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How to Become a Mobile App Developer

It’s a safe bet that you use applications on your smartphone every day. From messaging, language learning, and calorie-tracking to banking and investing, it seems like there’s an app for everything. With the growing ubiquity of apps, mobile development has become more relevant than ever. If you’re wondering how to become a mobile developer, keep reading.

If you’d like to know more about mobile application development, this guide has you covered. In it, we’ve provided everything you'll need to know about how to become a mobile app developer, the mobile developer career path, and information on salaries, specializations, and training programs for you to consider.

What Is Mobile Development?

Mobile application development is the process of writing software for mobile devices. It's a unique endeavor in that it gives the developer the chance to build an application from scratch in a relatively short period.

Developers hone their skills based on the operating system they’re working on. For this, there really are only two players in town: Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS. While other smartphones and mobile devices with apps exist, they make up a small fraction of the total market.

Developers may learn to work with one operating system and move on to the other as they progress in their careers. Being able to work with both operating systems would make you more competitive in the mobile app developer job market.

Why Is Mobile Development Important?

It may not seem like a big deal but, at the end of the day, mobile app developers do extremely important work. Without a mobile application, many businesses would fail to reach their full potential. This is especially the case with businesses that get much more traffic on their mobile app than on their website.

Mobile apps can be installed onto a phone, can send notifications to users, and are native to the device. It’s the job of the mobile app developer to ensure mobile apps work correctly so the company can achieve its goals.

What Do Mobile App Developers Do?

So, what does a mobile application developer do? They design, create, and update mobile applications, whether on Android or iOS. They work with a user experience (UX) designer to make sure their design is aligned with the needs of the user. Together, they create mockups for the app. The developer must also coordinate with business leaders regarding launch strategies.

Mobile Development Skills

Gaining mobile app development skills require practice. Mobile development skills include programming, project management, and communication skills to be able to discuss ideas and project goals with clients. Keel reading to find out more about the skills needed for mobile app development.

Essential Technical Skills for iOS Developers

  • Swift: ⁠Swift is the main programming language used for iOS development, so it is a fundamental mobile app development skill. This is a modern programming language that is easy to learn and receives frequent updates. A successful iOS developer should have a good understanding of Swift and its core concepts.

  • UIKit: ⁠UIKit is a framework that helps iOS developers design their user interfaces. UIKit includes features to implement gestures, animations, default components, and haptic touch control into applications.

  • Xcode: ⁠Xcode is an application developed by Apple to make it easy to write applications for any Apple device. As an iOS developer, you should be able to navigate your way through Xcode and understand the various features in the tool.

Essential Technical Skills for Android Developers

  • Building user interfaces: One of the main skills needed for mobile app development is the ability to convert a design into a functional Android application using Java and XML. To do this, you’ll need to know how to use all conventional view containers. You should also know all the standard views and other components that may come up in an Android app.

  • Data storage and notifications: ⁠You should know how to store, update, and delete information on an Android device. Even if you rely on outside APIs for an app, you’ll still need to store information locally, on the user’s device. Further, you should be able to implement push notifications to reach users.

  • Material Design guidelines: ⁠Many Android apps use the Material Design framework which was created by Google in 2014. You should master this mobile development skill to design and develop new apps. You should also be familiar with the implementation of basic Material Design guidelines into an application.

Essential Soft Skills for iOS and Android Developers

  • Problem-solving: ⁠All coding jobs require a great element of problem-solving and analytical thinking, skills needed for mobile app development as well. This entails thinking through a problem effectively and figuring out a solution using code. You should be capable of fixing problems in existing code. In the same vein, you must know how to make changes to an application to meet new specifications.

  • Attention to detail: ⁠Details matter in coding. Each detail will affect the output of a program. One typo could cause an application to crash or malfunction. You should spend time looking through every detail when coding.

  • Teamwork: ⁠As a mobile app developer, you’ll most likely have to work in teams. You should be able to respond well in collaborative environments. More than that, you’re going to have to work well with others to accomplish a certain task.

