"There are simply more job openings than talented developers to fill them."
While the job of a mobile app developer is new to this millennium, regular application developers have been around for decades, writing software for desktop computers.
But as computing moved from desktop to laptop to hand-held, with the worldwide proliferation of smart phones and tablets, everybody is scrambling to develop the best mobile applications (or “apps”).
Taking advantage of the new technology and all the creative possibilities that merge social, local and mobile information (SoLoMo), good mobile app developers are in high demand and will continue to be in the coming years.
Mobile apps offer customers the latest and smartest ways to connect to news, entertainment, work, education, shopping, socializing and more. These apps are sold or given away for free through virtual marketplaces such as Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play. Long-established companies seeking to reach the consumer on the go, along with young innovative start-ups trying to grab a piece of the new marketplace, need app developers to create the user interface that makes it all happen.
Although many app developers work on staff for organizations, many are entrepreneurs who take advantage of the efforts of hardware companies like Apple to put program design into the hands of the people. This open-source model encourages innovative app development by offering user-friendly Software Development Kits, along with support forums for people writing their own apps. Therefore, a solo-flying individual with a big idea, modest means, and the time and determination to learn, can self-launch a successful app. A solid tech background in programming makes this a lot easier, of course.
Silicon Valley soccer coach Tim Newsome recently created his first app, Skillz and Drillz, with code-writing help from his brother.
“I decided to combine my passion for technology with what I already do—soccer—and start making videos. But I wanted an app. I could see it was the next big thing,” says Newsome.
While the launch slowed due to Apple’s standard approval process, which can take up to four weeks, the Skillz and Drillz app was released in March 2012. Since then, the Newsome brothers have seen about 7,000 downloads. Tim notes, “I’ve read articles that launching an app can cost 15 to 20 grand and up. Hiring graphic designers, making games with quantum physics, having testers. It adds up. But we haven’t got $30,000! We just try to produce what we can. For me, it’s pure hobby. But my mind is racing off in all different directions with new ideas.” Happy with the first outcome, he is gearing up for more and better, hoping to reach tens of thousands of kids to share his knowledge of professional soccer.
For someone seeking an app developer position at a large organization, it helps to know that companies often seek to launch apps for multiple platforms at once, so a developer who can program in more than one mobile environment becomes especially sought after. Currently for Android, programmers should be skilled in Java or C++, and for Apple iOS (previously named for the iPhone Operating System but now also used for the iPad and Apple TV), programmers work in Objective-C. In addition to the technical know-how, good app developers understand what the user needs and what the network can handle. They work well with other departments in an organization to constantly improve current mobile apps, and bring more traditional desktop software into the mobile sphere. The average app developer salary is $95,000, but work hours may be long in more demanding environments.
ITCareerFinder.com lists mobile applications developer as the number one computer job for the future. “Mobile application development is home to one of the largest skills gaps ever seen in IT; there are simply more job openings than talented developers to fill them,” says Daniel Greenspan, founder of ITCareerFinder. Their research, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, shows that this field will continue to grow in demand through 2020.
Jane Varner Malhotra is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C..