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What is a software developer? Everything you need to know about the program

What is a software developer? Everything you need to know about the program
5/17/22 6:23 PM
What is a software developer?

A developer – also known as a programmer, coder or software engineer – is an IT professional who uses programming languages to create computer software. 

What do software developers do?

Developers write, test, debug and maintain applications. Developer roles can vary widely depending on the type of organisation. They are usually employed by either the technology companies that create off-the-shelf software or by end-user organisations – both in the public and private sectors – who develop bespoke applications. But coding, as we will see below, is just one important element of an increasingly broad role.

SEE: The most popular programming languages and where to learn them

What skills do you need to become a software developer?

Developers need strong technical aptitude. Some programmer positions will require a degree in a relevant field such as computer science, information technology, mathematics or engineering. While education is important, the fast-evolving nature of software development means on-the-job experience will be the key to successful career development.

What programming languages do software developers use?

Software development is a constant work in progress. The 2020 Harvey Nash Tech Survey found that a third of developers believe their current skills will only be relevant for the next three years.

Right now, JavaScript is the most popular programming language with 13.8 million developers, according to SlashData. The UK firm estimates that the JavaScript community accounts for a big chunk of the 24.3 million active developers worldwide. 

SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

SlashData says the second largest population of 10.1 million developers are Python users, which is popular with machine-learning specialists, while there are now 9.4 million Java developers. These top-three programming languages are the same as developer analyst firm RedMonk's rankings, which are based on data from GitHub and Stack Overflow. 

Other popular programming languages include C/C++, C#, PHP, Kotlin, Swift, Go, Ruby, Objective C, Rust and Lua. Language popularity can be cyclical. Take the recent re-emergence of Fortran in Tiobe's programming index at 20th position, up from 34th spot a year ago. Fortran emerged from IBM in the 1950s but remains popular in scientific computing. 

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What makes a good software developer?

Rob Grimsey, director at recruiter Harvey Nash, says there are many attributes to a good developer – and inevitably 'good' means different things to different organisations.

"What everyone will look for as a base requirement, of course, is a high degree of technical capability, founded on solid coding principles and the ability to work well in a variety of development environments," he says.

However, there's a further dimension to being a good developer that goes beyond a strong grasp of coding languages. Grimsey says a good developer is part of a team, especially with the modern focus on Agile software development. Agile is a set of collaborative methods and practices for producing software code faster and more efficiently.

"Developers might be involved in a daily stand-up and other interactions. The ability to communicate, contribute ideas, and understand the wider business context of the organisation's requirements – all of these are crucial. Developers are having to play a more interactive role and help bring ideas to life," says Grimsey.

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