Types of Mobile App Developers

If you want to decide on a mobile developer career path, you should know there are two main options. You can become an iOS developer or an Android developer. Keep reading to learn more about both options and decide what mobile app developer career path is right for you.

iOS Developer

People who choose this mobile developer career path build, test, and update applications for iOS-powered devices. They use technologies such as Xcode, a development environment, and Swift, the primary iOS programming language, to build applications. iOS developers design applications for iOS devices from the ground up.

Android Developer

Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world, so it is a common mobile app developer career path. Developers for Android are responsible for developing applications for Android-powered devices. They then test code for edge cases and general usability. Mobile development careers can offer attractive salaries and lucrative job prospects, but becoming a mobile app developer is complicated. 

Required Education for Mobile Developers

Mobile application developer education requirements vary according to your career goals. Traditionally, the minimum education required was a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related topic.

However, many other routes now exist so you can get an education in mobile app development without a degree. They include bootcamps, online courses, and self-directed learning. Keep reading to learn more about these different alternatives.

Mobile Development Coding Bootcamps

mobile app development bootcamp is a great option if you want to get the skills and knowledge you need to become a mobile developer. A mobile development bootcamp offers intensive training over a short period of time, providing you with the specific software development skills you’ll need to succeed in the field.

One of the advantages of the best coding bootcamps is that they offer focused training and provide students with an up-to-date curriculum based on industry needs. They usually provide career services as well to help you land your dream job as a mobile applications developer immediately upon graduation.

College Education for Mobile Developers

A mobile development degree is a great option if you prefer a more traditional route. Colleges offer degrees that will equip you with a wide array of coding skills. You might opt for common majors such as a bachelor’s in software engineering or a computer science degree. App development companies tend to look favorably on candidates who hold a degree.

A degree can also help you gain access to a high annual salary. A plus of going to college to become a web developer is that you will gain analytical skills, be able to network, and enjoy a full college experience, on top of being able to mention your degree in your job application.

Mobile Development Self-Directed Learning

If you want to launch a career in mobile app development, it is not indispensable to obtain a college degree. Many successful junior developers launched their careers through self-directed learning. It is possible to learn about the software development process by taking online courses, reading books, and practicing at home to understand the app development cycle.

More and more, the tech industry is welcoming self-learners and easing up on eligibility requirements. You might have a lower salary range as a self-taught developer, but if you take the time to develop common skills in the field, it is entirely possible that you can create user-friendly apps and build up a reputation as a mobile app developer.

How to Become a Mobile Developer: Step-by-Step

Keep reading if you want to know how to become a mobile app developer. The tech industry is constantly growing and evolving. When launching your career in mobile development, there are a lot of potential entry points. In this section, we'll show you how you can easily go from rookie to pro.

Step 1: Choose a learning path

There’s more than one way to learn about mobile development. Some mobile app developers attend a college or university and earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Others are self-taught and have no formal education in computing. Then, there’s the other growing alternative: attending a coding bootcamp.

A coding bootcamp typically lasts between three and nine months. During the program, students learn all the skills they need to launch a career in tech. They also build a portfolio of projects which allows them to showcase their skills to prospective employers.

Step 2: Obtain an education

All experienced developers started from scratch. Some opted for bootcamps, others for college degrees, while others laid out a career map that was completely self-guided. The right educational choice to become a mobile app developer will depend on your resources, goals, and preferred learning environment.

Once you pick an education path, make sure you devote the necessary time and energy to build up your skills. You can also learn a lot by participating in developer forums and online communities to supplement your education.

Step 3: Choose a platform to focus on

So, Android or iOS? As mentioned, it’s possible to choose one and later transition to the other. It’s also true that neither is much harder to learn than the other.

In terms of reach, Android has the largest global market share. Android and iOS have similar US market shares. However, iOS tends to be an attractive choice for early adopters and technology enthusiasts. It’s also a good choice if you want to heavily monetize your app via in-app purchases.

