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Mobile Application Developer Career Guide

What is a mobile application developer?

A mobile application developer is a technical expert who uses specialized software and programming languages to build, update, and optimize mobile applications typically built for Android or iOS platforms. They are usually part of a software development team within a larger organization, and they aim to create efficient, user-friendly applications that address specific user needs or business goals.

Because most businesses and consumers rely heavily on mobile applications, this role is essential for connecting audiences with products, features, or services they need to accomplish certain tasks or solve problems. They often play a critical role in both the design and execution stages of app development, making key decisions that impact an app’s interface, functionality, and overall user experience.

Duties and responsibilities

The main duty of a mobile application developer is to create, maintain, and improve mobile applications in line with user needs and business objectives. They conceptualize and establish application protocols, design application interfaces, write and test application software, and troubleshoot any issues during development. As part of a software development team, they work closely with other developers, project managers, regulatory specialists, and testers to ensure their applications are safe, functional, and user-friendly.

Other responsibilities include fixing bugs, modifying applications in response to user feedback, and staying up-to-date with industry trends, technologies, and competitors. They may also be tasked with developing application documentation, including diagrams and flow charts, to assist co-workers during the production stage and to help users familiarize themselves with new applications.

Work environment

The work environment of a mobile application developer is typically an office setting, shared with other members of their development team. They often work in front of a computer in a designated workspace equipped with the necessary software and hardware required for app development. However, it’s also common for these developers to work remotely, especially in today’s digital age, where work flexibility is highly valued.

Typical work hours

A mobile application developer usually works full-time, which generally corresponds to standard business hours (9 AM to 5 PM). However, their hours can be extended when deadlines are approaching or when issues within the software arise that require immediate attention. Since software deployment often happens during off-peak user hours to minimize disruption, some late-night or weekend work may occasionally be needed.

How to become a mobile application developer

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a mobile application developer. Common steps toward this career involve acquiring a relevant education, gaining real-world experience, and continually updating your skills to stay current with rapidly evolving technology.

Step 1: Obtain secondary education

The first step is to complete your secondary education. A high school diploma, or equivalent, is essential for most careers, including mobile application development.

Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree

While you can become a mobile app developer with a diploma or certificate, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field offers a comprehensive understanding of programming concepts, algorithms, and other key aspects of software development.

Step 3: Acquire a working knowledge of programming languages

As a developer, proficiency in at least one programming language, such as Java, Python, or Swift, is a requirement. You may also need to understand HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for projects involving web applications or cross-platform development.

Step 4: Develop mobile applications

The best way to learn mobile development is through hands-on experience. Build and test your own applications. Experiment with different platforms, such as Android and iOS, to broaden your skill set and make yourself more marketable.

Step 5: Complete an internship or gain real-world experience

Colleges often provide students with internship opportunities. If you’re self-taught, consider freelancing or contributing to open-source projects to gain hands-on experience. Interacting with experienced developers can improve your skills and provide valuable insights.

Step 6: Build your portfolio

A strong portfolio showcases your skills and experience. Include the mobile applications you’ve developed, detailing your involvement in each project. This portfolio will be a valuable resource when applying for jobs.

Step 7: Apply for entry-level mobile application developer positions

Start applying for entry-level positions. Patience is key; it may take some time to land your first job. During this time, continue building applications and learning new technologies.

Step 8: Continue your education and stay updated with new trends

The world of technology rapidly evolves. Developers must commit to lifelong learning. Attend workshops, complete online courses, acquire certificates, and stay informed about the latest trends and advancements in mobile application development.

How much do mobile application developers make?

Mobile application developer salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The nature and complexity of the mobile apps being designed, the languages used for coding, and expertise in specific platforms such as Android or iOS could also influence their compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishers – $116,380
  • Data Processing and Hosting – $112,900
  • Computer Systems Design – $108,450
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $104,870
  • Insurance Carriers – $104,600

Highest paying states

  • California – $121,470
  • Washington – $118,580
  • New York – $116,920
  • Massachusetts – $114,850
  • New Jersey – $114,520

Browse mobile app developer salary data by market

Types of mobile application developers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for mobile application developers. It presents an overview of the different career tracks, providing a helpful resource for those interested in this booming sector.

iOS app developer

For those interested in Apple products, becoming an iOS app developer could be a targeted career choice. Here, the focus is on creating applications for devices powered by Apple’s iOS, like iPhones and iPads. Knowledge of SWIFT or Objective C programming languages is generally crucial, along with an understanding of Apple’s design principles and application interface.

Android app developer

Similar to iOS app developers, Android app developers specialize in developing applications for devices that run on Android OS. It’s a popular platform due to the widespread use of Android devices. Key skills include proficiency in Java or Kotlin and a solid understanding of the Android Software Development Kit (SDK).

