How To Become an App Developer (With Career Steps and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Mobile application development, also called app development, is a broad field with a variety of career opportunities. App developers are technology professionals who help code and create new applications for smartphones and other mobile platforms. Learning more about this role, including the requirements and career steps, could help you determine if it's right for you. In this article, we explain what an app developer does, show how to become an app developer and provide the answers to some frequently asked questions about this career path.

Related: 23 of the Best STEM Jobs in Hong Kong

What does an app developer do?

App developers work on the design and implementation of applications for mobile devices. This can include both utility apps and mobile gaming apps. Although some developers work alone, many developers work on project teams to complete new designs. They may collaborate with writers, programmers, artists and graphic designers.

Related: A Guide To Becoming A Computer Programmer

How to become an app developer

If you're interested in this career, consider following these steps to help you become an app developer:

1. Choose a career path

Before getting started with app development, consider what career path you would prefer to take. Some app developers find work with a development company. When working for a company, you may assist with project tasks as part of a development team.

Alternatively, you may pursue becoming an independent app developer. You can either work freelance for multiple clients or create your own products independently. This involves developing your coding skills and designing your own application. Some professionals begin this career path as a part-time or side gig option. For example, you may work in a different role during the day and then design your app at night or in your free time.

Related: What Is Freelancing?

2. Learn to code

Coding is an essential skill for app developers. You may pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Typically, a bachelor's degree takes four years to complete. During this time, you may take courses in math and computer science. If possible, try to take elective courses in coding and web development.

Alternatively, you may complete a coding course. You can find these courses at local universities and online. They can vary in terms of length and price depending on what topics they teach. Typically, they take between three and nine months to complete. Some are full-time courses while many are part-time. After completing the course, you may have a portfolio of projects you've completed. You can use this to show prospective employers or funding partners your development skills.

3. Pursue certificates

Although optional, certification can show prospective employers your developer skills. You may pursue a certificate in a certain mobile platform or an element such as cloud computing. The most common certificate for app developers is the mobile app developer certification. You can earn this online or through a local organisation. These typically take at least a year to complete.

4. Develop and refine your coding skills

When learning to code, you may choose from a variety of programming languages. One way to help increase your chances of success in developing is to learn multiple languages, as this expands your options when searching for jobs. Highlighting these technical skills on your CV can help increase your chances of earning an interview. The most popular coding languages for app development include the following:

  • Java

  • C#

  • Objective-C

  • C++

  • Swift

5. Brainstorm your app ideas

If you're beginning your career by developing your own app, you may begin brainstorming ideas. You may design a mobile application to solve a problem or provide a service. You may also design a new game. Consider creating a list of your ideas to help you brainstorm.

You may also think about the games and apps you use the most and think about ways to improve them. Also, consider if there are any apps you would like to have that don't exist yet. This can help you generate creative and unique app ideas. Once you have found the idea that has the most potential or is most interesting to you, you can move forward in the development process.

6. Consider funding options if pursuing independent development

If you decide to become an independent developer, you may begin planning your funding options. There are many options for funding a development project, each with its own pros and cons. Consider assessing your current situation to find a solution that works for you. Potential methods of generating revenue with your project include:

Commercial sale planning

If you have the finances to code an app, you may begin working on it and plan to earn a profit through mobile sales. Applications can generate income through customer purchases, which can take time. You may plan your budget accordingly to ensure you have enough finances through the development and launch stages.

Crowdfunding service

A crowdfunding service is when you ask multiple people, including investors or network connections, to fund your initial plans. In this method, you receive payment before delivering or creating the application. You can share your initial project proposal with investors to help generate your funds.

Patron funding options

This method is similar to crowdfunding because it involves receiving money from investors. In this method, your patrons can pledge a certain amount of money at regular intervals. For example, they may offer to pay you once a month or after seeing your progress. This can be a great way to build financial support for your project, particularly if you're comfortable sharing in-progress builds with patrons. To pursue this option, you may share your plans with prospective investors.

Advertisement options

If you're interested in developing a free app, you may receive funding through the use of advertisements. This can bring in revenue without requiring any financial contribution from users. Modern app platforms allow for easy integration of advertisements. These ads can generate small amounts of money for every user view.

7. Apply for app developer positions

If you want to begin or advance your career at a development company, you may apply for app developer roles. Consider creating a CV to show your relevant training, coding skills and experience. If you have completed apps or projects, consider creating a digital portfolio with links to your work.

Before sending your CV and cover letter to potential employers, consider reviewing the job posting and noting any skills and responsibilities specifically cited in the listing. Try to highlight these skills if possible to show employers you're qualified for the role.

Frequently asked questions about becoming an app developer

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about this career path to help you determine if it's right for you:

How much do app developers make?

The average salary for app developers is $25,240 per month. Your salary can vary depending on your location, training and years of experience. Your employer and whether you work for a company or independently can also affect your income, too.

What skills do app developers use?

App developers use a variety of hard and soft skills to complete their daily tasks. Here are some skills they may use:

  • Creativity: App developers may create and design their own applications. They can use creativity to think of new designs and tools.

  • Adaptability: An app developer may use adaptability to adjust their designs throughout the coding process. This helps them overcome challenges and create effective products.

  • Problem-solving: When an app has a bug or error, app developers may use problem-solving skills to find the issue and create a solution.

  • Collaboration: App developers who work for a company often work on development teams with writers, graphic designers and other professionals. Collaboration and teamwork skills can help them share ideas and complete projects successfully.

  • Technical computer skills: App developers can use technical coding and programming skills. They may also use skills such as user design, software design and unit testing.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

How long does it take to become an app developer?

The time it takes to become an app developer can vary depending on the path you choose. A traditional bachelor's program typically takes four years to complete. Some professionals learn to code during their undergraduate studies or you may take additional courses after. Certification programmes may take an additional year to complete.

What is an app developer's work environment like?

App developers can work in a variety of settings. If they work independently, they may work remotely. If they work for a software company or client, they may work in an office setting.

Is becoming an app developer a good career?

Whether app development is a good career choice for you may depend on your personal interests and career goals. If you enjoy working with computers and code, you may be interested in this career. There are a variety of unique paths you can take depending on the education you want and your ideal work environment. If you enjoy working independently and creating new projects, you may think about becoming a freelance app developer. You may also work at a software development company, collaborating with a team of design experts, if you prefer group tasks.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.