Starting your career as an app developer – things you need to know

Whether you’re programming apps for smartphones or for the web, app developers are in high demand. As smartphones become more advanced and the world becomes more dependent on mobile technology, there’s a growing need for developers to create apps that meet customers’ needs in all aspects of life, from entertainment to productivity.

Becoming an app developer can, therefore, be a lucrative career choice, with the average app developer commanding $112,500 per year. As embarking on this career path can take time, effort and money, we’ve laid out some basic steps to help you get started: 

Analyze your strengths 

Assessing whether app development is right for you could be one of the most important steps you take before starting on your new career. 

For instance, depending on the project, you may have to jump between working with other developers to discussing deadlines with stakeholders.  You may also have to deal with unhappy users experiencing issues with your app. Therefore, you’ll need the ability the multi-task and work under pressure.

On the other hand, as you gain experience, you could have the opportunity to take on more complex projects and even start your own company.

Learn to code 

While there are development platforms and forms that allow you to create apps in a drag-and-drop style, learning to code is essential to be able to provide the level of customization and functionality required for complex apps.

You can learn basic coding principles through online tutorials or attending introductory classes at your local college or university. 

Alternatively, if you have the funds, you could enrol in a coding bootcamp, which could help you get qualified in as little as three months, due to the hands-on experience you’ll be getting.

Popular coding websites and platforms include:

  • Codecademy: this revolves around interactive learning, where you can learn, type your code into the browser and see results immediately.
  • freeCodecamp: perfect for learning to core while working on various projects, such as a budgeting app or a photo app.
  • Coursera: offering many course options, classes are taught by real university professors or major companies.

Learn essential programming languages 

Choosing which languages to learn for app development depends on the app you’re looking to build and the platform you’re using.

For example:

  • For iOS apps: Objective-C or Swift are the best languages to learn 
  • For Android apps: Kotlin or Java are more suitable 
  • For hybrid or cross-platform apps: choose languages that work with both mobile and web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

If you’re a complete beginner, starting with a language like PHP or Java is a good idea, as these are easier to learn and understand. 

Gain experience building and testing apps

Once you’ve learnt the basics of coding and programming, it’s time to put your skills to the test, by building an app. Depending on the type of app you make and the complexity of its features, this could take anything from a few months to a few years. However, the key is to aim for something small and manageable, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

Not only will this allow you to hone your skills, but also help you build a solid portfolio to make it easier for you to land your first job in app development.

Optimize your resume 

As an app developer, it can be easy to make common resume mistakes, such as assuming that recruiters understand technical jargon, being too vague about your experience (‘coding’) or not tailoring your resume as per job requirements.

As you’ll likely be applying for roles that call for skills with different apps, the best way to get noticed is to create different versions of your resumes for each application, highlighting specific skills.

Consider including a section for your technical and soft skills on a resume (e.g. communication, teamwork, empathy) to show employers you have the qualities to thrive in app development.

Make a portfolio

The best way to stand out from the competition is through an online portfolio showcasing your app development skills. While your resume states your experience and theoretical knowledge, your portfolio is tangible proof of your skills and the projects you’ve worked on. 

Here are a few tips for creating your portfolio:

  • Consider your target audience: While employers will most likely be interested in your projects and code, clients may take more interest in your case studies and professional services.
  • Minimize clicks: While you may have worked on complex apps, your portfolio website should be easy to navigate, meaning your projects, coding samples and contact details should only be a few clicks away.

Join an app developer community 

Joining a community could be a game-changer in launching your career as an app developer. Ruth the right support, you can share knowledge, overcome problems and even gain early access to job opportunities.

Some of the best app development communities to join include:

  • Stack Overflow: serving 100 million people every month, this is one of the most popular  question and answer websites for programmers in the world.
  • Kodeco: a popular mobile development community, which publishes a blog, video courses, free articles, tutorial books and starter kits.

XDA Developers: founded in 2002, XDA is the world’s largest smartphone and electronics community, featuring discussions mainly around Android.