Software Application Development

Merge creative and technical talents to bring new software innovations to the world.

What is Software Application Development?

Software application developers are the inventive minds behind the apps that keep us scrolling, clicking and swiping all day long. From Angry Birds to OK Cupid, online shopping to accounting programs, developers help to shape our everyday lives.

The job itself encompasses everything from brainstorming a new product to programming, coding, building and testing it. Software developers create models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that guide the creative process from start to finish. But they don’t just design new apps. They also maintain and improve existing code to keep programs in tip-top shape.

Who Should Get a Software Application Development Degree

Software development calls for creativity and a passion for technology. Contrary to stereotype, most developers don’t stare at screens in isolation all day long. Intensely collaborative, their work demands solid communication skills and a strong service ethic, as well as commitment to the final product.

To land a job in this high-growth field, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in development or computer science. If you’re not quite ready to commit to a bachelor’s degree, start with a certificate program to test the waters. If you need a degree to advance your existing software career, an online option may be the perfect answer.

Traits & Aptitudes

If you can dig into details while keeping the big picture in mind, software application development might be for you. See the other must-have traits for success in the field.

Analytical

Evaluate and assess your customers’ needs and design the solutions that best meet them.

Creative

Devise new ideas and approaches. Create connections that solve problems.

Inductive Reasoning

Connect the dots as you synthesize seemingly unrelated bits of information.

Problem Solving

When difficulties arise, seek out new solutions to keep projects on track.

Communicative

Collaborate with project teams and work with others toward the win.

Curious

Be passionate about technology, from building new things to learning more languages.

Analytical

Evaluate and assess your customers’ needs and design the solutions that best meet them.

Creativity

Devise new ideas and approaches. Create connections that solve problems.

Inductive Reasoning

Connect the dots as you synthesize seemingly unrelated bits of information.

Problem Solving

When difficulties arise, seek out new solutions to keep projects on track.

Communicative

Collaborate with project teams and work with others toward the win.

Curious

Be passionate about technology, from building new things to learning more languages.

Degrees in Software Application Development

With software application development jobs in hot demand, colleges and universities are stepping up to supplement their traditional campus programs by offering online credentials.

From associate’s to master’s degrees, the software application development degree is one of the most practical and popular options in virtual learning. Some programs allow students to combine certificate programs with undergraduate work, speeding their time to earn work-ready credentials. Other courses are aimed at IT professionals who need to complete a degree to power up their careers.

Online Degrees in Software Application Development

Do online software application development degrees carry the same weight as their traditional counterparts? They do—but only if you choose an accredited program. To earn accreditation, a program must undergo evaluation by an outside agency. If the school meets standards for rigor and quality, it receives the accreditor’s stamp of approval.

There are a few types of accreditation. Regional sets the gold standard for all U.S. colleges and universities. For online degrees, these two accrediting agencies are the best known: the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology. Only students enrolled in accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid.

How It Works

Most students adapt swiftly to the online learning environment. But, before you enroll in a program in software application development, ask to test drive the school’s course delivery system. Is it intuitive and easy to use? Does it offer a forum page where you can interact with the instructor and other students? What support does the school provide in case of a disruption in service?

Once the course begins, you’ll log in to listen to lectures (either at a set time, or within an instructor-specified window or time). You’ll also participate in hands-on labs, download materials and interact with the instructor and other students. Expect to team up with fellow students to complete projects—which could include devising a new software program.

If you’re concerned about lack of contact with the course professor, don’t be. Many online instructors schedule virtual office hours in which you can ask questions, get feedback and evaluate your progress in the class.

Benefits

The online option is ideal for adults who are already juggling work, family and other commitments. You can fit school around your existing schedule, rather than vice versa.

An online credential in software application development matches its brick-and-mortar counterpart on all fronts: content, quality and rigor. The coursework for both styles of learning is identical, and the same faculty often teach in both formats. The online assignments are equally tough as in the traditional setting—and possibly even more difficult to complete, considering the absence of face-to-face peer pressure.

But what do employers think about online degrees? The technology industry pioneered remote work setups; potential employers are likely to be 100% comfortable with online credentials. They’re primarily concerned about your mastery of the material and the quality of the school—not the delivery method. By earning your degree online, you’ve already demonstrated your competence in virtual work environments and on-screen collaboration.

The online option is ideal for adults who are already juggling work, family and other commitments. You can fit school around your existing schedule, rather than vice versa.

An online credential in software application development matches its brick-and-mortar counterpart on all fronts: content, quality and rigor. The coursework for both styles of learning is identical, and the same faculty often teach in both formats. The online assignments are equally tough as in the traditional setting—and possibly even more difficult to complete, considering the absence of face-to-face peer pressure.