Cross-platform mobile app developer

Increasingly, developers are adopting frameworks that allow for cross-platform mobile application development. This category of developers specializes in using tools like React Native, Flutter, or Xamarin, which enable the editing of a single application code base to run on both iOS and Android platforms. It essentially increases productivity and reduces development time considerably.

Mobile game developer

In the intersection between entertainment and technology, mobile game developers design and create games for mobile platforms. This could include iOS, Android, or cross-platform games. Knowledge of graphic design, animation, and game physics is beneficial, along with proficiency in game development platforms like Unity or Unreal Engine.

Augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) mobile app developer

AR and VR technologies are quickly becoming more conventional, creating many opportunities in the field of mobile app development. AR/VR app developers create immersive, interactive mobile experiences, as seen with apps like Pokemon Go or Instagram filters. Familiarity with ARKit, ARCore, Unity, or Unreal Engine can be beneficial in this role.

Top skills for mobile application developers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a mobile application developer.

Programming skills

In-depth knowledge of at least one programming language, such as Java for Android apps or Swift for iOS apps, is vital. It’s also helpful to be familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as these are commonly used in mobile app development. Regularly updating your programming skills and staying familiar with the latest trends in technology can give you an edge in the field.

Problem-solving abilities

Creating software for mobile devices comes with challenges and unexpected issues. The ability to think critically, troubleshoot effectively, and derive innovative solutions is crucial in overcoming these hurdles. As a professional in this field, you are expected to take the initiative to overcome obstacles and deliver a product that meets client specifications.

Understanding of UX/UI design principles

Being able to create a user-friendly interface is consequential to an app’s success. Having a good understanding of UX/UI design principles ensures that the applications developed are not only functional but also intuitive. It is important to know how to design the layout and interaction elements to ensure optimal user experience.

Communication skills

In many settings, you’ll work as part of a team. The ability to convey ideas, listen actively, and engage collaboratively with colleagues and clients is significant. Good communication can lead to better project outcomes, from meeting deadlines to fulfilling the client’s exact requirements.

Knowledge of mobile platforms and technologies

Each mobile platform has its own specifications and capabilities. An in-depth understanding of these unique features is essential when creating an application that meets user expectations and takes full advantage of the device’s capabilities. Familiarity with different mobile technologies, such as augmented reality and blockchain, can also help develop advanced apps.

Mobile application developer career path options

In the fast-paced world of technology, a mobile application developer has many potential avenues for career growth. Usually, an individual begins as a junior developer and then moves into a senior developer role once they possess sufficient experience and knowledge. The path forward from there is not necessarily linear and can significantly vary based on the individual’s interests and skills, the opportunities available, and the specific organization.

Senior developer

After gathering experience and demonstrating competence in the field, you can move up to becoming a senior developer. This position involves not just developing mobile applications but also overseeing the work of junior team members. It may also include coordinating with project managers and clients to fully understand project requirements and deliver successful, workable solutions.

Project manager

Following your tenure as a senior developer, another potential route is to become a project manager. This role requires a comprehensive understanding of app development as well as strong managerial and communication skills. As a project manager, you will be responsible for handling multiple projects, making decisions about resources and budgets, and overseeing the project from start to finish.

Product manager

If you have an interest in the wider aspects of product development and a knack for understanding market demands, the role of a product manager could be a good fit. This position involves managing the roadmap for product features and updates, coordinating with various teams, defining the direction of the product, and ensuring it meets market and user needs.

Start your own venture

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, there’s always the option to start your own business. With the skills and experience you’ve gained, you could create your own mobile app or offer development services to other companies. While it’s a path filled with challenges, it could also bring thrilling opportunities and the possibility to create something from scratch that truly reflects your vision.

The technology industry has experienced exponential growth in the past decade, and a career as a mobile app developer has emerged as one of the most in-demand professions. As companies and organizations continue to expand their digital offerings, the need for skilled professionals in this field will remain strong.

Consumer reliance on smartphone use is a significant trend shaping this profession. As individuals use their mobile devices for everything from banking to shopping to communication, there’s an ever-increasing need for intuitive, user-friendly applications. In this industry, the ability to design attractive, functional programs for various mobile platforms is highly prized.

Adapting to technological changes is another integral part of working in this industry. New platforms and programming languages emerge continuously, requiring professionals to stay updated and frequently refine their skills. Gaining proficiency in multiple coding languages is also essential for individuals wishing to excel in this career.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is projected to grow 25 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for software could boost the need for app developers, and the main factor driving this growth is the increasing popularity of mobile technologies.

Mobile application developer career tips

Stay updated with the latest technologies

In a fast-paced industry like technology, it’s imperative to keep up-to-date with new concepts, tools, and technologies. This includes new programming languages, development tools, and technology trends. This will help you to stay competitive and always bring fresh ideas to the table.

