Careers in tech are in the spotlight on today's job market, and software development might be getting the most hype of all. Find out the truth about the types of jobs available to graduates of campus-based and online computer software engineering schools.

Software Developer

Software plays a significant role in shaping the day to day experiences we have in the modern world, and, in turn, software developers shape the software we use. If you're looking for a career that can allow you to make a difference in the way the world works, on-campus and online computer software engineering schools can prepare you to join the designers and developers on the cutting edge.

Here's a quick list of typical responsibilities that software developers are likely to encounter on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Developing and testing software designed to meet the needs of prospective users
  • Planning data architecture schemes and lifecycle project management agendas
  • Communicating design details to teams of computer programmers and other engineers
  • Extensively documenting the aspects of a particular software to create reference materials

Software development jobs are split into two major categories: applications software and systems software. Applications developers design software intended for end users, using common languages like JavaScript, C++ and PHP, while developers working with systems may be responsible for overseeing network compatibility and data security. Individuals best suited for a career as a software developer have good problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team, and ideally a degree in IT.

Also, check out online schools in software engineering, if you're interested.

What's the average software developer salary?

The BLS reports a mean annual salary of $102,160 for applications software developers and $108,760 for those working on systems software in 2015. Each of those average figures checks in at more than double the year's overall national mean annual salary of $48,320.

Software developer salary expectations can vary based on several factors, including the state where a job is located and the industry in which an individual developer is employed. Here are a pair of tables that use BLS data to show a range of software developer salary figures and employment totals across a few select states:

Systems software
State Mean annual systems software developer salary, 2015 Total active systems software engineering jobs, 2015
California $126,560 82,370
Maryland $118,950 15,430
Colorado $110,000 12,910
Illinois $104,860 10,290
New Mexico $98,980 1,620
Mississippi $83,300 840

State Mean annual applications software developer salary, 2015 Total active applications software engineering jobs, 2015
California $123,900 123,950
Washington $120,430 49,980
New York $110,530 46,470
North Carolina $96,680 22,950
Arizona $90,830 14,600
Wisconsin $83,680 11,110

Individual metropolitan areas sometimes offered software developers higher salary averages than their states at large. Systems software developers in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area in California — home to the fabled Silicon Valley — averaged $142,950 in 2015, about $16,000 more than the statewide figure, and applications developers in Honolulu, HI averaged $118,390, nearly $31,500 more than the reported statewide mean for their position in 2015.

What's the best way to prepare for a software development career?

Campus-based and online computer software engineering schools are developing ever more nuanced programs to meet the demands of an evolving technology marketplace, and most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, computer information systems or a similar discipline. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) shows that 92 percent of working applications developers and 94 percent of systems software engineers held at least a bachelor's degree in 2015.

Developers can also earn certifications that demonstrate elevated levels of experience, fluency in specific languages of code or expertise with common development paradigms. Here's a short list of some of the hottest certifications on the market in 2016, according to a survey of job board postings conducted by Purch Group, Inc.:

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)
  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
  • Google Apps
  • C/C++

Some advanced positions or roles that include project leadership may require a master's degree, usually in computer science, business or IT management. Doctoral study may be necessary for academic or independent research positions.

What's the job outlook for software developers?

Job opportunities for software developers overall are expected to increase 17 percent between 2014 and 2024, resulting in around 186,600 new positions. Positions for applications developers are projected to grow somewhat faster than those for their systems software counterparts, according to the BLS; growth expectations in each segment were 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Here are some more narrowly focused growth numbers for the software development job market, as reported by labor departments or economic data bureaus in individual states:

Systems software

  • Louisiana: 80.6 percent growth
  • Colorado: 38.1 percent growth
  • Utah: 35.6 percent growth
  • Virginia: 33.7 percent growth


  • Louisiana: 72.3 percent growth
  • Utah: 41.0 percent growth
  • Colorado: 38.4 percent growth
  • Washington, D.C.: 33.1 percent growth

Even though California doesn't register among the top states for growth, it's still projected to add approximately 37,000 new positions to its statewide market — the most total software development jobs of any state over the next several years.

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1. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed May 30, 2016: Software Developers, Applications, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151132.htm; Software Developers, Systems Software, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151133.htm; May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm;
2. Software Developers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed May 30, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Software-developers.htm
3. Occupational Information Network, accessed May 30, 2016: Software Developers, Systems Software, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1133.00; Software Developers, Applications, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1132.00;
4. Employment Trends by Occupation Across States, Career InfoNet, accessed May 30, 2016: Software Developers, Systems Software, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=151133&stfips=04&jobfam=15&menuMode=&order=Percent; Software Developers, Applications, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=151132&stfips=04&jobfam=15&menuMode=&order=Percent;
5 .Best Computer Programming Certifications for 2016, Tom's IT Pro, Purch Group, Inc., accessed May 30, 2016, http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/programming-certifications,2-274.html