Professional development

Essential skills and certifications for software developers

Fakhar Imam
September 18, 2019 by
Fakhar Imam

A software developer, also known as a computer programmer or coder, is a creative person who designs and develops software applications or computer systems. They use mathematics, engineering, science and design techniques to build such systems.

Over the past couple of years, the demand for software developers has skyrocketed as organizations attempt to find people who can bring their digital projects to life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, software developer job roles will grow 24% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average growth rate of other professions. Becoming a software developer is not a piece of cake, as developing a software application requires both soft and technical skills as well as certification in the software development realm.

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Undoubtedly, software development is an intellectual process that requires a deep knowledge of the basics of computing and its applications in the development of technological solutions to real-life problems. Since software systems are complex and intangible, having essential skills and certifications are vital, as they instill basic and fundamental knowledge.

What essential skills are required for software developers?

If you are planning to become a good software developer, you must have essential skills to survive and thrive. Software developers need two types of skills: soft skills and technical skills. 

Soft skills include analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, teamwork, the ability to self-study, attention to details and staying humble. Technical skills include a deep knowledge of programming languages, object-oriented design, data structures, database knowledge, the ability to build a deployment platform, testing and debugging. 

The following sections elaborate on both types of skills in more details.

Soft skills

Soft skills are behaviors and personality traits. They are the drivers of your marketability to potential employers. You must equip yourself with the soft skills needed to complement your technical skills in order to stand out in a pile of resumes. 

John Sonmez, in his book “The Software Developer’s Career Guide,” stated that “technical knowledge alone isn't enough to break through to the next income level — developers need ‘soft skills’ like the ability to learn new technologies just in time, communicate clearly with management and consulting clients, negotiate a fair hourly rate, and unite teammates and coworkers in working toward a common goal.” 

According to the Queens University of Charlotte, 73% of business leaders consider soft skills more important than job-specific skills. Below is the list of most critical soft skills:

Analytical skills

Analytical skills and analytical thinking are considered required business abilities in software engineering today. Analytical skills help developers to solve complex problems by making efficient decisions. Analytical thinking works by:

  • Identifying an issue or problem
  • Gathering information
  • Recommending a solution
  • Testing solutions to realize whether they are appropriate or need further analysis
  • Post-analysis — checking to see if the solution is working properly


Employers want developers who have the ability to resolve problems or issues effectively and quickly. This is because problem-solving is the most critical skill that every software developer must have. To software analysts, software development is 100 percent about problem-solving, as without a problem there would not be a need for software. 

According to Mark Wilcox, vice president of business development at ICSynergy, it doesn’t matter how much expert a programmer is in a specific programming language because any competent developer can learn a new language within a week. But if the developer doesn’t have good problem-solving skills and isn’t trying to improve, then he won’t be any help to your project.


Michael Jordan, world-famous basketball player, said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Within an interdependent work environment, collaborative effort is always important. If teamwork is failing constantly due to no set guidelines, little communication, and team members are reluctant to communicate with one another, the project will certainly come to a standstill or will end fruitlessly. Therefore, each member should take part in discussions, discuss problems with others, respect opinions and resolve conflicts with patience.

Teaching yourself

Software development is a dynamic field. New technologies, platforms and cyberthreats are emerging every day. Therefore, you must keep abreast of the latest trends in the software development market to boost your software development career. 

Without such knowledge, developing effective software is out of the question. For example, you cannot provide embedded security to your software application unless you are aware of the latest threats to software programs.

The best way to teach yourself is to read blog posts and whitepapers, listen to podcasts and register with community forums related to software development such as Stack Overflow, Code Fights or Coderbyte.  

Attention to detail

Strong attention to detail is the ability to achieve accuracy and thoroughness when developing high-quality source code. Computer systems only do what people tell them to do. If your source code contains faults or can’t be compiled, you cannot blame the computer. To avoid this situation, you need to become a detail-oriented developer — always identify the mistake in your own code as well as in other’s code.

Stay humble

Do not bring your ego to the workplace. No matter how intelligent you are, considering yourself always right is an unwise approach. Avoid unnecessary talk or keep quiet in a working environment where concentration is key. 

