Inside IT Software Developer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Old School Programmers Aren't Learning The Basics...
I was surprised with how little actual Science is used in the industry. The current state of the industry does not require programmers coming out of college to know about or care about memory or storage limitations as memory and disk space are so cheap now." (Business Analyst/Programmer; 2013)

Career: 23 years of experience, currently based in Louisiana, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Southwestern Louisiana in Louisiana; completed Bachelor degree in 1993

"Always Look For Ways To Improve Your Skills...
I was surprised by how fast technologies change and by how much we have to continue to keep on top of the current technologies being used. I always thought that I just needed to learn a few programming languages and I would be fine. In reality though, we have to always be in a state of learning and staying up to date with current tech. Otherwise we may be left in the dust." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Michigan in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Endless Variety Of New Tasks...
Most are surprised at the variety of different tasks and projects they get to work on. It is an endless stream of new and exciting projects. There is absolutely no time to get bored and you are constantly acquiring new skills." (IT Developer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied E-Business Technology at PHCC in Florida; completed Associate degree in 2010

"Technology Changes Quickly...
What surprised me the most is the amount of effort required to keep up with the pace of technology. You have to continue to learn new techniques, programming language and framework features, and programming methodologies." (IT Developer; 2014)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Kansas, male
School: Studied Information Systems at Kansas State University in Kansas; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"You Get To Wear Many Hats And You Get To Learn New Things...
The most surprising thing is how fluid the job responsibilities can be. One day you could be coding, another day debugging, third day, getting your users proper access." (Application Engineer; 2014)

Career: 17 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer And Informational Science at Brooklyn College in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 1997

"Technology Changes Quickly...
I was surprised by how quickly the industry changes. When I started mobile development did not exist. Now it is a hot skill. It's very important to stay on top of trends and always strive to learn new things." (IT Developer; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer Science at NYU in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Health Risks Of Sitting...
I was surprised to find out that sitting at a desk all day can be very bad for your health. There are a number of health issues that can quickly appear such as obesity and leg issues." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Maryland, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Boston University in Massachusetts; completed Master degree in 2007

"Soft Skills Versus Technical Expertise...
I was surprised how much technical expertise is not the most important portion of my career. The ability to work with people has proven to be much more important than the technical skills." (IT Developer; 2014)

Career: 23 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Data Management at Thompson Institute in Pennsylvania; completed Associate degree in 2000

"I was surprised that I was able to find a supervisory position so early in my career." (Computer Software Manager; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at UCSD in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"College Degree Didn't Prepare Me...
I was surprised how unprepared I was for a real job and all the things that go into a single day of work." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Utah, male
School: at Dixie University in Utah; completed Bachelor degree

"I.T. Requires 90% Of Your Time...
What surprised me most is how the corporate world accepts I.T. individuals to live and breath the job and put it before family. It's understood you must stay on top of technology but also must be willing to put in 60 to 70 hours a week." (IT Developer/Analyst; 2014)

Career: 16 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Computer Information Systems at Georgia State University in Georgia; completed Bachelor degree in 1997

"Computer Technology Is The Job Of The Future...
Well in this day an age computer technology is the best way an maybe in a lot of ways a certain sense of job security. If your really creative an have an eye for details then this would be a career to look in to. Its doesn't take years an years of school to get started but the further you want to advance the more schooling you should take. The pay is wonderful an hr can be long at time but nothing overbearing" (Software Designer; 2014)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Computer Tech at Atlanta Tech in Georgia; completed Associate degree in 2005

"The Work Is Very Hard...
I'm surprised by how difficult it is. I really like programming and working with computers but the schedule is very tight and it is really very hard work. I thought it would be much easier." (IT Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, male
School: Studied Information Technology at Big Sandy Community And Technical College in Kentucky; completed Associate degree in 2012

"Over Work...
Many IT professionals need to work after business hours. like upgrade software, add more functions to the net work. All these work have to be done during weekend or holidays when no one use the net work." (IT Professional; 2014)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Queens College in New York; completed Master degree in 2000

"Your Skill Set Is Already Obsolete...
Most people are surprised at how little college prepares one for the actual occupation of software engineering. Most aspects taught in college is out of date by the time one finds gainful employment in the area of study you got your degree for. Many methodologies and skill sets are completely different and have to be quickly learned in the competitive environment in which you find yourself. It is surprising that the real learning you are required is learned on the ground and running once you receive the job." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Michigan in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"Communicating With Non-Techies...
I was surprised at how being a software developer requires good communication skills. I'm required to constantly interact with managers and clients to help develop a system that meets the clients needs but I'm asked to describe these features in a non-technical way." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Information Technology at Juniata College in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"Communication And Business Skills...
I was most surprised by the need for communication skills (both oral and written) for a position or career that I originally thought was primarily one with minimal human interactions. I was also surprised how little preparation I had in understanding business needs and goals since my college courses didn't spend any significant time in that area. These two major areas are of primary importance in my chosen field." (Lead DB Developer; 2013)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of South Florida in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"I was surprised over how intense of a career Market Research can be. Deadlines can be strict as you deal with many different types of clients. However, the career is also rewarding if you enjoy interacting with clients, enjoy analyzing numbers, and like to have room to grow. It offers many different paths. I am on the technical side; programming the actual surveys and analyzing the data they produce. You can also work on the client side, developing questionnaires, etc." (Senior Programmer; 2013)

