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Software Developer

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Overall Score
(8.4 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

2.8 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Technology Jobs #1
The 100 Best Jobs #1

Software developers have their fingerprints all over our lives. That alarm clock app that woke you from a dead sleep this morning was designed by at least one software developer. The host of applications you fire up on your computer when you arrive to the office? Yes, software developers had a big hand in shaping those, too. From the mobile app you use to check your bank account balance to the games you play on your tablet to unwind, software developers are along for the ride thanks to their amazing code creations.

Designing programs is the job's most identifiable component, but these tech-savvy professionals have many other responsibilities, including testing and debugging the software and maintaining and improving it once it's in operation. Software developers may be tasked with creating a product from scratch according to a customer's specifications or modifying existing software, and they work in a range of industries, including computer systems design, electronic product manufacturing and finance. Collaboration is an integral part of the job, as developers frequently consult with management, clients and other developers to solve technical challenges and determine the requirements of the software system. Developers are often natural problem-solvers who possess strong analytical skills and the ability to think outside the box.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22.8 percent employment growth for software developers between 2012 and 2022, much faster than average for all occupations. During that time period, an estimated 139,900 jobs will need to be filled. The profession's superb job prospects, low unemployment rate and excellent median salary helped it grab the coveted No. 1 spot in our ranking of the Best Jobs of 2014.


The Labor Department reports that software developers made a median salary of $90,060 in 2012. The highest-paid 10 percent in the profession earned $138,880 in 2012, while the lowest-paid earned $55,190. While the computer systems design industry and software publishers employ the highest number of software engineers, the highest-paid positions are spread far and wide across the country, with Sioux City, Iowa, Haverhill, Mass., and Newark, N.J., leading the way.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $113,280
Median $90,060
25th Percentile $70,850


A bachelor's degree is often a requirement for software developer positions, although practical experience may be enough to snag an entry-level job. Developers wishing to advance in their careers should stay up to date on the latest programming tools and languages with continuing education courses, which are sometimes offered through employers.

Reviews & Advice

While jobs are still scarce in many industries, software developers are in "absolute explosive demand," says Bryan Cantrill, vice president of engineering at San Francisco-based cloud computing company Joyent and a member of the advisory board of ACM Queue, a computer magazine for software engineers published by the Association for Computing Machinery. "We're seeing a gap between the number of software engineers we need and the number the education system is generating ... this is a terrific area to invest oneself." This point is supported by the profession's low 2.8 percent unemployment rate in 2012. For those already in the workforce who wish to pursue a career in software engineering, many community colleges offer courses on the basics of computer science, in addition to the classes and programs offered at four-year universities.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Nathan Hellman.

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