What skills do you need to be a mobile app developer?

mobile app developer

Mobile app developers work in one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. According to O-Net, a partner of the American Job Center Network, there were 613,000 professionals employed as software developers in 2012. By 2022, this number is projected to increase by more than 218,000 jobs. Given the technical skills necessary for mobile app development, developers can expect to make a robust salary; the median annual salary for mobile app developers is $95,510. Though there is an array of skills needed for app development, here are some of the basics needed to break into the industry.

 

The Basics

As a whole, mobile app developers should be familiar with common programming languages such as C, C++ and Java. Additionally, mobile app developers should be familiar with either iOS or Android mobile platform. While not an essential skill, developers should also try to cultivate business acumen; successful startups or mobile apps combine strong development with shrewd business decisions.

 

Front end vs Back end

Mobile apps consist of a “front end” and a “back end.” The front end of a mobile app represents the part of the app that users interact with. Conversely, the back end refers to the servers, applications, and databases that power the app or website. There are different skills needed to develop the front and back ends of the app, and many software developers tend to specialize in either front- or back-end development. Some developers become fluent at both ends, however, and are known as full-stack developers.

 

What do front-end developers do?

Front-end developers focus on the intricacies of the user interface (UI) design, which encompasses the basic functionality and aesthetic of the app. Front-end development addresses the arrangement of items on the screen, the app’s color scheme, and the ease of app functionality. Though there are many useful tools and frameworks used for front-end development, HTML, CSS, and Javascript are the three essential web development languages to know. Fluency in HTML, CSS, and Javascript allows developers to work across operating systems (iOS and Android) and devices (tablets and smartphones). It can also be beneficial to understand other front-end skills like DOM and various Javascript web APIs.

 

What do back-end developers do?

While front-end development emphasizes design and functionality, back-end development is focused on the manipulation, storage, and transfer of data. In other words, back-end developers oversee the communication between the server, the application, and the database. Back-end developers need to understand app programming, database management, and security. Back-end programming uses server-side languages like Python and Java to build applications, and tools like MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server manipulate data and serve it back to the user in front-end code.

 

iOS vs Android

Though many of the skills needed for mobile app development are applicable for both iOS and Android operating systems, there are some system-specific skills to be aware of. Objective-C and Swift are superset of the C programming language and is the primary programming language used for OS X and iOS. iOS programming tools are only available on a Mac computer and developers must pay a $99 developer fee to Apple to use the tools. Android apps can be programmed on a Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system and the software development kit is a free download. Android apps are written in Java and there are many guides available on the Android developer website.