Becoming a Computer Developer: Salary Info & Job Description

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Learn about a computer developer's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of this career to see if it's the right choice for you.
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The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Computer Developer

A computer developer works with a wide range of computer-related functions, including custom computer programming, computer system design, computer facility management, disaster recovery and software installation and maintenance. Learn more about this career as you read below.

Pros of Becoming a Computer Developer
Good pay relative to education requirements (median salary $95,510 to $102,880 in 2014)*
Rapid job growth expected (20%-23% from 2012-2022)*
Flexibility in terms of job location with potential for telecommuting*
Work with emerging technologies*

Cons of Becoming a Computer Developer
Long hours often necessary (nearly 25% of workers spent 40-plus hours weekly in 2010)*
Extended screen time and sitting can lead to eyestrain and back discomfort*
High potential for stress*
Must keep up to date with computer technology*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description

You'll have myriad responsibilities as a computer systems or computer applications developer. One major duty is recommending software upgrades for existing programs and systems used by an organization. In working with a variety of complex computer systems, a computer developer is also responsible for the security of the system by analyzing vulnerability, managing firewalls and protecting against unwanted intrusion and software viruses.

Computer systems and computer applications developers often work closely with computer programmers. You may also write code for software programs, although you'll often simply relay instructions to programmers. Every aspect of your work needs to be carefully documented so that it may be referenced during future maintenance and upgrades. You may also need to make flowcharts to direct programmers how to write code for any software application you create.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected robust job growth for a range of computer-related occupations. Overall employment of applications developers was projected to increase by 23% from 2012-2022, with employment of systems developers expected to grow by 20% during the same period. As for wages, the BLS reported median annual salaries of around $95,510 for software developers, applications and $102,800 for software developers, systems software, in May 2014.

Requirements

Education

Computer systems and computer applications developers usually hold bachelor's degrees in computer science, software engineering or a related field. Developers generally need a strong background in programming, even though writing code is rarely their first priority. Since your work as a computer developer may be set in a specific industry, you'll need knowledge and skills suited to that industry. For instance, if you're developing computer applications for a hospital, it'll be necessary to understand the needs of the medical staff. Add this required industry-specific knowledge to the wide range of technical aptitude you'll need, and you begin to see how demanding the work of a computer developer can be.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Although the basic requirements for working as a computer systems or computer applications developer are consistent for many positions, specific skills and attributes needed for some positions can be harder to anticipate. Some job postings open as of early April 2012 shed some light on the expectations held by employers:

  • A college in Connecticut sought a computer programmer/analyst to serve as a PeopleSoft/Oracle developer. The position involved analysis, design and development for the PeopleSoft application. A bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field was required, along with at least one year of technical application experience.
  • A large financial company in New York was looking for a computer analyst developer to lead software development projects. Support for a range of applications was also involved in the job. A bachelor's degree in computer science along with five years of experience was required, and candidates holding a master's degree also needed three years of experience.
  • A technology firm in Maryland sought a software developer/computer engineer to work in a laboratory environment. The position involved developing complex models to facilitate air and ground vehicle interactions. A bachelor's degree and five years of experience were required.

Standing Out in the Field

To set yourself apart from other candidates in a crowded job market, you might want to pursue an advanced degree in computer science or information technology. Those who hold master's degrees are often able to attain higher-level positions with less experience, and they may be better prepared for the many diverse tasks they will be asked to perform. Good written communication skills may also help you stand out, since computer and computer applications developers frequently need to transmit complex information in written reports.

Having experience with and a thorough knowledge of a range of software applications can also help you build your professional qualifications. Certifications from product vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco may be helpful, and gaining credentials in programming languages such as C++ and Java can also make you more attractive to employers. Strong customer service skills might also come in handy if you need to explain how software products can benefit users.

Alternative Career Options

Database Administrator

Perhaps you're not interested in developing programs, but would still like to work in the rapidly-growing field of computers. You might consider working as a database administrator (DBA). DBAs ensure that organizational databases function smoothly and efficiently while maintaining security. They must understand what users need in order to develop and administer the database. Typically, a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field is necessary. Some organizations may prefer a Master of Business Administration (MBA) as well. While certification is not usually required, it may provide an advantage when seeking a job. The BLS projected employment to increase by 31% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Furthermore, the median annual salary for database administrators was about $75,000 as of May 2011.

Computer Support Specialist

If serving customers is more suited to your personality, there is no shortage of computer application users who are in need of your help. Computer support specialists require patience to help customers with technical issues or product performance. This is another position which can allow you to utilize communication skills while also analyzing and relaying technical information. While a bachelor's degree is required for some computer-support specialist positions, an associate's degree may be enough for others. The BLS projected average job growth of 18% from 2010-2020 for computer support specialists. As of May 2011, they earned a reported median annual salary of about $48,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
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    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
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      • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
      • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Software Development
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  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)
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      • BS - Game Design (Campus)
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  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSM in Information Technology
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    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
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    Associate's
      • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
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      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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    Master's
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
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  • Campus and Online Programs
    6. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Game Programming (BS)
      • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (BFA)
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      • Game Art & Design (BFA)
      • Game Art & Design (BS)
    Associate's
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAS)
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    Certificate
      • Web Design & Interactive Communications (C)
    High School Diploma
      • Web Design & Development (D)
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      • Web Design (D)
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    7. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Network Technician
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
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    Master's
      • MS - Computer Science - Software Engineering
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Software Application Programming
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  • Online Programs Available
    9. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
      • Bridge (Doctor of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Data Analytics)
    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
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      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
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  • Online Programs Available
    10. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Cloud Security Risk Management - MBA (Master's)
      • Cloud Security Risk Management - MSIS (Master's)
      • Information Systems - MSIS (Master's)
      • Leadership Studies - MBA (Master's)
    Bachelor's
      • Game Software Development - Bachelor
      • Information Technology and Security - Bachelor
    Associate's
      • Information Technology - Associate

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Software Development

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
  • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
  • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Game Programming (BS)
  • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAS)
  • Web Design & Interactive Communications (C)
  • Web Design & Development (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Diploma Program - Network Technician

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctorate: Computer Science
  • MS - Computer Science - Software Engineering
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Software Application Programming

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