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Types of Software Developers (Differences & Careers)

A software developer is a computer professional who designs, creates, deploys, and maintains software applications. They use programming languages to translate user needs and functionalities into a set of instructions that computer systems can understand and execute.

In the United States, software developers rank first when it comes to the best technology jobs. The median salary for a software developer is around $127,400 per year, and the unemployment rate is 1.4% (less than half of the national average, which stands at 3.9%). 

This means software developer jobs are on the rise in the digital world. But there are different types of developers, each with unique skills and focus. Imagine the difference between designing a website’s interface and building the robust engine that powers it! 

Understanding these specializations is key to finding your perfect developer niche.  

In this article, we’ll explore the various aspects of a software developer’s job—various types of developers, qualifications, growth trajectory, and more—so you know the software development careers to choose from.

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Types of Software Developers

Software development is a complex role that requires many different skills based on the type of work you do, such as managing a database, handling security, and coding the user interface. Let’s see what each type of software developer does!

1. Frontend web developer

Frontend web developers translate the design provided by designers into the functional, interactive elements that users see and interact with on their web browsers. This includes both websites and web apps. 

Frontend developers often work with either the product development or marketing teams. They ensure that websites are visually appealing, user-friendly, and accessible across different devices.

Skills required for a frontend web developer

  • Experience with markup languages such as HTML and CSS
  • Experience with JavaScript and jQuery
  • An understanding of UX principles and layout aesthetics

Common tasks of a frontend web developer

  • Develop website layouts and user interfaces (UIs), ensuring all elements are positioned and sized correctly
  • Implement interactive elements such as forms and buttons that allow users to submit data and trigger actions
  • Optimize website performance by optimizing images, minifying code, and using browser caching techniques
  • Ensure brand consistency by implementing the brand’s color palette, typography, and design elements

2. Backend web developer

Backend developers are the engineers who build the functionality that powers websites and web applications. They manage the server-side functionality that makes everything tick.

They are responsible for the core operations under the UI, like saving a contact in a CRM database or creating an analytics report for your latest sprint. 

Skills required for a backend web developer

  • A technical understanding of server languages and frameworks such as Django (Python), Spring (Java), Laravel (PHP), and Ruby on Rails (Ruby)
  • Experience writing code coding languages such as Java, Ruby, or Python
  • Experience with code automation tools to streamline workflows and ensure efficient development processes

Common tasks of a backend web developer

  • Writing code that processes data and interacts with databases
  • Building and maintaining Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) 
  • Designing and managing databases to store application data

3. Full-stack web developer

A full-stack web developer can handle both user-facing elements (front end) and server-side logic (back end), making them a valuable asset for small teams, especially early-stage startups.

While versatile, they might not be as specialized as dedicated frontend and backend developers in their respective areas, which may be problematic when working in larger development teams.

4. Mobile app developer

Mobile app developers build apps for mobile devices and ecosystems such as iOS and Android. Unlike web developers, they handle both front-end and back-end development. 

Depending on the app’s functionality, such developers might also need to work with GPS, cameras, sensors, or other features unique to mobile devices. Fixing bugs, adding new features, and keeping the app updated with the latest OS versions are also their core responsibilities.

Skills required for a mobile app developer

  • Experience with programming languages such as Swift (iOS) and Java or Kotlin (Android)
  • Knowledge of frameworks such as React Native or Flutter
  • Understanding of the core UI/UX principles

Common tasks of a mobile app developer

  • Developing the UI for mobile apps
  • Integrating APIs to connect the app to external data sources and services 
  • Optimizing code and deploying it on the App Store or Play Store

5. Game developer

Game developers are the mastermind behind engaging interactive gaming experiences. Unlike traditional software development, game development demands a unique skill set. 

Technical expertise is crucial, but their additional artistic flair sets them apart. Game developers typically juggle multiple tasks throughout the game creation process, such as design, animations, and mechanics. 

Skills required for a game developer

  • Experience with programming languages such as C and C++, depending on the device the game is being designed for
  • Knowledge of game design software and engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine
  • Understanding the core game design principles such as mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics

Common tasks of a game developer

  • Building prototypes of games to fine-tune ideas, find possible issues, and test gameplay mechanics
  • Creating 3D animations of in-game characters and environment
  • Writing code to develop game mechanics

6. Data scientist

A relatively new role, it merges data science with development. Data scientists extract valuable insights from data and translate those insights into functional software solutions. This can include software models and applications that can automate tasks, recommend products, or even predict future outcomes based on historical data, for example.

Skills required for a data scientist

  • A foundation in statistical analysis and/or machine learning
  • Experience with data visualization tools
  • Familiarity with programming languages such as Python and JAVA

Common tasks of a data scientist

  • Gather data from various sources to identify patterns and trends
  • Develop and train machine learning models
  • Translate data insights into actionable code

7. DevOps engineer

DevOps engineers streamline the software development lifecycle by automating processes, creating tools, and fostering collaboration between development and operations. 

