|Number of Jobs:||143,800|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Technology Jobs||#3|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#7|
These tech-savvy professionals are the brains behind the software systems consumers and businesses use every day, from mobile applications that make shopping and banking easier to the operating systems these programs run on. And thanks to the growing demand for computer software and new applications for mobile technology, developers should see their profession grow at a fast clip this decade.
Writing software code is one of the job's most identifiable components, but developers 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 27.6 percent employment growth for software developers between 2010 and 2020, much faster than average for all occupations. During that time period, about 143,800 jobs will need to be filled. The profession's excellent job prospects helped it grab the No. 7 spot in our ranking of the Best Jobs of 2013.
The Labor Department reports that software developers made a median salary of $89,280 in 2011, a decent bump from the median $87,790 salary in 2010. The highest-paid 10 percent in the profession earned $136,490 in 2011, while the lowest-paid earned $54,980. Those with a strong stomach will be interested to know that the most highly compensated positions are in the animal slaughtering and processing industry, although few positions are available in this field. (The computer systems design industry and software publishers employ the highest number of software engineers.) The highest-paid positions can be found in El Centro, Calif., and the Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury areas of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
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.
While jobs are still scarce in many industries, software developers are in "absolute explosive demand," says Bryan Cantrill, vice president of engineering at the 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." 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 four-year universities.