The main difference between Android and iOS is that they use different programming languages. Android coding is mostly done in Java, and iOS development is mostly done in either Objective-C or Swift. If you have experience in Java, Android might be a good place to start. If you’ve coded in C#, C++, or any of the C languages, you’ll probably find the iOS learning curve less steep.

Step 4: Hone and refine your soft and technical skills

There are several key mobile app developer skills you’ll need to master to succeed in this field. Technical skills include coding in one or several programming languages, learning to test and troubleshoot your app, and understanding user interface design.

Some of the soft skills you need to master to become a mobile developer include good communication, problem-solving, and attention to detail so you can solve issues and stay in touch with stakeholders during the development process. Teamwork is also an important skill that will allow you to collaborate with other experts to develop successful apps.

Step 5: Become certified

While this is not a requisite, becoming a certified mobile developer can give you access to better job opportunities, higher salaries, and more rewarding career opportunities. The most popular web development certifications will serve as proof of your abilities.

If you chose to become a mobile developer through self-learning, obtaining a certification can help bolster your resume and serve as proof that you indeed have what it takes to succeed in this field.

Step 6: Build your portfolio

strong developer portfolio is an indispensable part of your job-seeking strategy. A strong portfolio should include key projects that you’ve worked on and that demonstrate your mobile developer skills in action.

When you build your mobile developer portfolio, you don’t need to add everything you’ve ever worked on. Instead, choose the highlights of your career. You can add projects you created independently or while you were at school. What matters is that the end result showcases what you’re capable of.

Step 7: Work on your resume

In order to apply for mobile developer jobs, you will need to create a strong resume and cover letter. Your resume should showcase your education, whether formal or informal, and effectively inform recruiters about your background and skills.

Your resume is also a place where you can talk about your soft skills, which are also important for companies seeking to enroll mobile developers into their ranks. Make sure your resume is concise, and go over it several times to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors before you submit it.

Step 8: Apply for jobs

Once you’ve gotten an education in mobile development, put together a strong portfolio, and updated your resume to reflect your skills and experience, you can start applying for mobile developer jobs.

To find openings, you can use sites like LinkedIn. You can also research companies that you want to work for and see if they have any openings directly on their website. No matter the route you choose, be persistent. You might need to apply to several jobs before you are successful.

Step 9: Prepare for job interviews

If you have the skills and have put together a strong application, you will likely be called for interviews. Make sure you take the time to prepare for your interview in advance by practicing your answers to mobile developer interview questions.

Technical interviews can be challenging, but if you are well prepared, you’ll likely succeed. Remember that you don’t need to have all the answers. Instead, focus on key projects you’ve worked on, challenges you’ve overcome, and things you still want to learn about your profession. Most of all, be enthusiastic about the opportunity.

Mobile App Developer Career Job Outlook

If you want to become a mobile developer, you might be curious about the mobile developer job outlook. Though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have specific information about mobile app development, it does have data on software development, a closely related field. Their statistics show that software development has a job outlook of 22 percent.

How Much do Mobile App Developers Make?

If you’re interested in this career track, you might wonder, how much does a mobile developer make? Because web developers and mobile app developers are increasingly in demand, salaries have risen proportionally. A mobile app developer can expect to reach a competitive salary early.

According to Indeed, the average mobile developer salary in the United States is $122,950. As with any other profession, your salary will be affected by your experience level, position, and the organization that you work for.

Where Can I Work as a Mobile Developer?

As a mobile developer, you can work in a variety of industries. Mobile developers are in demand among software companies, the healthcare sector, the financial sector, and even in the entertainment industry. You can choose your field according to your interests and career goals.

Mobile Development Internships

Mobile development internships are a great way to gain experience and try out a particular industry to see if it would be a good fit. Many companies seek out internships that receive training from seniors and provide support with basic tasks.

