Development Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A development engineer's average annual salary may be high, but is it worth the educational requirements? Get the truth about the job duties and career outlook to decide if this is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Development Engineer Career

A development engineer, or systems software developer, is a computer professional who focuses primarily on systems software and works in a number of different industries, including communications, medicine, business, government and manufacturing. Read the pros and cons below to know more about this career opportunity.

Development Engineer Pros
Can telecommute and work on software from a variety of locations*
Rapidly rising employment rate (22% for software developers during the 2012 to 2022 decade)*
Option to work in a number of industries*
High wages (2014 mean annual wage was $106,050 for software developers, systems software)*

Development Engineer Cons
Significantly longer workweek*
Must constantly keep up with changing technology by learning new computer languages and software platforms*
Some companies are beginning to outsource software development to foreign firms*
Employers may require complex certifications in addition to a bachelor's degree in computer science*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description and Duties

Development engineers are hired by companies to create or modify an organization's systems software. This is the underlying software that powers the business' network, including the computer interface. Depending on the type of organization, the developer may create software to be used internally by employees or externally by customers. In any case, as a systems software developer, you would be responsible for analyzing the user's needs and creating software that meets those needs.

Job Outlook

Employment of software developers is projected to grow 22% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much faster than the average growth of all occupations during the same time period. Employment of software systems developers is expected to grow at 20% during the same decade. This growth is due to the increase in organizational software needs and software-based products.

Salary

The BLS stated that in 2014, systems software developers made a median annual wage of $104,480. The bottom ten percent were earning an annual income of $63,250, and the top 10% made $154,800 the same year.

Career Skills and Requirements

Development engineers must be skilled computer programmers, coders and mathematicians. You'll probably need at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, although some employers will accept an undergraduate degree in engineering or mathematics. Other employers may require you to hold a master's degree in computers, engineering or business. Many employers require certification in the specific programming languages and platforms used to develop their company's computer systems.

What Employers Look For

Employers want development engineers who are educated, experienced and skilled at using the company's preferred programming languages and development platforms. Tech companies want developers to help them create new products, while other types of businesses need developers to produce unique high-tech systems. To give you an idea of current employer needs, here's a sample of job postings from the April 2012 job boards:

  • An information technology (IT) company in Connecticut advertised for a development engineer to help create and maintain the company's software infrastructure. Qualifications included a bachelor's degree in computer science and the ability to program in several languages ( C++, JavaScript, CSS, etc.).
  • An Ohio tire manufacturer advertised for a development engineer to support the development of a new company-wide technology system. The system included a nationwide interface, a network and quality control software.
  • An image sensor technology company in California was looking for a senior development engineer with experience creating interfaces for both Mac and Windows computers. Duties involved designing, implementing and debugging a raw image capture program.
  • In Washington, a book retailer wanted a development engineer to help create e-reader applications. Requirements included a bachelor's degree in computer science and proficiency in at least one modern programming language.

How to Gain an Edge in the Field

You can stand out in this field by presenting potential employers with a portfolio of software systems that you've created or worked on during your education, internship and work for other employers. You'll need to demonstrate an advanced understanding of computer algorithms, complexity analysis and problem solving. You should take classes and gather experience in your chosen industry, such as IT or medical information systems.

Certifications

Aside from your degree, you may want to become professionally certified in one or more programming languages and platforms. Several organizations and software manufacturers offer various levels of language and platform certification. Aside from manufacturer specific certifications, available certifications include:*A+; *CDIA+; *Development Associate; *CTP+; *Development Professional; *CTT+; *Computing professional; *Network +; *Systems Professional; and *Cloud Computing.

Alternative Career Paths

Web Developer

Web developers meet with clients to design and implement websites that meet their needs. They are responsible for most aspects of the website, including the look of the site and the programming of any interactive features. Educational requirements for Web development positions vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree in computer science, depending on the individual's knowledge and skills in the field. The BLS projects that employment of Web developers will grow by 22% during the 2010 to 2020 decade, which is faster than the average growth for other jobs. In 2011, Web developers made a median annual income of $78,000.

Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers design, build and test computer equipment, including computer chips, routers and circuit boards. To become a hardware engineer, you'll need a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering, with some coursework in programming. Employment of hardware engineers is expected to be slower than average, only 14% growth during the 2010 to 2020 decade. According to the BLS, hardware engineers made a median annual income of $99,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
      • Software Development - Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of Delaware

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    4. Universal Technical Institute

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    Certificate
      • Diesel Technology
      • Automotive Technology
      • NASCAR Technology
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    5. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Electrical/Electronics
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
    Associate's
      • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
    Associate's
      • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    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
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
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    10. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • B.S. - Mobile Development

Featured Schools

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Software Development - Bachelor's
  • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

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Universal Technical Institute

  • Diesel Technology
  • Automotive Technology
  • NASCAR Technology

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Lincoln Tech

  • Electrical/Electronics

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Kaplan University

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

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The Art Institutes

  • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
  • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)

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Herzing University

  • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Software Development

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