Career: 16 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Technology at Rider in New Jersey; completed Bachelor degree in 1996

"I was surprised that with so many talks on outsourcing IT to overseas, the need for good quality of Computer Science professionals is still strong, and this country actually lacks good quality of IT professionals. This industry is strong, ever changing and very challenging, but it is also tremendously rewarding in the same time. I am surprised the lack of understanding and amount of misconception about this field, which presents abundant opportunities in the many years to come." (System Architect; 2012)

Career: 6 years of experience, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign in Illinois; completed Master degree in 2001

"I was surprised to find the vast pool of knowledge that is required to design, implement, and support all aspects of a business's applications. It requires a lot of in-depth knowledge to successfully interact with all of the various groups that make up an Information Technology infrastructure. Being an application administrator has provided me to gain experience in many areas of technology, whereas if I was more specialized I would only focus on one area." (Information Technology Applications Administrator, Sr.; 2012)

Career: , currently based in Oregon, male
School: Studied Computer Information Systems at Bellevue University in Nebraska; completed Bachelor degree in 1989

"I was surprised to learn that in the I.T. career field you never stop attending school. I was surprised to get out in the field and actually see how fast the technology advances." (I.T. Consultant; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Information Technology at Purdue University in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Nothing has really surprised me about my career, but I believe others would be surprised by the lack of a hierarchical work structure. While there are supervisors and the like they will not hinder you work in the least on the job, which I always though would be a problem." (Software Developer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Computer Sciences at Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina; completed Associate degree in 2012

"The thing that has surprised me the most about my career is how much has changed in the years I have been working. The technology has changed so much that anything I learned in college is no longer relevant. It has been all learning on the job of how to keep up. I'm surprised there is no formal training or sending us back to class but instead it's learn by simply doing and trying to figure out." (Systems Consultant; 2012)

Career: 16 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Business at Illinois State in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 1996

"What has surprised me the most has been that social skills has been a major part of the career that I pursued. Being in IT I didn't believe that I would need to be so well spoken because I thought of it as a job where you sit in a cubicle all day." (Software Developer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied IT at Macomb Community College in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Pension Software Consultant: "I enjoy the fact that my job requires a varied skill set, so I get to do a lot of different things. In addition to running the projects, I also get involved with marketing and proposals for new clients. Since there are a lot of different skills involved, it keeps work interesting. The downside to this job is that it requires travel to the client's site, sometimes for weeks on end. While this may sound glamorous, it is difficult to be away from home." (2011)

Database Developer: "The best part of the job for me is being able to create a program or a report which saves someone in the business time, and helps them make decisions easier. I take a lot of satisfaction knowing that I am helping someone do their job. I think that is what technology is supposed to be for: to make people's lives better and easier. If I can help someone improve the business by helping them fix a problem, or showing them a better way to do something, then that makes me feel good. The worst part of the job for me is working on an uninteresting project, or working on obsolete technology. I want to make an impact, and I want to work on the latest technology as much as possible to keep me attractive to future employers. However, if I am asked to work on that type of project, I do it and I do it well. When I have shown that I can do the job, I can then respectfully ask my manager for more interesting and challenging assignments." (2011)

Software Engineer: "The biggest disadvantage, in my vision, is that I'm supposed to both implement something and test it. I always feel it's a good idea to give the testing task to a different person, since the goal of testing is to find flaws in the implementation and the developer him/herself would be way less motivated to look for errors in his/her own code in that way. Of course, I'm being honest and test my code as if it were someone else's, but I do see the sense in giving this task to a different person." (2011)

Consultant: "The best thing about my career is the prestige that comes with it. As a well respected technical specialist, my customers hold me in high regard and are usually friendly and willing to work with me to solve problems. My specific career involves a broad latitude of freedom to work out complex issues in a timely manner. The absolute worst part of my career is the long hours and excessive out of town, out of state, and overseas travel." (2011)

IT Consultant: "The best part of the job is working with companies that we partner with to help them achieve success. They tend to be smaller, entrepreneurial companies with smart, dynamic people who are fun to work with. The worst part is setting up trade shows where almost always something goes wrong (missing equipment, demo doesn't work, etc.) and you're under a lot of pressure to get the problems resolved." (2011)

