You run into the work of application developers daily. In fact, they design, create, and maintain the software you’re likely using right now to read this. They are responsible for everything from the games we play on our phones to the apps we use to book flights and track our fitness goals.

If you’re interested in becoming an application developer, you should know a few things before selecting it as your career path.

That’s what our focus will be here today. We’ll begin by discussing what application development is and what responsibilities you can expect in this career, followed by perquisites, training, skills, job outlook, and more.

And hopefully, you’ll walk away from reading this article having a clearer sense of whether or not being an application developer is the right career path for you.


What Is Application Development?

Before fully answering this question, you need to know what an application — or app — is.

An application is a computer program designed to perform a particular task or set of tasks — this can be anything from playing a game to managing finances.

Application development is the process of designing, creating, testing, and maintaining these programs — or apps.

There are many different types of app developers, each with their own focus. For example, some develop mobile apps, while others may work on enterprise software or video games.

The platforms on which application developers work can also differ. Some may develop apps for Android devices or Apple products.

The type of application being developed will also dictate the development process. A simple game app, for instance, may not take as long to develop as a more complex enterprise application. Here are a few types of app developers you could potentially train to be:

  • Mobile application developers
  • Web application developers
  • Game application developers
  • Embedded systems application developers
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What Is the Typical Lifecycle of an App?

Application development follows a process known as the application lifecycle — it’s the application’s journey from idea to delivery and eventual retirement.

The application lifecycle begins with an idea. It could come from anywhere — a business need, a customer request, or even a personal interest. Once the idea has been generated, it will be fleshed out into a concept.

From there, the application will be designed, built, and tested. Once it has been determined that the app meets all the requirements, it will be released to the public. The deployment process will vary depending on the type of application being developed.

After the application has been released, it will be monitored for any issues. When necessary, developers will release updates to fix any bugs.

Eventually, the application will reach the end of its life cycle and will be retired — this could be for several reasons, such as changes in technology or the user base’s needs.

What Does an Application Developer Do?

In short, app developers create programs for a specific operating system (often mobile OSes). This process can involve everything from designing the initial prototype to maintaining and updating the application after its release.

Application developers usually work as part of a team, though they may also work independently on smaller projects. And while some developers may work exclusively on coding, others may also be responsible for managing application development projects from start to finish.

Once the application has been approved, developers will begin writing code and building the app according to the specifications set forth by the client. This can involve working with a variety of programming languages, as well as testing the application to ensure that it functions properly.

After the application has been completed, developers may also be responsible for submitting it to app stores (such as the App Store or Google Play) and providing support and updates after the fact.

The App Store homepage.
The App Store

Daily Tasks and Responsibilities

The day-to-day tasks of an application developer will vary depending on the project at hand. However, there are some general duties that most app developers can expect to perform daily, such as:

  • Writing code: This is perhaps the most important responsibility of an application developer. Developers will spend most of their time writing code that meets the specifications set forth by the client.
  • Testing applications: Once the application has been coded, it will need to be tested to ensure that it works properly. Developers may perform manual and automated testing to find and fix any bugs within the application.
  • Debugging applications: In some cases, developers may need to debug applications already in use by the public. This can involve tracking down and fixing any errors causing the application to malfunction. Similarly, preventing downtime is also a must if developing a web app.
  • Collaborating with team members: Application developers usually work as part of a team, which means they will need to communicate effectively with others. This could involve anything from working on code together to attending team meetings.
  • Tracking project progress: It’s also essential for developers to keep track of the progress on the application. This could involve using project management software or updating the client regularly on the application’s status.
  • Submitting applications: In some cases, developers may be responsible for applying to app stores. This can involve following specific guidelines and ensuring that the application meets all requirements.
  • Managing application development projects: While some application developers may only be responsible for the coding, others may also manage the project from start to finish. This could involve everything from handling client communications to tracking project progress.

Application developer teams may also include project managers, designers, and quality assurance analysts. In larger organizations, there may also be a dedicated application development department.

Developers usually work full-time, though they may occasionally need to work overtime to meet deadlines or to handle unexpected challenges. Some developers may also travel to meet with clients or attend conferences.

Why Become an Application Developer?