If you are studying in college, make sure to research internship opportunities through them. Many schools partner up with public and private institutions to create internship programs that benefit both the company and the students.

Mobile Development Certifications

Mobile development certifications are a great way to boost your resume and make you a more desirable candidate. A certification serves as proof of your skills and will help you stand out from the competition. Keep reading to learn about mobile development certifications you can choose from.

Android Developer Training

The Android Developer Training certification offered by Educba teaches you about Android development in depth. It includes 40 courses, 20 projects, and over 200 hours of video tutorial lessons so you can master your Android mobile development skills.

Learn to Code With Apple

Learn to Code With Apple is a certification program created by Apple and focused exclusively on Swift, the programming language used for all iOS applications. When you enroll for this certification, you will receive a variety of tools and resources to help you create successful iOS applications, and have a certification by the end to prove your skills.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

The Microsoft Technology Associate program was created to help you gain the fundamental knowledge to develop apps and prepare you for the MTA Developer certification exam. It is comprised of 10 courses that will help you move from the basics to advanced skills.

The Best Mobile Development Courses and Training

Mobile app development courses are a great way to bolster your skills in a particular aspect of mobile development. Keep reading to learn about some of the best mobile development schools and programs offered both in-person and online.

In-Person Mobile Development Programs

Though less common, in-person mobile development courses can be a great option if you thrive in a classroom environment and want to have close interaction with teachers and other students. Check out this list of the best mobile development programs.

Northeastern University’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

Northeastern University offers a host of reputable in-person and online programs in the information technology space. At Northeastern, you can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and choose one of three concentrations: mobile development, web development, and databases. 

Students can choose more than one concentration and focus on online web and mobile application development. This degree prepares students with in-depth coursework to specialize in database websites like PHP and MySQL.

Full Sail University’s Bachelor of Science in Mobile Development

This bachelor of science program at Full Sail University gives students strong foundations in programming. The lessons equip students with the expertise they need to jump into a career in mobile development. Students learn programming languages for working with both Android and iOS and are prepared for audio and visual asset implementation.

Information published on their program web page indicates that the program culminates in a capstone project. For the capstone, students research and create a comprehensive software plan for a mobile app.

Tulsa Tech’s Mobile App Development Undergraduate Certificate Program

This Oklahoma-based tech college offers degree programs in information technology, specifically software, web, and mobile app development. Its five-course certificate program is a great choice for students looking to specialize in the field. Through this, they learn basic and advanced coding, analysis, and testing. Of course, students complete a capstone project to create their mobile web app.

Online Mobile Development Programs

Online mobile development courses are also a great way to acquire the skills you need to become a mobile developer. Because of the nature of the field, it is quite easy to create vibrant, rewarding educational experiences online. If you are limited by location, time, or budget, an online program could be a great choice. Below are some top online mobile development program options.

UC San Diego’s Mobile Applications and Programming Design

The University of California-San Diego is part of the world-class public education system in California. UCSD Extension offers a certification program in mobile and web app development including specific programs in Android and iOS programming. This is a good option if you already have a solid understanding of software or web development. It’s also a great avenue if you’re interested in gaining expertise in mobile development.

San Diego State University’s Certificate in Web and Mobile Applications Development

This advanced academic certificate can be taken after earning a bachelor’s degree. Students are required to complete at least four courses (12 units), with the average overall learning window lasting one year.

The program offers seven courses for students to choose from. These include iPad/iPhone Mobile Application Development and its Android counterpart. There’s also a Multi-Platform Mobile App Development course to hone your skills on both platforms.

UC Berkeley’s Certificate Program in Software Development and Programming

The University of California system’s flagship university in the Bay Area has an excellent extension school that offers programs all over the map. Its certificate program isn’t specific to mobile app development. However, it certainly offers plenty of coursework in the area. Students can graduate from this program fully prepared to get started in an entry-level mobile developer role.

Mobile Development Bootcamps

A mobile app development bootcamp is a great choice if you want the most accelerated learning experience possible. There are many kinds, but you’ll want one that focuses specifically on mobile development. Listed below are our top picks.

