Learn How to Make Apps: 7 FAQs About Becoming a Mobile Applications Developer
Are you eager for a low-stress technology career that provides a real sense of personal satisfaction? You may not have to look any farther than this thriving field. In fact, according to at least one prominent list, mobile app developer ranks as the number one best job in America.1
Of course, before you can start benefitting from all of that potential, you first need to understand how to become a mobile app developer. Find the answers you need by exploring the frequently asked questions below. In addition to training requirements, you'll discover more about what mobile app developers do, how much money they earn, and why their job prospects look so bright.
1. Do I Need to Attend a Mobile App Development School?
Most working professionals in this field would probably recommend getting an education in computer science or completing some type of formal software development or mobile application development training. That way, you get the opportunity to learn how to think and solve problems like a smart developer while understanding the logic behind why things work the way they do. A formal education can also give you greater access to built-in support and mentorship, which can be very important when learning the many concepts and practicalities of how to make apps for Android, iOS, or other types of devices.
That said, you don't necessarily need to earn a computer science or mobile app development degree. Some people successfully learn to make apps through various combinations of online courses, coding boot camps, self-taught projects, and trial and error. However, in general, going to an app developer school tends to be the most reliable way to gain the foundational skills and understanding you'll need.
Keep in mind that many employers will only consider hiring mobile app developers who have formal training. Without a degree, your job prospects may be a little more limited. And you'll need to place extra focus on putting together a strong portfolio of real projects you've developed.
2. Should I Learn How to Make iPhone Apps or Android Apps?
There really isn't a right or wrong answer to this question. Plus, there's no rule about making apps for just one platform. It's true that, while you learn app development, you may, at first, only focus on one platform. But as you get more comfortable with the process and start learning new programming languages, you may start developing apps for multiple platforms.
When it comes to mobile app development training, many degree programs feature coursework that's relevant to making iPhone apps as well as making apps for Android. They also tend to include courses in web development that are useful for making non-native apps that work across all platforms.
Even so, part of becoming an app developer is deciding where to focus your efforts. Nobody masters everything all at once. And you may decide that you want to specialize in one platform versus another based on factors like its popularity or your comfort level with its programming languages and development environments.
According to a global survey of mobile app developers in 2015, Android was the most popular platform for app development. In fact, about 86 percent of developers said they were involved in making Android apps. Apple's iOS was the second most popular platform with 57 percent of developers saying they make apps for iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. Only about 21 percent of developers said they make apps for Windows Phone or Windows Mobile.2
One of the main reasons for Android's popularity—especially among entry-level developers—is the fact that it's available on a wide range of devices from different manufacturers, which can make it easier to access inexpensive devices for testing. Plus, getting a finished app onto Google Play tends to be easier than getting one into Apple's App Store.
3. What Programming Languages Do I Need to Know?
Most of today's mobile apps are developed with object-oriented programming languages. The specific languages that are used generally depend on the platforms that apps are being developed for as well as on the strengths of particular developers and the needs and goals of particular projects. According to the same survey of app developers mentioned above, the most popular programming languages include:2
Swift, which was introduced by Apple in 2014 and made open source in 2015, is considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn. Many developers also praise Swift for enabling them to write simpler code that's more reliable.
In addition to programming languages like those listed above, a lot of app developers benefit from knowing languages used for database management (such as SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language). They also sometimes use server-side scripting languages like PHP or web application frameworks like ASP.NET.
4. What Does a Mobile App Developer Job Description Typically Include?
Every mobile app development job is a little different, but professionals in this field often perform similar kinds of duties. For example, depending on his or her particular role, a mobile app developer may:
- Research and analyze the needs and wants of a potential app's users
- Research the design and functionality of competing apps
- Create functional wireframes, models, and diagrams to plan how various components will fit together
- Write code within an integrated development environment (IDE)
- Collaborate with user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers on front-end development
- Find smart ways for an app to take advantage of a mobile device's special features and functions when appropriate
- Set up back-end servers, databases, scripts, and security add-ons
- Create detailed documentation for all aspects of an app
- Test new apps in emulators as well as on real mobile devices
- Revise or update an app's code as necessary
- Stay up to date on the latest trends in mobile technology and development tools
5. What Are the Most Popular Types of Mobile Apps to Develop?
One of the greatest things about having a career in this field is the sheer variety of mobile apps that can be imagined and developed. When people say, "There's an app for that," they're usually right. Mobile technology now touches almost every aspect of our lives. Take a look at the categories that global app developers said were their highest priorities in 2015:2
- Education and reference
- Food, drink, and lifestyle
- Social networking and communications
- Productivity and business tools
- Music and video
- Health and fitness
- Maps, navigation, and location-based services
More than 40 percent of app developers ranked the creation of games as a major priority—the highest percentage of all categories.2 So if you like the thought of making fun and memorable games, then this field offers many opportunities to do exactly that.
6. What Is the Average Mobile App Developer Salary?
In 2016, the average salary of an applications software developer in America was $104,300. The highest-earning app developers made more than $157,590. The top-paying states for this occupation included Washington, California, Alaska, New York, and the District of Columbia.3
7. Does the Future Look Bright for Mobile App Developers?
The short and simple answer is yes. Right now is a great time to become an app developer. In fact, 299,500 new jobs are expected to become available for applications software developers in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. That represents growth of about 24 percent.4
So good developers should continue to be in high demand, especially for the development of mobile apps. Just look at some of the amazing numbers behind this demand:
- As of mid-2016, close to 65 billion apps had been downloaded from Google Play, and about 130 billion apps had been downloaded from Apple's App Store globally.5
- About 90 percent of large American and European companies with more than 2,500 employees have reported having mobile app strategies that are at least partially implemented.6
- Between 2016 and 2022, the monthly mobile data traffic of North American smartphones is expected to grow from 5.1 GB per device to 25 GB per device—a five-fold increase.7
As mobile technology continues to spread, advance, and evolve, it's likely that more and more employers and clients will need qualified app developers. Trends such as the Internet of Things and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could make mobile app developers even more important and valuable in the coming years.
Get Your Own Future Underway
These days, it's easy to find an app development course or degree program that can help you become a mobile app developer. So why not get started? Enter your zip code into the convenient search tool below to find a nearby school right now!
1 CNN Money, "100 Best Jobs in America ," website last visited on March 20, 2017.
2 InMobi, State of Mobile App Developers 2016, website last visited on March 20, 2017.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on September 11, 2017.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on December 14, 2017.
5 Statista, "Facts and statistics on App Developers," website last visited on March 20, 2017.
6 Solutions Review, "A Collection of Mobile Application Development Statistics: Growth, Usage, Revenue and Adoption," website last visited on August 29, 2017.
7 Ericsson, Ericsson Mobility Report on the Pulse of the Networked Society, website last visited on March 20, 2017.