Software developers (or computer programmers) are the brains behind the design, installation, testing and maintenance of software systems.
Much more than just playing around with codes, if you work with software you'll play an important part in making a business more efficient and helping to provide a better IT service.
So, what will I actually be doing?
You might be responsible for the replacement of a whole system based on the specifications provided by an IT analyst, but often you'll work with 'off the shelf' software, modifying it and integrating it into the existing network. The skill in this is creating the code to link the systems together.
You'll also be responsible for:
- Reviewing current systems
- Presenting ideas for system improvements, including cost proposals
- Working closely with analysts, designers and staff
- Producing detailed specifications and writing the programme codes
- Testing the product in controlled, real situations before going live
- Preparation of training manuals for users
- Maintaining the systems once they are up and running
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The nitty gritty
Most of the time you'll work a 37 to 40 hour week, but you might have to put in longer hours when there are deadlines to be met. This could mean the odd evening or weekend.
How much travelling you do will depend on whether you work in-house or for clients.
Thanks to clever technology you'll probably be able to do some of your job from home if you want to and your company allows it.
There aren't many part-time opportunities but freelance work is common if you want some flexibility.
There are lots of opportunities, across all industry sectors, reflecting the fact that businesses are so reliant on technology. About a third of all jobs in the IT space are in development and programming.
Prospects are good and your typical progression path will see you promoted to senior or principle developer and then to project manager. You could also move into a related arm of technology like systems design, IT architecture and business systems analysis.
If you're the adventurous type, you might be able to find a position that takes you overseas.
Money, money, money
Here's a guide to typical salaries. As a graduate you'll probably start on around £20,830 to £25,770. Once you reach a management level your salary will increase to £26,000 to £70,000, or even higher with bonuses.
The highest concentration of jobs can be found in London down the M4 corridor, and these tend to be the higher paid roles too.
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The good points...
Your skills will be in demand so with the right experience you can become your own boss and go it alone as a consultant or freelancer, setting your own rates and earning a little bit more cash.
...and the bad
If you work for clients you'll have to spend a lot of time on their premises, so you might have to work away from home if the client is located far away.
Is there study involved?
Most employers will want you to have a BTEC HND at the very least to get a foot in the door, however some companies run trainee programmes that will consider candidates with AS Levels.
If you've got a degree it will look good on your CV, especially if it's in an IT, science or maths based subject.
If you've got a non-IT degree you might still be able to apply to a graduate trainee scheme, or you can take a postgraduate conversion course to get your CV up to scratch.
It is possible to move into software development from another profession. If this is you, play-up your business and IT experience and be prepared to take some IT-based courses if necessary.
The courses you'll find open most doors are of course the programming qualifications such as:
- Visual Basic
Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is vital in this profession, so you should benefit from a good solid training programme, especially if you work for a larger organisation.
You'll learn from more senior programmers and will go on external courses to keep your professional skills up to date.Your training should focus on programming, systems analysis and software from recognised providers including the British Computer Society, e-skills, the Institute of Analysts and Programmers and the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.
All the software vendors, including Microsoft and Sun run accredited training too.If you are self-employed then you should invest in training to keep your skills.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
Knowledge of programming skills are a given if you want to get into software development. You'll need to be comfortable with web-based programmes as well as traditional programmes like Java and Visual Basic.
The key skills to play up when you're looking for a job as a software developer are as follows:
- Your expertise in current computer hardware and software
- Your communications skills
- Team-working skills
- An appreciation of the bigger business picture, not just its IT requirements
- Your analytical and commercial experience
- Any organisational skills