Master cross-platform app development

Developing apps for various platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows can increase your versatility and demand in the market. Learning tools that facilitate cross-platform development, such as React Native or Flutter, can be beneficial.

Focus on user experience and design

Besides your coding skills, paying close attention to your developed apps’ design and user experience can set you apart. Users tend to gravitate toward intuitive, efficient, and visually appealing apps. By understanding the basics of UI/UX design, you can create more captivating and user-friendly apps.

Build a professional network

Building a professional network can benefit your career in many ways. It can open up new opportunities, provide valuable insights, and help you stay informed about what’s happening in the industry. Here are some professional networks you can join:

  • GitHub
  • Stack Overflow
  • The App Developers Alliance
  • Girls in Tech (for women app developers)

Engage in continuous learning

The world of app development is ever-changing, meaning there’s always something new to learn. Engaging in continuous learning can help you stay at the forefront of new technologies, techniques, and trends. Here are some ways you can keep learning:

  • Take online courses in advanced topics related to mobile app development
  • Attend webinars and workshops
  • Read tech blogs and subscribe to newsletters
  • Join a coding bootcamp to learn new technology like Flutter or Xamarin

Get certified

A professional certification can showcase your expertise and commitment to your career. Various technology companies and professional bodies offer certifications in app development. Besides enhancing your credentials, such a certification can improve your job prospects and earn you a higher salary. Examples of certifications include Certified Android App Developer, Unity Certified Developer, and Oracle Mobile Development Certified Expert.

Where the mobile app developer jobs are

Top employers

  • Google
  • Apple Inc.
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • IBM
  • Facebook

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What key skills does a mobile application developer need?

They need skills in programming languages like Java for Android apps and Swift for iOS apps. A clear understanding of the mobile user interface design and proficiency in cross-platform solutions like Xamarin and React Native are also necessary. Creative problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and teamwork abilities are equally needed in this role. Familiarity with application programming interfaces (APIs), data structures, and algorithms can be beneficial.

What applications do mobile application developers use in their work?

This job often uses integrated development environments (IDEs) like Android Studio, DevTools for Flutter, Xcode for iOS, and Visual Studio for Xamarin. These professionals also use interface design tools such as Sketch and Adobe XD. They may also use application testing tools like Appium, Espresso, and Jasmine.

What industries employ mobile application developers?

Almost every industry that needs a mobile presence employs these professionals. These industries include technology and software companies, media and entertainment, healthcare, banking and finance, retail, gaming, education, and many more. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations also use mobile apps; hence, they have opportunities for app developers as well.

Are there different types of mobile application developers?

Yes, depending on the platform they specialize in, they are usually distinguished as Android, iOS, or cross-platform developers. Some specialize in native app development, meaning they create apps specifically for one platform (e.g., Android or iOS). Cross-platform developers, on the other hand, build apps that work across multiple platforms.

What is the process of developing a mobile application?

It begins with a concept. From there, a basic design is drafted. This draft leads to creating a mockup of the app’s interface. Once the design is approved, the development stage begins, where the app is coded and tested repeatedly. When the app’s functionality is confirmed, it’s launched on the intended platform. After that, regular updates and maintenance keep the app up-to-date and functional.

Is a degree necessary for a career in mobile application development?

While a computer science or software engineering degree will be beneficial, it’s not always necessary. Many successful developers are self-taught or have learned from specialized coding bootcamps or online courses. As long as you have a strong understanding of programming languages relevant to mobile app development, combined with practical experience, you can succeed in this profession.

What does a typical day look like for a mobile application developer?

A typical day involves coding, debugging, and testing user interfaces, attending team meetings to discuss projects, and collaborating with designers and other developers. They may spend time reviewing users’ feedback and implementing feature requests or addressing issues. Additionally, they must keep up-to-date with latest programming tools and technologies.

Do mobile application developers work group or individual projects?

Both scenarios occur in this profession. They might work individually on smaller projects or specific aspects of larger ones. For complex apps or projects that have short deadlines, they often work as part of a team. This can include working with other developers, UI/UX designers, project managers, and other stakeholders.

What programming languages should a mobile application developer learn?

This largely depends on the platform they intend to specialize in. Android developers should consider learning Java and Kotlin, while iOS developers need to learn Swift and Objective-C. For cross-platform development, JavaScript, along with frameworks like React Native and Flutter, is recommended. Basic knowledge of HTML and CSS is also beneficial for mobile web application development.

Is there a demand for mobile application developers?

Yes, the demand for these professionals is rising and is projected to grow with the increase in smartphone and tablet usage. Businesses of all types find mobile applications an effective way to reach their customers. With emerging technologies like AR/VR, IoT, or machine learning, opportunities for app developers in specialized areas will likely increase.