Online Master's in Software Development

Get Program Details
This will only take a moment.
. What's your highest level of education?
What's your highest level of education?
Next Step

Become a Software Developer: Help Shape Our Technological Age

The computer software industry is booming. In today’s technological age, nearly all innovation is driven by advances in computer and mobile technology. Software developers are at the forefront of this growing industry. They design, create, and implement the complex specialized applications that the general public uses every day. Those who aspire to become a software developer will discover a career path with near-endless possibilities.

Software Developer using laptop

The Role of Software in Today’s World

Evidence of software developers’ hard work and creativity is everywhere, especially in the widespread use of mobile devices. In the United States, 95 percent of people own some type of cellphone, and 77 percent of those devices are smartphones, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center. These smartphones run numerous applications, which are created by software developers.

In addition to phones and computers, the number of products, equipment, and structures that use software of some kind is increasing rapidly. A study by Gartner Inc. predicts that the number of connected devices, embedded with data-gathering sensors, will reach 20.4 billion by the year 2020.

What Do Software Developers Do?

Software developers are responsible for the development process of software programs, computer applications, and the systems that run devices and networks. They are involved in the entire process, from analyzing the needs of users to designing, testing, and developing the programs that will serve those needs.

They often work in tandem with computer programmers, giving them instructions and models for creating the code required for an application. To ensure software optimization, developers supervise the progress of a project so that the program they are creating functions correctly throughout maintenance, testing, and future upgrades.

Job Outlook for Software Developers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers are projected to see a much faster growth in employment — a 24 percent increase from 2016 to 2026 — compared with the average growth of other occupations. Software developers stand to benefit from the increase in demand for computer software not only within a multitude of products and devices but also across major industries.

Many accounting and business processes have become digitized, and many companies rely on computer programs for running daily operations and managing company records. For example, healthcare has seen a vast increase in the use of digital platforms, with hospitals using software for collecting and maintaining patient health records, and medical insurance carriers using software for managing enrollments amid changes in healthcare policy.

The widespread use of computer programs by businesses of all kinds has created an additional need in the area of computer security. Software developers could see an increased demand for security software from businesses that want to protect their computer network infrastructures from hackers and other security threats.

The median annual wage for software developers was $101,790 as of May 2017.

Skills You’ll Need to Become a Software Developer

Someone considering becoming a software developer likely has an interest in and aptitude for honing specific computer-related skills. These skills can serve as the foundation for a career in software development, and professionals can build on these concepts with further education and experience.

  • Attention to Detail. Software developers are immersed in details. Computer programming is one of the central tasks they perform, and accurate computer programming requires concentration and meticulous attention to detail.
  • Computer Science Fundamentals. Computer science is the study of computers. Software developers must know the ins and outs of computers, computer applications, designing hardware and software, analyzing data, and algorithmic processes.
  • Data Analysis. Software developers must be able to solve technical problems to meet the needs of clients. Data analysis is a requisite skill that allows developers to recognize meaningful patterns in data in order to offer accurate solutions.
  • Programming Languages. A programming language is a language used for making commands that instruct a computer to perform a certain task. As these computer languages are always changing and evolving, software developers need a desire for continued learning and staying up to date with the newest languages. Popular computer programming languages include Python, JavaScript, SQL, C, and PHP.

Other Careers in Software Development

Software Consultant

Another job opportunity in software development involves working as a consultant for companies that need assistance implementing or maintaining software programs, technology, and digital or web content. Companies hire consultants to optimize the usage of their current software or to manage digital records, web content, or data. Software consultants usually work with multiple clients and are not on staff at one company at a time. They are sometimes hired on a daily basis to provide troubleshooting and technical support services. The median annual wage for software consultants is currently $73,049, according to PayScale.

Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer

DevOps engineers act as a bridge between development and operations teams. They need to have strong communication skills, as they are responsible for keeping both teams on track toward accomplishing a common goal. DevOps engineers can begin their careers as software developers, so they are comfortable with technical details. They should be able to code and script, understand automation tools, and have experience with IT systems and operations. DevOps engineers are business minded and are able to monitor software deployment with the goals of multidisciplinary teams in mind. According to Glassdoor, DevOps engineers make an average of $138,378 per year.

How to Become a Software Developer

Education Requirements

Most entry-level positions in software development usually require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or another computer-related field. Students earning a bachelor’s degree in computer programming take classes focused on writing code, building software, computer programming, and computer languages. Some leadership roles require a software development master’s degree and extensive experience in the field.

Key Skills

Software developers benefit from a combination of technical and critical thinking skills for success in their field. The development of computer programs and applications requires these professionals to be focused on details and be able to analyze users’ needs to design software creatively to meet those needs. They should also be natural problem solvers so that they are able to recognize and resolve issues that arise during the design and development process.

In addition to these useful traits and skills, software developers must understand the trends and needs of the industry in which they are working. If they are developing software for a health insurance company, for example, they must have a thorough understanding of healthcare delivery systems, health policy, and other industry-related information.

Become a Leader in Your Field with a Master’s in Software Development

A master’s program in software development aims to prepare professionals with a background in computer science or a related field for a leadership role in the computer software industry. This advanced degree program provides students with an in-depth understanding of complex applications and the software design and development skills needed for a successful career in an ever-changing industry with many challenging and intriguing opportunities.

Courses Taught in a Master’s in Software Development Curriculum

A master’s in software development curriculum can give students an edge in a competitive industry. Students who aspire to become a software developer and attain a leadership position designing and managing groundbreaking projects will likely benefit from the following comprehensive courses.

Data Structures. This course expands on fundamental computer programming concepts, taking an in-depth look at how professionals use object-oriented techniques to design and build software. Concepts in this course include project structures, object-oriented modeling, the implementation of data structures, and error handling.

Web Applications. A course in web applications delves into web languages and professional developer tools, giving students a foundation for both back-end and front-end applications.

User Interface Design. This is a front-end programming course in which students develop a solid understanding of user-focused applications, visual design principles, and JavaScript.

Agile Systems Analysis and Design. This course helps students develop skills to work within an agile environment, utilizing agile analysis and design techniques for a faster deployment of products while lowering costs and minimizing rework. Students will benefit from a deep understanding of agile systems, as they are at the forefront of modern software design.

Applied DevOps. An applied DevOps course covers the development life cycle, so students gain experience with computer networking and system administration tools in the cloud. This is a fast-growing field, with an increasing number of desirable positions within the computer software industry.

Advanced Topics in Software Development. This course covers the most current trends in software development. Students will have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with specialized and advanced software development technologies, such as secure coding, machine learning, mobile application development, Java server development, and NoSQL databases.

Software developers are responsible for some of the biggest, most widely used technologically advanced computer programs and mobile devices available today. Becoming a software developer is a career choice that continues to have high growth potential. Students with analytical skills and a computer-related background can take the extra steps to advance their knowledge and increase their marketability in the computer software industry by earning a master’s in software development.

Start your Career in Software Development

If you’re interested in becoming a software developer, find out how Maryville University’s online Master’s in Software Development program can help prepare you to take advantage of exciting opportunities in this growing field.


Pew Research Center

Gartner Inc.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Software Developers


World Economic Forum

PayScale: Software Consultant Salary

PayScale: DevOps Engineer Salary



Maryville University: Master’s in Software Development Online

Maryville University: Master’s in Software Development Curriculum