When using a laptop and working on a document in Word or Excel or some other program, you are using the amalgam of applications created in software development. Online games that connect you to a community of players also began in software development. In fact, any application that is used today, whether it is transferring money to an account from a cell phone or making online purchases, begins as an idea in software development departments.
Software development, or software lifecycle, is the process by which computer programs are developed through analysis, development and testing. In its analytical stage, software development comprises three main parts:
- First, engineers look at what the desired specifications or requirements of the program should be. Simply put, program engineers discern whether what the client requests runs contradictory with any other part of the applications or whether the requests are not clear.
- During the development process, mathematical algorithms are used to develop the program. Algorithms are systematic instructions that dictate how the program should run. Algorithms are usually worked on by a team of people with each person examining the code for problems that might show up in the program. Engineers often find themselves finishing with an algorithm that is different from the original because errors and inconsistencies will be corrected as each person on the team reviews the code. In everyday applications, algorithms are fine-tuned to run alongside existing programs, so when writing programs, engineers keep this in mind. Some of the factors that go into development include the type of technology development to use, architecture of the program (structure and organization), design functionality (i.e. visual appearance of screen), technical design, and the structure and functionality of the programs.
- Finally, the program is tested. This part of software development involves testing parts of the software to make sure they interface with the entire program.
Software developers create ideas and then write programs using one of two models. The waterfall process is where a team of engineers follows each step of development—analysis, development, and then testing. Of the two processes, the waterfall method is the oldest and most popular. The second process, or the iterative process, is one where the product is developed in small parts and then tested to avoid major problems in the whole program. Regardless of the path taken, the process of developing software involves a lot of planning, reviewing and revising, and in the end, the procedure produces smooth running programs.
Because of the continuous demand for new technology, software developers are in high demand. An individual that likes to work with computers but does not want to attend a four-year education course can earn a certificate from any number of associate programs that will allow them to work with technology. However, to work in an entry-level position as a software developer, an individual needs a bachelor’s degree. If that person wants to move into supervisor positions or those that allow the individual to actually create programs, he or she would need to earn a master’s degree. Usually, those seeking a degree at the master’s level have worked in the field a few years and return to school, full- or part-time. A plethora of online and on site opportunities to learn while employed is available to students. You can essentially earn while you learn. For example, Maryville’s online master’s program makes earning the degree accessible.
Having a degree is always advantageous with any field of work, but software developers will need some of the following additional attributes:
- Welcome the opportunity to problem solve.
- Are logical thinkers.
- Come from the gaming community and have ideas for creating new games.
- Have strong math and music skills, as there is a correlation between logical thinking and these two skills.
- Are team players, as software development involves working cooperatively with others.
- Are self-starters. While there is a lot of money to be earned in this field, people have to be motivated, often taking the initiative.
- Most importantly, you have to love making and creating things.
While creating algorithms and writing/rewriting code can seem like a daunting task, the step between being interested in this field to actually developing major software begins with an introductory math class, and those going into the field with some knowledge accelerates this process. If playing with technology is something that you love to do, this hobby, with effort and persistence, can easily become a career. More significantly, a career as a software developer gives you the opportunity to be a part of creating some of the best programs in the country and the opportunity for you to be at the forefront of the creative technology industry.