You normally need a degree, foundation degree or BTEC HNC/HND to become a software developer. You could choose from a variety of subjects, including:
- computer science/studies
- information technology
- software development
- software engineering
- business information systems
You may still be able to find a place on a graduate trainee scheme even if you do not have an IT-related degree, as larger employers tend to accept graduates from any discipline. You could study for a postgraduate IT conversion qualification, although this is not essential. Several universities are now offering the Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) degree. The degree has been developed by e-skills UK and employers to meet specific industry needs, for example project management skills and business awareness. For more details, visit the e-skills UK website.
Experience in IT or a related area can be useful. You can gain experience through work placements, internships or a year in industry.
You will also need a working knowledge of the main programming languages and operating systems used, for example:
- Java, C++, Smalltalk and Visual Basic
- Oracle, UML (Unified Modelling Language), Linux and Delphi
- .NET frameworks (such as C# (C-sharp), ASP and VB)
Visit the developer.com website for information and links to resources covering programming languages.
Contact e-skills UK, the British Computer Society, Institute for the Management of Information Systems and the Institution of Analysts and Programmers for more information about careers in the IT sector.
What further training and development can I do? Once you are working, you could develop your career by taking professional qualifications, such as:
- e-skills UK Professional Programme
- British Computer Society Certificate, Diploma and Professional Graduate Diploma
- Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) programmes
- Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP) programmes.
You could also take training courses offered by software development companies. Examples include:
- Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and Certified Applications Developer (MCAD)
- Sun Microsystems Java Certified Programmer (SCJP) and Developer (SCJD)
- Oracle PL/SQL Developer (databases)
Another option would be to take a postgraduate qualification to specialise in a specific branch of IT or computer science, for example Artificial Intelligence. Contact Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) to find out what courses are available.
- Universities and Colleges Admissions Service You can find out more about professional development options on the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) website.
- Skills Framework for the Information Age
It’s essential that you stay up to date with the fast paced IT industry as new developments are always appearing. Many organisations may offer a training programme to keep you updates on the latest movements within the industry, particularly relating to the business’ requirements and resources.
At a junior level, you could learn many skills from more senior programmers and/or go on external courses to boost your personal skills. Much of this training will be focused 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.
Knowledge of programming skills is a prerequisite. However, the particular language will depend on the requirements of the specific company. Among the skills employers will look for are:
Knowledge of programming skills are a given if you want to get into software development. You'll need to be comfortable with web-based programs, as well as traditional programs 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:
- Expertise in current computer hardware and software
- Ability to use one or more development language (C++, PHP, HTML, etc.)
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Eye for detail and identifying problems
- An understanding of business
- Analytical and commercial experience
Most employers will expect you have to have a relevant computing qualification or degree, however there are companies that run trainee programmes for those with AS levels.
If you have a degree, but it’s not related to IT, you could apply for a graduate trainee scheme, or take a postgraduate conversion course to build up the relevant skills.
Some of the most sought after skills by employers include Java, C++, Smalltalk, Visual Basic, Oracle, Linux and .net. PHP are also becoming increasingly in demand.