Repetitive tasks that slow down development are prime targets for automation. DevOps engineers design and implement continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. These pipelines automate tasks like code testing, building, and deployment, allowing for faster and more frequent software releases.

DevOps engineers also use infrastructure as code (IaC) tools to automate infrastructure provisioning and configuration, ensuring consistency and repeatability in software delivery.

Skills required for a DevOps engineer

  • An understanding of Linux, as most production servers run on Linux
  • Familiarity with scripting languages such as Bash and Ruby to automate tasks and build DevOps tools
  • Familiarity with version control systems like Git
  • An understanding of Linux, as most production servers run on Linux
  • Familiarity with scripting languages such as Bash and Ruby to automate tasks and build DevOps tools
  • Familiarity with version control systems like Git

8. Security developer

A security developer handles the cybersecurity aspects of software development. They identify potential vulnerabilities and implement security measures throughout the software development lifecycle. They don’t just write secure code; they also actively test applications for weaknesses and protect the app’s surface area against threats and attacks.

Skills required for a security developer

  • In-depth understanding of security principles such as cryptography, secure coding practices, and threat modeling
  • Knowledge of common web application vulnerabilities (OWASP Top 10) and how to prevent them
  • Basic knowledge of networking concepts and system administration principles

Common tasks of a security developer

  • Follow secure coding practices to minimize the introduction of vulnerabilities during development
  • Design and implement security mechanisms such as authentication, authorization, and data encryption to protect user data and system resources
  • Identify potential threats and vulnerabilities in a software system by analyzing code, architecture, and system interactions

9. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) developer

A role that’s become popular in the last decade, the AI/ML developer designs, develops, and deploys AI/ML models such as chatbots, recommendation systems, and fraud detection systems. They make software programs that can perform intelligent tasks such as image recognition, natural language processing, and recommendation systems.

Skills required for an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) developer

  • Knowledge of AI techniques such as natural language processing (NLP) and Computer Vision
  • Understanding of core machine learning methods and algorithms like linear regression and decision trees
  • Familiarity with cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, or GCP

Common tasks of an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) developer

  • Choose appropriate machine learning algorithms and design the architecture of the AI/ML model
  • Train AI models on different types of data
  • Integrate AI models with other applications

10. Operating systems developer

In a highly specialized role, a desktop or mobile operating systems developer designs, develops and maintains the operating system (the OS) that allows software applications to run smoothly on various devices. This makes it easier for developers to create software for a wider audience.

Skills required for an operation system developer

  • In-depth knowledge of low-level programming languages such as C, C++, and Assembly language
  • A strong understanding of operating system fundamentals such as memory management and process scheduling
  • Knowledge of computer architecture, including hardware components

Common tasks of an operation system developer

  • Creating system utilities that manage file systems, disk formatting, and user accounts
  • Optimizing the operating system for efficiency and smoothness
  • Implementing security features such as user authentication, access control, and vulnerability patching

Regardless of which developer you want to be, you’ll need to develop some core technical and soft skills common to all types of software development jobs. 

The technical skills include proficiency in at least one programming language, an understanding of data structure and algorithms, and knowledge of the software development lifecycle—from planning and design to testing and deployment.

When it comes to soft skills, good developers are known to be problem-solvers with analytical minds. They communicate well and prioritize lifelong learning. 

Developing these soft skills will lend you a competitive advantage, especially in a crowded job market where hard skills don’t.

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The Career Trajectory: Levels of Developer Roles

Here’s a breakdown of the typical developer roles based on seniority that can help you build a structured career advancement roadmap and define clear career goals:

  • Junior developer (0–3 years): This is the starting point for aspiring developers. Trainees or junior developers are fresh out of school or coding boot camps, ready to gain practical experience
  • Mid-level developer (3–6 years): They are proficient in at least one programming language and have experience with development frameworks, libraries, and core software design principles
  • Senior developer (6–10 years): They are responsible for designing complex software systems, writing critical components, code reviews, mentoring junior developers, and troubleshooting technical issues

Software developers can also take up leadership roles, such as:

  • Team lead: Depending on the organization, both mid-level and senior developers can be team leads. They manage a team of developers, ensuring projects are delivered on time and within budget
  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO): They’re the ‘visionary leaders’ who set the technological direction for an organization and oversee all aspects of technology development and implementation

Depending on your strengths and experience, you can choose a leadership role, such as team lead, to manage people or an individual contributor role and focus on high-impact coding. 

Whichever path you choose, the knowledge of common web development and scripting languages will come in handy.

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Common Development Languages

Let’s explore the popular programming languages for various software developer roles so you can prepare for your dream role.

