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Software Development Schools

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Summary

Software development training can set you up to enter one of the fastest-growing areas within the tech industry. You'll have the opportunity to sharpen your creative and analytical abilities while learning how to design, create, test, and evaluate different types of software. And with median salaries in the six figures and projected job growth in the double digits, there are plenty of reasons to consider training in this field.

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Career Snapshot

Median Salary
Software Developers

Career Outlook
21% growth from 2018-2028

Job Openings
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings

Specializations

Front-end developer, back-end developer, full-stack developer, embedded developer, mobile application developer, game developer, IT analyst, software architect

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Keiser University

  • Melbourne, Florida
  • Pembroke Pines, Florida
  • Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Software Engineering

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South Hills School of Business & Technology

  • State College, Pennsylvania
  • Software Development and Programming

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Edge Tech Academy

  • Arlington, Texas
  • Web and App Development

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Independence University

  • Online
  • Software and Mobile Applications Development

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Bryan University

  • Online
  • Advanced Full Stack Web Development
  • Full Stack Web Development

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Saint Leo University

  • Online
  • Software Engineering

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Rasmussen College


Not available to residents of some states.
  • Online
  • Computer Science
  • Software Application Development

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Platt College

  • Anaheim, California
  • Ontario, California
  • Web Development Programming

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Baker College

  • Allen Park
  • Auburn Hills
  • Clinton Township
  • Flint
  • Jackson
  • Muskegon
  • Owosso
  • Online
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Science - Database Technology
  • Game Software Development

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ECPI University

  • Raleigh
  • Charleston
  • Columbia
  • Manassas (Northern VA)
  • Newport News
  • Richmond
  • Virginia Beach
  • Not available to residents of California.
  • Mobile Development
  • Software Development

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Full Sail University

  • Winter Park, Florida
  • Online
  • Mobile Development

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Career Information

Software engineers and developers harness the power of technology to solve business problems, streamline processes, or make people's lives easier or more entertaining. Some focus on software applications (i.e., the programs that people use) while others concentrate on software systems (i.e., the code that tells the hardware what to do). Both paths offer a wealth of rewarding opportunities.

Earnings

The median annual salary for software developers is $107,510, according to the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. The top 10 percent of earners make $164,590 or more.

Job Openings & Outlook

A report from CompTIA found that software and web developer jobs were growing faster than any other category within the tech sector. And according to the OOH, employment of software developers is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2018 and 2028. That's over four times faster than the projected growth rate for all occupations overall.

Specifically, the OOH notes that applications developers should see job growth of 26 percent while systems developers can expect a 10-percent increase.

The numbers suggest there is a shortage of software engineers and developers. One report found that across the U.S., over 200,000 software developer positions were vacant because companies could not find enough qualified candidates.

Employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that an average of 134,600 software development jobs will open up each year between 2018 and 2028. Close to three-quarters of those openings will be for applications developers.

Key Benefits

  1. Potential for high pay: At least half of all software developers earn six-figure salaries, according to OES program estimates.
  2. Opportunities to be creative and solve problems: It can be very satisfying to use technology in innovative ways that help organizations and end users achieve their goals.
  3. The excitement of always learning something new: Keeping up with technological advances and innovations can be incredibly engaging.

What a Software Developer Does

Young man smiling while using a computer at a desk in an office with large windowsThere are two main types of software developers.

Applications developers create the programs that users interact with to carry out a specific task. Examples include word processors, web browsers, image-editing programs, mobile apps, and video games.

Systems developers design the systems and utilities that keep computer hardware running. This type of software works in the background and provides the platform upon which software applications are built. Examples include device drivers, compilers, debuggers, and operating systems like Windows 10 or Apple iOS.

The actual job duties are much the same in both cases. Software developers typically:

  • Gather user, performance, and security requirements
  • Analyze requirements to plan software specifications
  • Write, test, and validate code (or assign those tasks to computer programmers)
  • Modify software to fix bugs, improve performance, or integrate with new hardware
  • Document their activities to make future upgrades or maintenance easier

Work Settings

Around one-third of applications software developers work for computer design companies, according to the OOH. Many are also employed in the finance, insurance, manufacturing, and software publishing industries.

The OOH also says that half of all systems software developers work in computer systems design or manufacturing. Large numbers also work in finance and insurance, software publishing, and engineering services.

Software engineers and developers frequently work in offices but may also work from home.

Specializations

The software development field offers many potential specializations. Here are a few examples:

Front-end developer: Sometimes known as client-side developers, these are the people who design the user interface of a web or mobile application. They make sure that the app appears the way it should in different browsers, operating systems, and devices.

Back-end developer: Also known as server-side developers, these professionals are responsible for what happens behind the scenes whenever a user performs an action on an application. They develop the logic that allows the application to communicate with a server and a database.

Full-stack developer: Work on both the client and server side of an application.

Embedded developer: Create software for things that are not traditionally thought of as computers, such as medical devices, gaming controllers, smartwatches, and self-driving cars.

Mobile application developer: Design and build apps to run on devices like tablets and smartphones.

Game developer: Write the code that powers the features and functionality of video games.

IT analyst: Also known as computer systems analysts, these specialists design customized software solutions to help organizations operate more efficiently or effectively.

Software architect: Design the overall structure of a software project and enforce standards related to coding and compliance.

Career FAQs

What's the difference between a software developer and a software engineer?

Man using an open laptop at a desk with a large computer monitor as three people stand looking at a digital tablet behind himThere is no universally accepted distinction between these two roles. Some industry experts say that software engineers use engineering principles to manage the development process while software developers come up with the conceptual design and build the actual product. In that scenario, engineers would be like the architects and developers would be like the contractors.