During the code review, you may face constructive criticism of other team members. Moreover, you may sometimes encounter your customer’s constructive criticism due to the bugs appearing after shipping the product. Under such circumstances, stay humble and deal with others politely and patiently.

Technical skills

Technical skills are mostly about programming languages and other related technologies. Like soft skills, technical skills are also important to become a software developer. There are so many programming languages and learning each of them is impossible. The user may master a single language or a few more to establish his software development career; this is unlike the soft skills, which all fit every type of language and technology. 

In other words, technical skills can be changed, but soft skills will remain the same. The following sections list some essential technical skills required for software developers:

What language to choose

Programming languages empower humans to control and instruct machines. However, it is important to realize which language is the best for your career.

How to structure code

When structuring a code, you must make sure that code is good, clear and understandable even without plenty of comments, because the code itself should be communicative.

Object-oriented programming

Object-oriented programming, or OOP, is a software programming model that represents data in the form of objects or fields. The objects are further classified into classes, usually the parent and child classes. 

Why do we need this? In fact, we need OOP to classify objects. For example, a “furniture” parent class can have many child classes such as “tables,” “chairs,” “beds,” “cupboards,” “dressers,” and “desks.” 

The core principles of OOP include Encapsulation, Abstraction, Inheritance and Polymorphism. OOP is one of the fundamental technical skills for software developers.

Data structure

Data structure is used in programming languages to store ordered data so that numerous operations can be conducted on it easily. Data structures should be designed and implemented in such a way that they increase efficiency and reduce complexity. Various types of data structures include arrays or vectors, stacks, linked lists, trees, queues, sets and hashes.

Choosing and mastering a development platform

Generally, development platforms encompasses operating systems such as Windows, macOS or Android. However, they also include web development, video game development, desktop development and so on. Most employers look for platform-specific developers. Therefore, you need to choose the right platform and then master it.

You are probably thinking that programming language you have chosen will determine the platform, but this is not necessarily true. For example, mastering C# will allow you to write code for multiple platforms such as Linux, iOS and Windows.


We cannot underestimate the importance of databases in today’s development environments, as they store data of the applications which are being developed. Having knowledge of at least two types of databases is essential. They include relational databases and document databases.

Deployment system

A deployment system is employed to deploy the source code, either on a production machine or on a testing environment.


It is a process of executing the source code to identify bugs and errors — both syntax and logical errors. If any of the bugs are identified, you can fix it using testing techniques that include:

  • Acceptance testing
  • Test automation
  • Boundary conditions
  • Black-box testing
  • Unit testing
  • White-box testing


Debugging is the process of finding problems or defects within your software application and then devising strategies to fix them. A defective application doesn’t execute properly or provide desired results.

What certifications are available for software developers?

Getting a certification related to software engineering or software development can help you to get ahead in your career. Today, various IT companies offer certifications in the software development realm. The following sections will list certifications that can help candidates to become a software developer.

  • CSSLP — Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
  • CMWAPT — Certified Mobile and Web App Penetration Tester
  • MTA — Microsoft Technology Associate
  • RHCJD — Red Hat Certified JBoss Developer
  • PMI-ACP — PMP Agile Certified Practitioner
  • Oracle Certified Associate, Java, SE 6/SE 5
  • Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE 6/SE 5 Programmer
  • Oracle Certified Master, Java SE6 Developer
  • Oracle Certified Master, Java EE 5 Enterprise Architect
  • Microsoft Specialist: Programming in C#
  • AWS Certified Developer — Associate
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer — Professional
  • Certified Scrum Professional
  • Certified Developer


Undoubtedly, software development is a complex and technical field. However, you can become a good software developer if you grasp essential skills and earn certification in the software development realm. In this post, we have delved deep into both soft and technical skills required to become a software developer, in addition to the certification as well.

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Fakhar Imam
Fakhar Imam

Fakhar Imam is a professional writer with a master’s program in Masters of Sciences in Information Technology (MIT). To date, he has produced articles on a variety of topics including on Computer Forensics, CISSP, and on various other IT related tasks.