Programming languages for frontend development

  • HTML: Sets the foundation of web pages, defining the structure and content
  • CSS: Controls the visual presentation of web pages, such as fonts, colors, and layouts
  • JavaScript: Adds interactivity and dynamic behavior to web pages, such as buttons and forms

List of programming languages for backend development

  • Ruby: An open-source language by Basecamp, it’s known for its rapid development capabilities and convention over configuration approach
  • Java: An old favorite, it’s used for various web applications, from server-side development to building backend services 
  • PHP: This is typically used for server-side scripting and is popular with content management systems (CMS) like WordPress
  • Python: An in-demand, general-purpose language, its readability and extensive libraries for web frameworks make it a popular choice for web apps

Programming languages for mobile development

  • Swift: Primarily used for developing native iOS and iPad applications
  • Kotlin: A popular choice for Android app development due to its interoperability with Java code

Programming languages for database management

  • Structured Query Language (SQL): Standard language used to retrieve, manipulate, and manage data stored in databases
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Common challenges faced by software developers

While software development comes with a truckload of benefits, including a high pay scale, it’s not without its stressors.

Here are some of the common challenges that many software engineers and developers face every day:

  • Scope creep: Ever-changing project requirements can put immense pressure on developers to maintain deadlines without sacrificing the quality of work
  • Upskilling: Developers need to continuously learn new technologies, frameworks, and best practices to stay relevant
  • Technical debt: You might need to spend more time refactoring code or fixing bugs caused by technical debt (shortcuts or poor choices during the development process) before implementing new features
  • Legacy infrastructure: In older companies, software developers might have to deal with outdated codebases that slow down the pace of development and delivery
  • Collaboration: As software development requires cross-functional collaboration with designers, product-, and project managers, keeping everyone on the same page can be challenging
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Overcoming the Challenges of a Development Role

Here are some tips to help you navigate your day-to-day responsibilities as a software developer to stay productive, meet deadlines, and, most importantly, avoid burnout.

1. Choose agile project management software

Agile project management is becoming increasingly popular amongst development teams. Instead of rigidly following a set plan, agile project management embraces short, iterative development cycles called sprints. This allows development teams to deliver features faster and continuously improve them based on regular feedback.

Other reasons to opt for an agile project management framework are:

  • It encourages flexibility
  • It  increases the time-to-market rate with a focus on iterative feedback
  • It brings transparency with frameworks like daily updates (scrums)

However, to make the most of agile project management, you need a project management tool that supports the agile framework: scrum, sprints, Gantt charts, and more. ClickUp for Software Teams, for example, comes with a lot of these tools and built-in templates that make managing a software project effortless.

ClickUp for Software Teams
Track projects and manage sprints easily with ClickUp for Software Teams

With ClickUp, you can set sprint dates, assign points for each task, and even set milestone goals so your entire team stays on track. Moreover, ClickUp integrates with version control tools like GitHub to manage your issues and track bugs from one location.

ClickUp Integrations with GitHub
Integrate with GitHub to track your deployment pipeline and bugs right from ClickUp
Maintain all project-related details in one place using ClickUp’s Software Development Template

You can use ClickUp’s Software Development Template to manage all your project details in one place. Here’s how the template can help you keep track of work (and encourage collaboration):

  • Build a master list of product ideas, backlogs, and technical debt issues so they don’t get lost 
  • Create separate folders for each squad—developers, testers, product managers, and designers—to organize your project better
  • Create a resource library with information such as customer conversations and design files so they’re easily accessible to your team
  • Use filters and views to get an overview of all software development projects during different periods, like sprints and quarters

This centralized approach keeps everyone on the same page—streamlining communication and boosting efficiency.

2. Manage scope creep

If your development team follows the agile project management framework (and most teams do), you’re no stranger to scope creep. 

What starts as a simple five-hour task soon becomes one that spills over to the next day and the day after that—the product manager adds more elements, you need to fix some technical debt or debug an error, and before you know it, the deadline’s come and gone.

One way to prevent this is by creating a project requirements document, which can act as your north star, outlining everything from the project roadmap and goals to individual deliverables such as features, enhancements, and other development efforts.

Make sure to mention details like technical dependencies and time restrictions that might become bottlenecks in the future. 

For example, you can use ClickUp Docs to consolidate all your project requirements. Add text, tables, and checklists to organize all your information and create your single source of truth. 

ClickUp Docs
Create clear project requirement documents with elements like tables, checklists, and more with ClickUp Docs

As ClickUp comes with real-time collaboration features—tags, typing indicators, and comments—key stakeholders can work on the project requirements together, ensuring everyone is on the same page. 

Once done, you can make the document public so the rest of your team also has access to it.

