Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer Careers: Job Description & Salary

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Learn about a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a software development career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Software Developer

Software developers, including Microsoft Certified Solutions Developers (MCSDs), help develop new software based on the needs of the end-user, create models and instructions for the programmers who will code the software and shepherd the project through the entire production life cycle. Keep these pros and cons in mind as you decide whether or not software development is the career path for you.

Pros of a Career as a Software Developer
Relatively high salary - median of about $96,000 a year for applications developers and about $103,000 yearly for systems developers in 2014*
22% growth predicted from 2012-2022*
Increased use of computers in common appliances means a higher need for new software (and thus, software developers)*
Possibility of telecommuting (working from home)*

Cons of a Career as a Software Developer
Quickly changing technology requires you to educate yourself on updates, possibly at your own expense*
Working longer than 40 hours a week is common in the field*
In addition to technical skills, knowledge of the industry in which you work is generally required*
Some employers may require their software developers to hold a master's degree*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Software developers are the creative force behind new software. They dream up the tasks they want a particular piece of software to perform, often with the assistance of customer input, and then determine the best way to write the program. Working with programmers and other team members, developers create prototypes and help develop the process to build the software. They serve as the overseer who follows the project from start to finish, making sure it stays true to the original plan. Once the software is created, they may assist with creating upgrades, fixes and maintenance plans to keep the software working properly.

At the time this article was written, Microsoft was no longer issuing the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) designation, and the company was instead encouraging Visual Studio 2010 users to pursue the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certification. The Microsoft website indicated that shortened certification upgrade paths for the MCSD certification might be made available when the new version of Visual Studio was released, though no timeframe was given.

Job Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track data specific to workers holding a MCSD certification, but they do track data for software developers in general. It projected that jobs for software developers would increase 22% from 2012-2022, and stated that California and Washington had the highest levels of employment for developers, as of May 2014. The organization also reported that software developers who specialized in applications earned a median yearly salary of around $95,510 in 2014, while professionals that created systems software earned a median income of $102,880.

What Are the Requirements?

A bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics or software engineering is typically required to become a software developer. Software developers need good programming skills, too, which are usually learned while attending college. Additionally, software developers often need knowledge of the particular industry in which they work; for example, developers working for a financial firm often need knowledge of finance to understand the company's computing needs. Some employers may also prefer or even require a master's degree in a field such as computer science.

Useful Qualifications

Software developers need to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who can simultaneously juggle multiple responsibilities and keep track of details. They also need strong interpersonal and leadership skills, because they work closely with other developers and programmers and often serve as a team leader. A keen understanding of technology and an interest in following technological trends and development are also essential.

Job Postings from Real Employers

In early May of 2012, there were a number of software developer positions posted on Internet-based job sites that specifically stated a preference for developers with MCSD certification. Based on a survey of some of these positions, employers appeared particularly interested in candidates who had prior experience in the field and who had worked with SQL. The following job postings can give you an idea of the qualifications employers are looking for, though they are not necessarily representative of the entire field or the overall job market.

  • A Florida-based insurance company posted an opening for an application developer with five years of programming experience, solid customer service skills and a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. The job involved analyzing business needs and system components to develop applications and managing the technical aspects of projects. Other requirements included strong communication skills, technical expertise in multiple database technologies and platforms and familiarity with object-oriented design principles. The employer also preferred applicants with MCSD or Oracle Developer certification.
  • A defense contractor in Virginia was looking for a principal application developer with at least six years of experience, a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience and the ability to obtain TS/SCI security clearance. Job duties included maintaining and customizing Web-based applications, creating monitoring standards and developing documentation for testing plans, installation instructions and user guides. Candidates should also possess experience with a variety of programming languages and development tools, including CMDB, BCS, Workflow Management, SQL, Oracle, PERL, .NET and XML. Two of the many preferred certifications included MCSD and MCPD.
  • A telecommunications company in Cincinnati needed an application developer who would take responsibility for the creation and maintenance of new Web and accounting applications. The position called for a creative thinker who could stay on top of multiple projects and who had experience with SDLC, DCOM and MS SQL. A bachelor's degree was required and MCSD Microsoft.NET certification was preferred.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

To make yourself more marketable, consider gaining proficiency in a wide variety of programming languages, especially if your degree program focuses on only a handful of them. Since employers often seek software developers with strong programming skills, make sure you're knowledgeable in as many of those languages as possible, or, conversely, that you possess expert-level skills in a few in-demand programs. You can also check out job postings from employers that you are interested in working for to see which they programming languages and development tools they use, and then learn them.

Pursue Microsoft Certification

According to Microsoft, you can set yourself apart as an expert by earning the MCSD (when it becomes available) or the MCPD certifications. Earning the MCPD designation can also provide professional networking opportunities and other resources. To earn this certification, you'll need 2-3 years of experience with .NET framework, Visual Studios and other development technologies created by Microsoft. Additionally, you're required to agree to keep your knowledge up-to-date and your skills current.

Other Careers to Consider

If the educational requirements of a software developer seem too extensive, consider a career as a computer programmer or Web developer. These careers require some of the same skills, but some employers hire individuals with only a high school diploma or its equivalent or an associate's degree to work in these fields.

Computer Programmer

Individuals interested in working on software but not in overseeing the design and development process might consider becoming computer programmers. As a programmer, you'd still work on software, but you'd be in charge of coding and testing it. A bachelor's degree is typically required to work in this profession, but some companies hire programmers who only possess an associate's degree. The BLS predicted that jobs for these professionals would increase 12% from 2010-2020 - less than projected for software developers but still average growth. As of 2011, the median salary for these professionals was about $73,000 per year.

Web Developer

If you're interested in visual aesthetics as well as software development, consider a career as a Web developer. You'd have the opportunity to dream up the look, layout and technical aspects of websites and Web-based applications. You might also be in charge of projects and possibly even teams, depending on the size of the organization for which you work. At least a high school diploma or its equivalent is required to become a Web developer, though some employers could require a bachelor's degree. The BLS projected that jobs in this field would increase 22% from 2010-2020 and reported that Web developers, computer architects and information security analysts made a median annual salary of around $78,000, as of May 2011.

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