acquiring a degree in software development or a related field is the traditional route to becoming a software developer. Typically spanning three to four years, degrees in computer science, information technology, mathematics, financial technology, or software engineering provide a solid foundation. Entry requirements vary among universities, but generally, you’ll need at least one or two A-levels or equivalent for higher national diplomas or foundation degrees, and two to three A-levels or equivalent for full degree programs. A degree opens up broader job prospects and helps in building technical expertise.

Explore College Courses:

Taking a college course focused on software development offers a quicker, cost-effective alternative to university education. These programs, often completed within two years, provide practical training to become a qualified software developer. Some relevant courses include:

  • Level 3 Certificate in Programming
  • Higher National Certificate in Computing
  • T Level in Digital Production, Design, and Development
  • A-level in Computing

Self-Taught Approach:

Becoming a software developer is also achievable through self-teaching, without necessarily pursuing a formal degree or diploma. By delving into programming languages and acquiring hands-on experience with specific skills, you can initiate your career in software development. Utilize free online courses and resources to learn coding and programming languages independently. Popular languages and skills to self-learn include:

  • C++
  • HTML
  • Smalltalk

2. Pursue Advanced Qualifications

Software development demands advanced coding and programming skills, making it beneficial to pursue further qualifications after completing your initial education or self-learning journey. Consider these options:

  • Higher Apprenticeship: Engage in a higher apprenticeship program tailored to software development. These structured programs combine practical work experience with theoretical learning, providing valuable hands-on training.
  • Trainee Position: Secure a trainee position within a software development organization. These positions offer on-the-job training and mentorship, allowing you to refine your skills under professional guidance.
  • Graduate Training Scheme: Participate in a graduate training scheme offered by tech firms or software companies. These schemes typically involve rotational placements across different departments, offering exposure to various facets of software development.

Explore opportunities for these programs on job platforms and social media, where organizations frequently advertise their training initiatives.

3. Develop a Portfolio

After completing your training program or apprenticeship, focus on building a robust portfolio showcasing your software development projects. Create applications and software programs that highlight your coding abilities and problem-solving skills. Include projects completed during your apprenticeship or trainee role to demonstrate practical experience. Continuously update and refine your portfolio as you gain more skills and undertake new projects.

4. Obtain Certifications

Before entering the job market, consider obtaining certifications in software development and programming. While not mandatory, certifications enhance your credibility and competitiveness. Examples include CompTIA IT Fundamentals, Puppet Labs Puppet Developer, and C Certified Professional Programmer. Additionally, certifications in data management, data security, and cloud computing can further bolster your qualifications.

5. Start Applying for Positions

With your qualifications and portfolio in hand, commence your job search. Explore software developer openings on online job boards, social media platforms, and through recruitment agencies. Directly apply to positions listed on company websites, ensuring to submit your portfolio alongside your application. If you prefer flexibility, consider freelance opportunities and remote positions available online.

Tips for getting into software development

Here are practical tips to help you launch a successful career in software development:

Learn a Programming Language

While you can explore multiple programming languages, focus on mastering at least one to develop proficiency. Starting with Python, a widely-used and beginner-friendly language, allows for easier transition to more advanced languages as you progress.

Choose a Specialization

Software development encompasses diverse fields like system software, programming software, and application software. Identify a niche aligned with your interests and career aspirations. For instance, if you’re passionate about social network apps, specialize in application software development; if gaming excites you, consider pursuing a career in gaming software development.

Define Your Career Goals

Consider the wide array of industries offering software development roles, from finance and software publishing to insurance and computer system design. Decide where you envision yourself working—be it in a traditional office, as a freelancer, or in specialized sectors like manufacturing or healthcare.

Practice Regularly

Consistent practice is key to refining your coding and programming skills. Dedicate time to working with programming languages and building software applications. Engage in guided online projects to enhance your skills and add valuable pieces to your software development portfolio. Projects could include creating a chess game, developing a calculator, designing a basic HTML5 website, or crafting a weight conversion tool.

Enhance Your Technical Skills

Beyond programming languages, proficiency in tools like SQL, Git, Mercurial SCM, and IDEs is crucial. Invest in developing and advancing these technical skills to broaden your job prospects and excel in your field.

Develop Non-Technical Skills

While technical expertise is essential, don’t overlook the importance of non-technical skills. These include problem-solving, communication, creativity, time-management, and organizational skills—critical for collaborating with teams and addressing client needs effectively. Seek mentorship, observe peers, and actively participate in teamwork to strengthen these skills.

Utilize Online Resources

Take advantage of the wealth of free resources available online to expand your coding knowledge and stay updated on industry trends. Explore tutorials, forums, and courses to supplement your learning and keep pace with technological advancements.

Stay Positive and Persevere

Embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. Starting out, you’ll encounter challenges—it’s part of the journey toward becoming a proficient software developer. Stay positive, stay motivated, and remain focused on your goal to excel in this dynamic field.