ClickUp Brain
Give your project details to ClickUp Brain and let it generate a detailed scope of work document in seconds 

Even better—you can leverage ClickUp Brain—ClickUp’s built-in AI assistant—to draft your documents, edit them, or create summaries.

Another way that ClickUp Brain can help you is by translating the documents. This can be especially useful for global teams or if you’re working with regional agencies or services for localization purposes. 

You can also use a scope creep template—like the ClickUp Scope Management Plan Template—to define and track the scope of your projects.

Define a project’s purpose, scope, tasks, and deadlines with the ClickUp Scope Management Plan Template

With this template, you can:

  • Manage your SOPs for each project
  • Define clear action items and DRIs for each task
  • Set sprint points and milestone goals to track a project’s progress
  • Use automations to get notified about key milestones or any scope creep like bottlenecks, time delays, or budget changes

3. Leverage development tools

Development tools like Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), version control systems, CI/CD automation, and even specialized AI tools can greatly increase your everyday productivity. 

Some benefits include automating repetitive tasks such as building, testing, and deploying code changes, reducing manual errors, and accelerating the software release cycle. Plus, these tools can also help you streamline your workflows and improve operational efficiency.

4. Define your quality standards

Some development teams might be working without any set quality check measures. This can lead to bad code quality and, eventually, bugs and technical debt. 

This makes it challenging to assess progress accurately and identify potential defects early in the development process, increasing the likelihood of rework and project delays.

To prevent this, you can establish comprehensive quality standards at the project’s outset, clearly outlining criteria for assessing quality and aligning them with user needs and project objectives.

5. Build a strong security infrastructure

Modern software environments often involve interconnected systems—cloud services, APIs, and third-party integrations—which increases the risk of cyber threats and complicates security management. 

As such, it’s especially important for security developers to set up a continuous incident monitoring process and frequent risk assessments to ensure the web app or service is secure.

6. Foster cross-functional collaboration

Many inter-department stakeholders are involved throughout a project’s lifecycle. This means you must be intentional about communicating important information and updating everyone on the project’s status. 

ClickUp can also help software developers with its built-in internal communications tools. These tools include video clips, chat views, and even whiteboards for real-time and asynchronous communication. 

ClickUp Chat View
Create one-on-one and group chats with teammates, share attachments, and contextualize conversations with the ClickUp Chat View

To start, you can use the ClickUp Chat View. This is ClickUp’s built-in chat tool, which allows you to create 1:1 and group chats with your teammates. You can initiate a chat from any project or document to start real-time conversations—like clarifying a question or asking for feedback.

If you’d like to show a design or walkthrough of a feature to a team member or client, then you can record it as a screencast video clip with voiceover using ClickUp Clips. Then add it to your chats to give your teammates full context.

ClickUp Clips
Elaborate on your thoughts and have async conversations with ClickUp Clips

Similarly, you can host interactive, real-time brainstorming and problem-solving sessions with ClickUp Whiteboard. This comes in handy when explaining a workflow or deconstructing a design. The whiteboard supports shapes, freehand drawings, and sticky notes, making it super easy for you to visualize your ideas and concepts.

ClickUp Whiteboard
Make virtual meetings more engaging and interactive with ClickUp Whiteboards

7. Prioritize self-care

Being a developer can be mentally demanding. Taking breaks, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are crucial for long-term success and avoiding burnout.

For example, you can schedule specific times for focused development work, meetings, and breaks. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and enjoy dedicated ‘self-care’ time. Another idea is to silence notifications during focused work periods and after work hours. 

Self-care can improve your focus, creativity, and overall well-being, leading to a more fulfilling and successful career.

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Build Yourself a Thriving Career as a Developer

The opportunities for a software engineer or developer in the current market are endless. However, different software development engineer roles require different skill sets and focus areas. The learning curve can be steep and the effort intense—so make sure you pick a role you enjoy.

At the same time, as the demand for different roles varies, it’s important to pick a software developer role that is relevant today but will also stay in high demand tomorrow. 

As you progress on the path, remember to use a tool like ClickUp to make your (work) life easier. ClickUp supports you in your day-to-day tasks as a software developer, whether it’s creating project roadmaps, tracking bugs, or documenting the learnings that will help you grow.

Sign up to ClickUp today!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the different types of software developers?

There are more than 10 different types of developers. The most popular ones include:

  • Backend Developer
  • Frontend Developer
  • Full-stack Developer 
  • AL/ML Developer
  • Mobile Developer

2. What do different developers do?

The job specification for each developer depends on their specialization. For example, frontend developers focus on coding the interactive elements you see on websites and apps, backend developers build the server-side logic, and mobile developers build iOS and Android apps.

3. What are the common types of developers

The three common types of developers are

  • Backend web developers, who write code to set up server-side logic and actions
  • Frontend web developers, who write code to build the visible part of an app (UI) or website
  • Full-stack developers, who can do both back-end and front-end web development

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