Pros and Cons of Becoming an Applications Developer
Applications developers analyze consumer needs and use computer programming languages to create applications, utilities and software to meet those needs. Compare these pros and cons to decide if this is a career for you.
|Pros of an Applications Development Career|
|You may have the option to telecommute because many applications development activities can be performed remotely.*|
|Employment of applications developers was expected to grow 23% during the 2012-2022 decade.*|
|Most work occurs in comfortable offices or computer laboratories.*|
|Fairly high wages; the 2014 annual median salary was $95,510.*|
|Cons of a an Applications Development Career|
|Applications developers must keep up with the newest technologies through research, continuing education and tech seminars.*|
|Some employers require applications developers to have master's degrees in computer science or a related field.*|
|You might end up working overtime. More than a quarter worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012.*|
|Susceptibility to health conditions caused by prolonged computer use, such as carpel tunnel syndrome, eye strain and back pain.*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An applications developer is a type of software engineer who works on software applications and utilities. Demand for this type of programmer rises as more businesses demand unique applications and more consumers rely on applications for everything from entertainment to time management. The types of applications you might develop include games, word processors and databases. To perform job duties properly, you'll need to be fluent in several different computer programming languages.
Employment of applications developers was projected to grow much faster than average, at a rate of 23% over the 2012-2022 decade, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Your job prospects may be best if you keep your knowledge of programming languages and tools up to date.
According to the BLS, in 2014, the lowest 10% of salaried applications software developers made an annual salary of $56,310 or less, while the top 10% made $149,480 or more. The median annual salary was around $95,510.
Career Skills and Requirements
Applications developers must be able to program in a number of different computer programming languages, such as Java and C++. They also have to be able to use several kinds of applications development software. This is because every company uses different combinations of programming languages and development software. The type of applications you create will vary depending on your employer. For example, a financial company might want you to create applications to help clients manage their portfolios, while an entertainment company may ask you to develop a new way to digitally deliver media to customers.
In many cases, your employer will require you to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a similar subject, such as mathematics or engineering. A bachelor's degree program in computer science teaches students all about computer systems, including hardware, software, design methodology, algorithms and programming. In addition, these programs provide instruction in some of the programming languages and software development platforms necessary for work in applications development. Math courses are also typically part of the curriculum. Your program could also include a senior capstone project, as well as internship and work study opportunities. Some employers may prefer that you further your education and earn a master's degree.
What Do Employers Look for?
Employers want educated applications developers who are experienced in the software and languages the company uses to program. Here are summaries from a few March 2012 job postings on Monster.com:
- A Minnesota business talent recruiting agency advertised for an applications developer capable of using C# to design, develop, test and implement custom applications. The company required applicants to have four or more years experience in C# and XML.
- In Texas, an information technology (IT) and software development company was looking for a senior applications developer with five or more years experience using Java Enterprise and other middleware technologies. Applicants were required to hold a bachelor's degree and have leadership skills.
- A California health information services business needed an applications developer to create and then support applications that help manage medical databases.
- Another IT and software development company in Washington D.C. advertised for a developer to aid in the creation of applications to be used by the FBI. The employer asked for applicants with bachelor's degrees in computer science and the ability to pass Top Secret Clearance.
- A Florida IT and computer services company was looking for an applications developer able to work in a wide variety of languages with a number of different software and platforms. This list included Java, HTML, BEA Weblogic, Oracle databases and Linux platforms.
- A software development and IT company in Minnesota wanted an applications developer to build databases, manage cyber security and troubleshoot in Crystal Reports, SQL and MS Access.
How Can I Stand Out?
You should develop strong code writing and computer programming skills, which you can do by taking courses while in college. You can demonstrate your skills to potential employers by putting together a portfolio of applications you have contributed to or created yourself.
You may want to become certified in one or more programming languages and development platforms to demonstrate your abilities to employers. Certifications are offered by educational institutions, technology organizations and software manufacturers. You'll also want to keep up-to-date on the newest technological advances through research and by attending technology seminars. Some seminars also offer certificates.
Computer Support Specialist
If you're not interested in programming and would rather employ your people skills into your work with computers, you may consider becoming a computer support specialist. Computer support specialists provide advice to hardware and software customers in need of troubleshooting. Some employers require support specialists to hold a bachelor's degree, though some lower-level positions may not require a degree at all. While this career has an advantage over a career in applications development in that there are typically fewer education requirements, you're also likely to earn less if you pursue this path. In 2011, the annual median salary for computer support specialists was $48,000, according to the BLS.
Computer Systems Analyst
Becoming a computer systems analyst may be right for you if you are a stickler for efficiency and are also interested in business. Computer systems analysts access IT systems and databases to help organizations develop more efficient and effective IT. A bachelor's degree in computer science or business is typically required, and some employers prefer a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) on top of that. Again, a disadvantage of going into this career is that you're likely to earn less than you would as a applications developer. The BLS reported that computer systems analysts made a median annual salary of $79,000 in 2011. However, an advantage would be that if computer science is not your subject, you may be able to find work with a business degree.