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Software Developers: What Type of Degree Do You Need?

UW Online Collaboratives March 20, 2018
software developer degree

If you want to be a software developer, an applied computer science bachelor’s degree will make you stand out to employers. Software developers in the field recommend completing a curriculum that emphasizes soft skills in addition to technical knowledge of tools, algorithms, and data structures. Also, choose a degree program with a built-in internship or work experience, because employers look for candidates who have real-life experience with software development projects.

Why Software Development?

Software development was named the second best technology job of 2022 by U.S. News & World Report. Why? There are three main reasons: Software developers enjoy their work, are in high demand, and earn competitive salaries.

Developers play a crucial role on IT teams. They are behind many of the applications that make the digital world run. They often have the opportunity to turn ideas into something they can practice and play with and, ultimately, build exciting and novel tech. There are three types of software developers:

  • Front-end developers, who make the things that users see and interact with on websites or web applications
  • Back-end developers, who sort through the data access layer of a piece of software
  • Full-stack developers, who do both

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of all types of software developers will grow 22 percent from 2020 to 2030. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t hiring software developers. A quick job search reveals that Amazon, General Motors, 3M, Spectrum, Under Armour, Target, Salesforce, and Major League Baseball are all hiring for these positions.

And the pay? The national median salary for a software developer salary is $110,140.

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Do I Need a Degree to Become a Software Developer?

It’s recommended, and here’s why. Many developers currently in the workforce already have a degree. A 2022 Emsi jobs report found that 57 percent of software developer job postings required a bachelor’s degree to be qualified.

It’s important to note that some people have and still do get into software development without a formal degree. However, in most cases, having at least a bachelor’s degree can make you stand out to hiring managers and recruiters.

What Type of Degree is Best for Software Developers?

  • An applied computer science or software engineering major
  • A program offered online
  • A curriculum that emphasizes communication and other soft skills
  • A built-in internship or other hands-on work experience

Many degree programs don’t require a hands-on experience such as an internship, work in a professor’s lab, or participation in hackathons—all things that tech companies look for on a developer’s resume. However, according to the Center for American Progress, “most high-paying jobs in technology… require hands-on development experience, knowledge of software development processes, and previous internship or work experience.” Students without this experience are at a disadvantage when applying for jobs.

The Applied Computer Science Degree Designed for You

University of Wisconsin created the Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing to fit the needs of aspiring software developers and other IT professionals. It’s an online bachelor’s degree completion program, which means you can earn your degree from the comfort of your home in as little as two years. You’ll graduate from one of five respected UW campuses. And the 21-course curriculum, designed and taught by UW faculty, is a computer science curriculum that emphasizes communication, strategic thinking, project management, and other desired soft skills.

Plus, the final capstone course gives you the opportunity to put your software development skills to the test. You can design a project tailored to your own interests and complete it at a real workplace, alongside talented software developers. This not only gives you hands-on experience, but also networking opportunities, job references, and a potential job offer.

Take the Next Step

Explore the UW Applied Computing degree program. Or talk with someone directly by contacting an enrollment adviser at 608-800-6762 or

Programs: Applied Computing