The Codesmith Program

Codesmith’s 12-week Software Engineering program covers the fields of computer science, full stack engineering, and mobile development. Its mobile development module teaches students how to design applications in JavaScript through the ReactJS Native framework. Students are expected to come out of the program having built and deployed a native mobile app.

Code Fellows’ Advanced Software Development for Mobile Applications

This mobile app development bootcamp discusses the tools, frameworks, and best practices used in the field of mobile development. For 10 weeks, you will be trained to create mobile apps in Java and Swift for the Android OS and iOS, respectively. To do so, you’ll need to master several concepts including:

  1. Cocoa framework

  2. Web APIs

  3. SDKs and frameworks, including Stack Overflow and Github

  4. Agile work environment

  5. Data structures and algorithms

General Assembly’s Mobile App Bootcamp: Design and Development

This mobile developmet bootcamp will teach you the app design and development lifecycle, or the “holistic appverse.” You’ll learn to design an app from scratch, from studying iOS design to putting the theories into practice. Other key topics include:

  1. Prototyping tools for creating mockups

  2. XCode Integrated Development Environment

  3. Using Interface Builder to wireframe your apps

  4. Swift

Should You Become Mobile Development?

You may still be wondering, should I become a mobile app developer? As mobile app technology continues to grow and become more of a necessity, mobile app developers are in high demand. Because the potential salary and job prospects are favorable, there's no reason not to get into the field. It’s competitive, rewarding, and expected to grow even bigger.

To break into the field, you need to be fully equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to land your first job. Mobile development degrees and certificates are good ways to gain such highly technical skills. 

Consider this resource guide in your research on the different kinds of learning paths you can pursue. After completing your research, choose whichever best suits your needs and begin your journey to success.

Need more help? Career Karma is here to help you every step of the way. We’ll provide you with free coaching, mentorship, and access to a community of your peers to hold you accountable for your progress. We can also help you prepare for and get accepted to one of the top mobile development bootcamps. Get the training you need to succeed in your new career!

Pros of Becoming a Mobile Developer

  • High demand. Mobile developers are in high demand. This means there are plenty of opportunities available if this is a career you want to pursue.

  • Job variety. When you’re a web developer, each project is unique and challenging. This means that you’ll be able to exercise creativity and put your skills to the test often. 

  • Competitive salaries. Mobile developers earn healthy salaries. Thanks to the demand in a variety of industries, becoming a mobile developer means you’ll earn well throughout your career. 

Cons of Becoming a Mobile Developer

  • Competition is fierce. Because anyone with an Internet connection can pick up the necessary skills to become a mobile app developer, competition can be fierce. Especially for beginners, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. 

  • Clients are demanding. Clients can have a lot riding on the app they’ve asked you to develop, which can mean that they’ll be demanding and focused on every detail.  

Mobile development can be stressful

. Mobile development projects can often have tight deadlines and involve a lot of work. This might mean a lot of stress is involved in each project you take on. 


How long does it take to become a mobile app developer?
How long it takes to become a mobile app developer will depend on the education path you choose. If you opt for a traditional bachelor’s degree, it can take you four years on average. However, a bootcamp can equip you with the necessary skills in 6-12 months.
Can I become a mobile app developer without a degree?
Yes, you can become a mobile app developer without a degree. You can gain the necessary skills by attending a coding bootcamp or through self-study. More often than not, companies will focus on your skills and portfolio and make a decision based on that, rather than a college degree.
Is becoming a mobile app developer a good career?
Yes, becoming a mobile app developer is a good career move. Mobile developers are in high demand, earn high salaries, and are able to exercise their creativity through the various projects they work on.
Is it hard to become a mobile app developer?
No, it is not hard to become a mobile app developer, especially if you have an affinity for math and programming. While you do have to invest time and effort into learning coding and other skills, you can absolutely do it with time and dedication.
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