There are several reasons why you might want to become an application developer. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The job is in high demand: With the increasing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices, there is a growing need for application developers.
  • You can earn a good salary: In addition to being in high demand, application developers also command a good salary, on average.
  • Remote work is an option: Many application developers can work remotely, which can be a great perk. This allows for a greater degree of flexibility regarding working hours and location.
  • You can specialize in a particular area: While some application developers may work on various projects, others may specialize in a particular area. This could involve developing games to creating applications for a specific platform.
  • App development is extremely flexible: You can use whatever programming languages or OSes you want and the tools and frameworks you prefer. This can make application development a gratifying and rewarding career.
  • Shifting to more specialized roles is possible: As you gain experience, you may find that you want to specialize in a particular area of application development. This could involve becoming a lead developer or a project manager.
  • The skills you learn for this job are highly adaptable: The skills you learn as an application developer can be applied to several different fields. For example, you could use your coding skills to become a software developer or a web developer.

Are Application Developers In Demand?

Yes, application developers are in high demand, primarily due to the increasing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for application developers is expected to grow by 25% between 2021 and 2031, which is considered a much faster than average job outlook growth rate.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook
The job outlook for application developers (2021-31). (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

And the number of jobs or positions within this labor category was sitting at 1.6 million as of 2021.

Skills Needed To Be an Application Developer

If you want to become an application developer, there are many skills that you will need to succeed in this role. Let’s break these up into the more technical skills and those more related to workflow, productivity, and performance.

Programming Languages

As an application developer, you must be proficient in various programming languages.

The Java homepage.
Java

Common programming languages for application developers include:

  • Java: Java makes it so developers can create applications that perform incredibly well. Java is the backbone of many large-scale applications and systems, including Android, Amazon’s Kindle Fire operating system, and Twitter.
  • Python: The biggest benefit of Python is that it speeds up your workflow considerably, and you can use it to integrate your systems with ease.
  • JavaScript: This programming language is the engine that powers the dynamic, interactive web pages you love. While it was created for browsers, JavaScript is now used in many other applications.
  • C++: C++ is an object-oriented programming language that makes it so developers can build software systems. C++ is used in various applications, including computer games, enterprise software, and scientific applications.
  • PHP: PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development.
  • Node.js: Though Node.js is typically used for web development, it is an open-source, JavaScript runtime environment that you can also use to create tools and applications.

You may also need to understand web-based languages like HTML5 and CSS3.

Operating Systems

You will also need to understand different operating systems, such as Android and iOS. This will allow you to develop applications for various devices.

Databases

To store data efficiently, application developers need to understand databases well. This could involve anything from MySQL to MongoDB.

User Interface and Design

Application developers need to create user-friendly interfaces for their applications. This involves a good understanding of human-computer interaction and graphic design principles.

Quality Testing

To ensure that their applications are of the highest quality, application developers need to be able to test their applications thoroughly. This includes both functional testing as well as performance testing.

Debugging

When application developers encounter errors, they need to be able to debug their code to find the root cause of the problem. Web app development often involves general web development to coincide. In these cases, being familiar with performance monitoring tools like Kinsta APM is essential, especially if you work with WordPress.

kinsta apm
Get high-quality performance monitoring for WordPress with the Kinsta APM tool.

Workflow and Productivity Skills

Along with your technical skills, you’ll need business savvy and an ability to work with others. Some of these skills include:

  • Marketing and business: While application developers primarily focus on the technical aspects of application development, it is also important to have a good understanding of marketing and business. This will allow you to create applications that are not only technically sound but also have commercial appeal.
  • Project management: As an application developer, you must manage your time and resources efficiently to meet deadlines. This includes being able to create and track project milestones as well as delegate tasks to other team members.
  • Client management: In many cases, application developers work with clients with specific application requirements. This means that you need to be able to manage client expectations and deliverables effectively.
  • Teamwork: Application development is very much a team-based process. This means that you need to be able to work effectively with other developers, designers, and testers to create a high-quality application.
  • Ability to meet deadlines: In the application development process, there are often strict deadlines that need to be met. This means that you need to be able to work quickly and efficiently to get the job done.

What’s the Average Application Developer’s Salary?

According to Glassdoor, the average application developer’s salary is $93,000 per year. MOte can be made with extra pay and bonuses.

However, salaries can range from $50,000 to $150,000 per year, depending on experience and skills.

The average salary for an app developer on Glassdoor.
The average salary for an app developer on Glassdoor.

