Chances are you’ve used a mobile application today. From checking the score or the weather, answering a text or glancing at your socials, or turning in an assignment or monitoring your investments, apps are more relevant than ever.
As you might imagine, for developers, the mobile application market has proved to be an extremely lucrative opportunity. From sole entrepreneurs with breakthrough products to larger, more traditional studios, there are endless opportunities for those looking to become an expert in creating their very own apps for iOS or Android.
The somewhat overwhelming amount of options might leave you wondering how you can best get on track to land this type of job within the technology industry. We’ve broken down the top five steps you can take to become an app developer and compiled information on salary, education requirements, career paths and more.
Here are five concrete steps you can take to become an app developer:
Read on to learn everything you need to know about this phenomenally growing and fulfilling career path!
An app developer is responsible for writing software for mobile devices. What makes the role unique in the development space, is that the developer typically gets to start from scratch, working on a project from the ground up in a relatively small window of time. The developer can take responsibility for an app throughout its full lifecycle, writing code in the initial stages to prepare for launch, responding to any bugs or user inquiries upon release, and updating as needed on a continuous basis.
Within the space, there are two main marketplaces for mobile apps: Apple’s iOS for iPhones and iPads and Google’s Android OS for Android devices. Each platform requires developers to master a different set of skills and languages. As we’ll discuss in this article, many developers choose to specialize in one or the other, although becoming an expert in both is possible and might make you a more competitive candidate.
Similar to those working in web development and front and back-end development, app developers bring in hard and soft skills to oversee the creation process. They must work alongside other professionals in design, marketing and customer experience to bring a product to market that aligns with a company’s goals. Some of the skills an app developer needs include:
Traditionally, app developers obtain an educational background by completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer science, but considering the time and financial investment, this is far from the only option. An associate’s degree in a computer science topic is often more than enough training to get started within the industry. As we mentioned above, bootcamp programs in coding are one of the most popular choices for those looking to skill up quickly and learn job critical skills at their own pace. These programs are valued by recruiters for their emphasis on practical skills, oftentimes focused especially on app coding problems you’ll encounter on the job.
The answer to this question will ultimately depend on YOU! It’s absolutely possible to complete a six-month bootcamp program and graduate directly into a position in the industry. Others might find it easier to master the fundamentals and move at a pace more akin to what a degree program offers. Ultimately, there is no one “correct” path. Fortunately, the career journey of a mobile app developer provides ample opportunities for professional development and advancing from Junior Developer to manager, and maybe even all the way up to CTO.
1. Choose your Learning Path – Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science is an excellent way to become an app developer, but it is not the only educational opportunity out there! More and more people are learning to code via skills-based bootcamps. These programs typically take 3-9 months to complete and focus on job-critical skills needed to launch a tech career, and provide students with a portfolio of real-world projects. Some even offer career services, like resume review or mock interviews. You can also seek out a specific mobile app development certification from companies like Google or Microsoft, if you’re looking to strengthen your experience in the space. Finally, self-starters might want to consider diving into free coding resources available online; you might be surprised how easy it is to set off on this career path all on your own!
2. Pick a Platform – Although other platforms exist, iOS and Android dominate the mobile app market. Most developers choose to specialize in one or the other, as they require different knowledge bases. iOS development is primary done in Objective-C or Swift programming language, making this path a good choice for those with C# or C++ experience. If you prefer to work in Java, Android is the road for you. Other factors to keep in mind are location (Android has a larger global market share if you intend on creating products outside the U.S.) and ability to monetize (in-app purchases are more common on the iOS side). Some expert programmers are able to work within both ecosystems, but this is certainly not a requirement for the role! This might be a career goal you consider later down the line of your professional journey.
3. Brush up on Technical Skills – It’s essential that you possess a high level of technical capabilities to work in a mobile app environment. Outside of core coding requirements, app developers should also be familiar with UX/UI design principles and the tenants of cybersecurity and data protection, so they’re able to respond to any issues that come up in the development process. Based on your area of specialty, you’ll need to know:
4. Develop a Portfolio – For many technical roles, including app developer, recruiters will want to examine a portfolio prior to even reaching the interview stage. This takes the form of a website that highlights your past work and educational experience, personal information and a handful of excellent examples of work you’ve completed. When creating your portfolio, you’ll want to include past projects that align with the jobs you’re applying for, so in this case, getting experience working in the mobile space is vital! If this seems like a large undertaking, don’t worry! We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with step-by-step instructions on creating the perfect portfolio.
5. Build Your Industry Connections – It can be challenging to break into the tech industry without prior experience, but there are steps you can take to kickstart a successful career. Start by keeping up with industry publications and trends and see how other developers are solving coding problems and remaining ahead of the curve. You might consider participating in hack-a-thons or other industry events (online or in-person) to hone your skills and connect with others in the space. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or advice via LinkedIn or through more experienced developer’s portfolio sites. If you commit to continually learning mindset, you never know where that next job opportunity might come from!
The job outlook for app developers is truly excellent as demand continues to skyrocket. Businesses of all types- from restaurants, to banks, to CPG- are accelerating their mobile presence, providing developers with more opportunities than ever. In fact, the mobile app developer position has a projected growth rate of 19 percent and was named one of the best jobs in America, by CNN Money. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics also reports a higher than average expected growth for the profession over the next decade, highlighting the health and medical insurance and consumer electronics fields as two industries that will increase their hiring.
App developers are presented with a high degree of flexibility when it comes to workplace environments. Large firms exist, where developers can work alongside a team to ship out products on a regular basis (think mobile gaming). Or, they can find employment with a large firm like Facebook or Amazon, and work on updates for products that have been evolving for nearly a decade now. If a huge firm isn’t your scene, many developers work freelance, developing apps for small business clients solo on an as-needed basis.
In terms of career paths, mobile developers typically start as a junior developer, writing simple scripts under the guidance of senior leadership. From there, they can work their way up the ladder to ultimately become a team lead or even a Technical Director, overseeing a suite of products. Alternatively, developers can choose to specialize on a specific aspect of the role. These might include positions like Software QA, Mobile Games Developer or Systems Software Developer
Using data from Indeed.com, we’ve compiled the average salary of an app developer for top cities across the U.S. As you can see, these in-demand and highly skilled positions can command competitive salaries in the six figure range. Many organizations provide additional on the job perks and benefits packages.
|Average App Developer Salary (as of September 2021)
|New York City
|New York City