Release Manager: "I love the analytical part of my job since I get to use problem-solving skills on a daily basis. I implement processes which are meant to standardize and simplify the entire software release process. The part that can be frustrating about my job is that I only get injected into the process at the end of a very long line of steps that must occur to properly develop and deliver software. This means I often get caught in the rush to get a product into use. Which means it's almost always crunch time." (2010)

Software Engineer: "I enjoy certain parts of the job that require challenging problem-solving. It is amazing how fast a day can fly by when you are concentrating on a difficult problem. Some elements of any corporate job are present that make work more difficult. Like employees of many large organizations, I spend a significant portion of my working time doing things that are peripheral to the tasks I've been assigned -- attending meetings, for example, that do not have a direct bearing on the project I'm engaged in." (2009)

Custom Software Developer: "The best part of my work is the contact with the client, both prior to production and during the training processes. I love to see the "wow! it can do that!" looks on people's faces when they realize the functionality of custom software. After all, it's written to their specifications. The worst parts are when the coding is repetitious (imagine doing the same thing hundreds of times) or something doesn't work as expected and I have to review lines and lines of code. One time the mistake was simply that there was an extra space in the code. Imagine trying to find that!" (2009)

Sr. Architect - Technology: "The best part of my job is I enjoy the technology I work with. While I support many 'older' systems, I also support newer systems running on the latest hardware which keeps me up-to-date. There are many times where I have to learn something 'on-the-fly', even during critical outages for a customer. This can sometimes be a bit stressful but if you keep things in perspective it makes it easier to deal with these types of issues. Another thing I really like about my job is I have a lot of flexibility, coming into the office pretty much when I want for how long I want, and even working remotely from home occasionally as needed. The thing I guess I don't like sometimes is I am on-call a lot and occasionally I get those 3AM in the morning calls due to a customer's critical systems being down and I have to get up, log on and attempt troubleshooting. It is better than earlier days when I not only had to get up and accept the call, I actually had to hop in my vehicle and go to the customers location!" (2009)

Career Background

IT Software Developer

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Online Learning Can Help Keep Your Skills Up To Date...
To be a successful IT developer you must learn new languages and work on personal projects in your spare time. There are many free, online resources that can be used to learn programming (ex coursera, codeacademy). Getting involved with an open source project is another great way to learn a new technology." (IT Developer; 2014)

"Be A Professional IT Developer...
Prepare to work any time when your boss requires, being professional IT developer, you should fix the problem as soon as possible to help business working correctly. Team work is very important because team member must understand each other to develop a perfect net work system." (IT Professional; 2014)

"Stay Up To Date...
Be curious and learn as much as possible. Staying abreast of changes in technology, as well as technologies other than the ones you are most familiar with, will allow you switch employers with ease and gain more experience." (IT Developer; 2014)

"Computer Tech Is A Stable An Well Paying Job...
If a computer tech is the career you wish to take the best thing I can say is get into a well rounded technical school an then start on your internship at a reliable business" (Software Designer; 2014)

"Soft Skills Over Hard Skills...
If you want to become successful software engineer, strive to learn flexibility and other soft skills as opposed to learning certain software tools." (Application Engineer; 2014)

"IT Soft Skills...
If you want to be successful as an IT developer spend the time to learn how to successfully work with and interact with many different personality types." (IT Developer; 2014)

"Constantly Study The Field And Work Hard...
If you want to be in the I.T. field be willing to stay on top of technology and willing to work at least 60 hours a week as the norm." (IT Developer/Analyst; 2014)

"Moving To New Companies...
It will be likely that you will bounce around to a few different employers in order to receive a solid pay level." (Software Engineer; 2013)

"The Smallest Details Are Important...
It is important to pay attention to detail. It is better to be accurate than fast." (IT Developer; 2013)

"Do Side Projects In School...
While at University do side projects that aren't part of your classwork." (Software Engineer; 2013)

"What To Do When Between Jobs...
If you can't find a job right out of college, consider working freelance and doing coding side jobs temporarily. You may build up a good resume, learn valuable experience, make some extra money, and you might end up with something more permanent." (Software Developer; 2013)

"Be Passionate About Programming...
Work on as many personal programming projects as possible." (IT Software Developer; 2013)

"Work Where You Like...
Learn how the computers work and find an industry you are interested in. They all use computers." (Business Analyst/Programmer; 2013)

"Don't Limit Your Job Hunt...
I would say to apply to companies you would least expect to need you, because in this day and age, everybody needs a computer. Someone to fix it will be necessary." (Computer Software Manager; 2013)