Application developers with more experience and more specialized skills can expect to earn the higher end of the salary range. This is similar to the salaries of those in other development fields, like full-stack developers.

Other reported averages include $80,000 per year from Indeed, $98,000 per year from ZipRecruiter, and $72,000 per year from Payscale. For further context, the current average salary when combining the figures reported by Glassdoor, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Payscale is $85,000 per year.

How To Become an Application Developer

If you’re interested in becoming an application developer, there are a few things that you need to do. Let’s first talk about the general job requirements of a role in this field and then discuss specifics like how to get started, the minimum you need to know to begin, and what programming languages you should learn.

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Application Developer Job Requirements

To be an application developer, you’ll need to meet a few basic requirements. First, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Additionally, it would help if you had experience working with computers and application development software and a strong understanding of programming languages. Finally, it’s also essential to have strong problem-solving skills, as application developers often need to debug code and find solutions to errors.

While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most application developer roles, some companies may require that you have a master’s degree or higher. Additionally, some companies may prefer that you have experience working in a specific application development software or programming language.

Freelancing or Full-Time Roles: Where to Start

There are two main options for application development roles: freelancing or full-time employment.

There are benefits to each. For example, freelancing offers more flexibility regarding hours and working from home, while full-time employment typically comes with more job security and benefits.

The best way to decide which route is right for you is to start applying for jobs and see what’s out there. If you’re unsure where to start, Indeed is an excellent resource for finding application developer jobs. You can also check out freelancer job boards, such as Upwork.

The Upwork homepage.
Upwork

The Minimum You Need To Know To Get Started

Application development is a complex process, but you don’t need to know everything to get started. The best way to learn is simply by doing.

That said, there are a few key things that you should know before getting started, including the basics of app development software and programming languages. And your approach will be slightly different if you aim to build an app yourself to launch then or to be hired by a development company.

If you’re looking to get hired by a development company, your best bet is to focus on learning one or two specific programming languages. The most popular programming language for application development is Java, followed by Python. Other popular options include C++ and PHP.

If you’re looking to build an app, you’ll need to be familiar with the application development software and programming languages. For example, if you’re using the popular game development engine Unity for building a game, you’ll need to learn C#.

In terms of resources, many great books, websites, and online courses can help you learn the basics of application development.

What Programming Languages Should You Learn First?

There are a variety of programming languages that application developers can learn. The best language to start with will depend on your goals and interests.

If you’re looking to get hired by a development company, we recommend starting with Java or Python. These are two of the most popular programming languages, are relatively easy to learn, and can be used for various application development projects.

If you’re looking to build an app yourself, we recommend starting with C# or JavaScript — they’re versatile languages for building diverse applications.

What To Look for When Hiring an Application Developer

Before we part ways, we also want to look at the hiring side of things. If you’re aiming to hire an application developer, you must be clear in your expectations of the candidates. Before ever losing your job posting, have a good sense of:

  • What programming languages do they need to know
  • The application development software they need to be proficient in
  • Their experience level
  • The type of app you’re looking to have developed
  • Your budget

Once you’ve got a good sense of what you need, it’s time to start writing your job posting. Make sure that your job posting is clear and concise and that it includes all of the relevant information that candidates will need to know.

If you’re stumped, here’s a quick rundown of job expectations for a junior app developer as an example:

  • A junior app developer should be proficient in at least one programming language and application development software.
  • They should have a strong understanding of the application development process from start to finish.
  • They should be able to take direction well and work collaboratively with a team.
  • They should have some previous experience working on app development projects.

Now that you know what to look for in an application developer, it’s time to start your search! You can find application developers on a variety of job boards, as well as on freelancer websites. You can also check out the Kinsta Agency Directory, which is filled with many qualified professionals willing to take on your project.

The Kinsta Agency Directory homepage.
The Kinsta Agency Directory homepage.

When searching for candidates, use keywords that relate to the skills and experience you’re looking for.

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Summary

And that’s everything you need to know about becoming an application developer! We hope that this guide has been helpful and that you now understand the application development process better.

Remember, if you’re looking to get hired by a development company, focus on learning Java or Python. If you want to develop an app, focus on learning C# or JavaScript. And if you’re hiring an application developer, make sure to be clear in your expectations of the candidates.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your application development journey.

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Are you looking to get started as an application developer? If so, is there anything holding you back from entering the field? Sound off in the comments below!


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