In reality, the two titles are used fairly interchangeably. A senior-level developer essentially functions as an engineer, meaning that he or she uses scientific methods to come up with solutions to practical problems.

Keep in mind that software creation is not a regulated field. Unlike civil engineers or electrical engineers, software engineers do not require any special licensing. So, in many cases, it's really just a matter of word choice.

Is it hard to become a software developer?

For those with the drive to continually learn new technologies and explore new solutions, it's not too difficult. Formal training is generally the best way to get started, but plenty of developers have forged successful careers through self-study and determination.

It's important to have an analytical mindset, good problem-solving skills, and an openness to new ideas. You might also want to try:

  • Learning a programming language (or two). You can do this through software engineering programs, coding bootcamps, or even free online courses. There are also plenty of online tutorials that can help you master the basics.
  • Finding a mentor. Getting guidance from someone who is already established in the field can be a huge help.
  • Experimenting with your own projects. Playing around with different tools and techniques is one of the best ways to expand your skills. Plus, you can develop a portfolio of work to show potential employers.

Is software development a good career?

In a word: yes. The software development field offers a nearly unbeatable combination of challenging work, high earnings, and huge demand. Another advantage is flexibility: Developers can work on-staff for companies of any size or become self-employed contractors or consultants. And many work remotely at least some of the time.

This is a career that allows you to transform ideas into innovative products. Getting paid to use cutting-edge technology to solve problems is hugely appealing for many people.



Education & Training

Software engineer degree programs are designed to provide aspiring developers with a wide range of technical and problem-solving skills. They can help dedicated learners like you prepare for a career in this ever-changing field.

Length of Training

It generally takes about four years to become a software engineer or developer if you pursue a bachelor's degree (i.e., the most common route). However, two-year associate degree programs are also available.*

Most Common Length of School*
(range in months)

  • Web development
    24
  • Computer programming
    24-48
  • Software engineering
    48
  • Computer science
    48

Program Options

Universities, colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools offer a range of software engineering degree programs. Programs in software development also exist, but they are not as common.

Plus, at many institutions, computer science or information technology programs feature software development or software engineering as a specialization. So be sure to research your options.

Associate degree programs are generally two years long.* They include introductory courses in areas like programming, discrete mathematics, web design, computer security, and database management. Such programs can qualify you for entry-level positions in software design or testing. Plus, you may be able to transfer your credits into a bachelor's degree program if you wish to upgrade your education later.

Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete.* They include more major-specific courses in topics like computer architecture, calculus, and advanced programming. An O*NET OnLine survey revealed that 80 percent of application software developers said a bachelor's degree was required.

Master's degree programs usually take an additional two years beyond a bachelor's degree.* They tend to provide advanced coursework in areas like project management and leadership. Some employers prefer to hire developers with this level of education.

Typical Courses

Software engineering or development programs typically cover subjects like:

Skills You Can Learn

Software development training can help you develop skills in:

  • Analyzing user needs
  • Designing software systems or applications
  • Managing relational database systems
  • Programming in a variety of languages, such as Java, C++, or Python
  • Working with different frameworks and platforms
  • Testing and debugging software
  • Managing a software development project

Tools & Technology

Software developers work with a vast array of tools. Here are some of the most popular in different categories, according to a Stack Overflow survey of professional developers:

Programming, markup, and scripting languages

  • JavaScript
  • HTML and CSS
  • SQL
  • Python
  • Java

Database tools

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • SQLite
  • MongoDB

Web frameworks

  • jQuery
  • Angular or Angular.js
  • React.js
  • ASP.NET
  • Express

Platforms

  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Docker
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Android

Certification

Many software development certifications are available, but they are not required in order to work in the field.

Vendor-specific certifications are designed to demonstrate developers' expertise in a particular vendor's products or tools. Such certifications are available from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google.

Vendor-neutral certifications are broadly applicable across a range of different companies' tools. They can be done through industry organizations like IEEE and CompTIA.

Some employers look favorably on candidates who have achieved relevant certifications. Others place little value on certifications, emphasizing practical experience above all else. It's a good idea to read through job postings from the companies you're interested in working for to determine whether certification would benefit you, and if so, which particular credential would benefit you the most.

Education & Training FAQs

What is the best degree for software engineers or developers?

The best choice is a bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science. Both programs cover the fundamentals of programming and are designed to help students hone their problem-solving abilities. However, there are some differences.

Computer science programs are concerned with understanding how computers work. They emphasize applied mathematics and the theory of computing. Students learn how data is stored and processed and receive training in areas like creating software and working with databases.

Software engineering programs focus on designing and building software systems and programs. They are more narrowly focused than computer science programs and usually involve more coursework related to programming languages and product design.

So which is better: software engineering or computer science? That depends on your goals (and on the specifics of each program, since every institution does things a little differently).

Generally, if you want a broader understanding of computing technology and a degree that's applicable to a wide range of occupations, computer science might be the way to go. If you're more interested in focusing on development, testing, and project management, then software engineering might be a better choice.

Can I be a software engineer with an IT degree?

Yes. Any computer-related degree program will give you valuable skills that can be applied to software development. In particular, if you have expertise or experience in analyzing requirements, writing code, or testing software, you can likely find opportunities as a software engineer or developer.

In fact, you can be a software engineer with a degree in virtually any field, or even without a degree at all. In this industry, it's what you can do that matters, not what educational credentials you hold.

Does software engineering require math?

Most software engineering programs include required courses in topics like linear algebra, discrete mathematics, probability, statistics, and calculus. So you will need to complete those in order to get your degree.

However, depending on your area of focus, you don't necessarily have to be great at math to work as a software engineer. You do have to be able to use logical reasoning. And certain specialties are more math-intensive than others, such as game development, robotics, machine learning, and graphics.


* Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant program lengths from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.