"Always Curious, Always Studious...
To be ready for the career of software engineering once out of college you have to be in a constant state of learning. Never quit being curious and studious. Lifelong learning is a way of life and career." (Software Engineer; 2013)

"Actuarial Science Is A Good Choice...
1. My degree was in General Science, which was not the best choice for this career. A better choice would have been actuarial science along with some business courses in client management and project management. 2. The number of firms that do this type of work are limited to a handful. Try to get a summer internship at an actuarial firm to get into the field. 3. Working with PeopleSoft, the software company, is probably the easiest way to get into the field. They will do some training, but it is not as rigorous as Mercer or other companies." (Pension Software Consultant; 2011)

"No Substitute For A Comp Sci Degree...
Number 1: You must go to school and get a computer science degree. I've seen many people go into computer programming after studying something else, and they struggle with a lot of the concepts. Even today, I utilize what I learned in computer science courses in my everyday work. You should also try to go the extra mile and do some self-study to help round out your education. Keep your options open, but try to specialize in 1 or 2 technologies, and also perhaps 1 or 2 specific industries. Number 2: There is no substitute for hands-on training, to apply what you have learned to an actual work environment. Be an intern, join the co-op program at your school, even practice by yourself. Being a contract programmer is not for everyone, but it can expose you to different types of companies in different industries. Number 3: Learn the business that you're in. If you work for an investment management company, learn all you can about mutual funds. Also, learn how businesses in general work. I took several business courses in college, and they have helped me immeasurably in doing my job. It's one thing to be a technology expert; it's another thing to be able to apply what you have learned to solve a business problem. And if you don't understand what the business problem is, how can you help fix it?" (Database Developer; 2011)

"Practice Outside Of Class...
The best way to get into Software Engineering is to practice a lot with the programming language of your choice. Take on some coding-related extracurricular activities, such as contributing to open source projects - that kind of real-life experience will give you a solid basis. Try to accomplish at least one internship throughout your studies (the more - the better, of course). Again, nothing will help you more than real-life experience in the field. As much as we, coders, try to avoid the business side of it, one is still highly likely to get involved in the general design phase and user-interaction (especially in case of going into Industry). So, be prepared, develop your communication skills, and have a solid understanding of UML and the Software lifecycle." (Software Engineer; 2011)

"Specialize In Something You'll Enjoy...
Because the IT field has become very specialized, there are many technical disciplines that an aspiring IT specialist can focus on. It's important to know what you like and what you do not like working on. It is vital that you enjoy your work as then you will become naturally excited and ambitious in furthering your career. Because this industry is constantly changing and evolving, one must stay technically abreast of current trends and technologies." (Consultant; 2011)

"Stay Caffeinated...
It is very important to drink your coffee. Everything else is less important!" (IT Consultant; 2011)

"Broad IT Knowledge Will Serve You Well...
It is advantageous to have a knowledge of all facets of information technology, so take as broad a range of studies as possible and don't just focus on one particular information technology field. You should have just as much exposure to networking, security, and operating systems as you do to the various programming languages." (Release Manager; 2010)

"Broaden Your Skill Base...
Many times getting a position is about demonstrating that you can pick up new things quickly. Try to avoid getting stuck on one set of skills. Not only will this beef up your resume, it will show that you can adapt to what is a pretty fast-changing career. Internships and co-ops are extremely valuable. They give you experience and they beef up your resume. Use them to get a look at companies you might like to work for when you graduate. You might realize that a company is (or is not) what you are looking for." (Software Engineer; 2009)

"Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions...
Pay attention in school. The most boring courses are sometimes the most important. When you have the opportunity, look at the code behind the scenes. One fun way is to use the "View Source" command in a web browser. Don't be afraid to ask how something works. Most people in my profession love to brag! Be curious, respectful and more curious. Sometimes the best training is your own sleuthing. If possible take a look at someone's work from the developer's point-of-view. Start on small projects. There are plenty around and many developers who would be willing to coach you." (Custom Software Developer; 2009)

"Seek Ways To Avoid The Catch-22...
1. Get as much hands-on experience as possible. One issue I had cracking the IT field was I had good grades in college in my computer minor (a computer major was not available at the time), but potential employers were looking for someone with experience. It was kind of a catch-22. How was I supposed to get experience if no one would give me the initial break to enter the field? 2. I also like the idea of internships or even better a coop program such as that offered by some colleges. These are two excellent ways to get around that old catch-22. 3. I believe hands-on experience is more important than certifications later in your career. Certifications are important when you are breaking into the field but after that I would hire an individual with a lot of real world experience over someone with a lot of degrees. Unfortunately, in many cases certifications have just become another revenue generator for companies and have little validity. In many cases, you can attend a short-term 'boot camp' that essentially guarantees you will get the certification you desire." (Sr. Architect - Technology; 2009)