But what do employers think about online degrees? The technology industry pioneered remote work setups; potential employers are likely to be 100% comfortable with online credentials. They’re primarily concerned about your mastery of the material and the quality of the school—not the delivery method. By earning your degree online, you’ve already demonstrated your competence in virtual work environments and on-screen collaboration.

Why Get a Degree in Software Application Development?

Potential Career Paths

U.S. News and World Report ranks software application development as the No. 3 best job in the country for 2015. Demand for developers is high, and they find work in industries that range from computer systems design to electronics manufacturing, finance, insurance and software publishing.

Because the work requires a strong grasp of computer programming, some software developers begin their careers in that role. Others break into the field by completing internships at software companies while enrolled in college.

Job Outlook

Software application development is a hot job right now. But will the trend continue? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook says yes: It predicts annual demand for software developers to grow at a 17 percent rate through 2024.

Salary

Software application developers are well compensated for their skills and talents. The median annual pay for the profession is $97,990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Lifelong Learning

Because technology moves so quickly, software application developers are continually challenged to keep their skills fresh. Between learning new programming languages and earning industry certification, you’ll never be bored in this role.

“Write code. Early and often,” advises Sam Schillace, the senior vice president of engineering at Box. In an interview with U.S. News & Report, he goes on to say, “Good engineers are curious and want to learn how to build new things and are also constantly trying to find new and interesting things they haven’t built yet.”

Educational Paths

Certificates

Sharpen your skills with a credential that sets you up for a bigger role or moves your closer to the software application development job you want.

Program Length

Designed with working professionals in mind, certificates can typically be completed in less than a year.

What You’ll Study

From Python to Visual Basic, C++ to Objective-C, there’s always something new to learn. A certificate can open the door to interesting new assignments in your current job, or help you move deeper into the bold new world of mobile development.

With access to cutting-edge development tools and operating systems, certificates answer the question, “What’s next?” Often doable in less than a year, they equip learners with specific new skills (JavaScript or other programming languages, for example) and can build toward a bachelor’s degree or industry certification. Depending on the certificate, you could prepare for industry certifications such as the C Certified Professional Programmer, Microsoft C# and Visual Basic, Oracle Certified Professional JAVA SE Associate and Professional Programmer, and more.

Remember that employers generally prefer a developer with a college degree. Before you enroll, ask the school if its certificates quality for credit toward a bachelor’s.

Associate’s

The Associate of Science credential provides a solid foundation in science, math and programming languages, and can pave the way to rewarding work in the tech industry.

Program Length

Expect to spend two years earning your associate’s degree in computer programming or software application development.

What You’ll Study

Although many employers prefer to see a higher degree on your resume, the associate’s credential can definitely open the door to entry-level work as a software application developer.

An associate’s degree in software application development or computer programming blends scientific fundamentals with hands-on experience in several coding languages. The coursework also develops crucial skills such as critical thinking, business communications and leadership. Courses generally include chemistry, calculus, programming and app development.

Bachelor’s

Undergraduate degree programs are shaping the future of technology by blending hands-on learning labs with critical thinking and professional skills.

Program Length

Expect to spend four years earning your bachelor’s degree. Have you already completed science, mathematics and/or engineering credits? If they transfer to your software development program, your time to earn a diploma may be significantly shorter.

What You’ll Study

In this project-oriented degree program, you’ll learn how to design, develop and implement software applications for markets such as entertainment, banking, business and more. From R&D to QA and testing, you’ll get hands-on experience in this cutting-edge field. Students generally work in team to create real applications that you can showcase to potential employers.

Look for programs that offer the latest development tools, operating systems, server software, documentation and technical references.

Specific courses in a bachelor’s program might include database design, web application development, mobile app development and UNIX networking.

Master’s

Drive new software innovations and get an edge in the technology industry as you work alongside industry pros from a stimulating range of companies and disciplines.

Program Length

Expect to spend two to two and a half years to earn your master’s degree. If you need to work while you attend school you may be looking at three years or more.

What You’ll Study

An M.S. in software application development (or engineering) can fast-forward your career into management and architectural positions that might otherwise be out of your reach. Armed with new skills, you’ll be ready to step up to leadership roles in designing and developing increasingly complex software products and systems.

Highly collaborative, master’s programs in software engineering challenge you to expand your skills and implement complex new technologies. Most students are working professionals who are balancing work, family and part-time studies.

Core coursework for an M.S. in software application development might include software systems architecture, software testing and web security and privacy.

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