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Software Designer Career Guide

How to Become a Software Designer

Technology advancements have made day-to-day life far easier, and most of those advancements are due to the work of software designers. Software designers focus on the best processes and methods to produce the highest quality software. From ordering dinner via an app on your phone to keeping in touch with your family overseas to consulting with your doctor virtually at home, the software created by these designers positively impacts society by simplifying daily life.  

What Is a Software Designer?

A software designer, also known as a “software engineer,” is responsible for developing computer programs and interfaces that enhance people's lives. They are skilled professionals with knowledge of web platform development, program testing, database management, operating systems, and various programming languages. It's important that software designers possess strong creative thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and a collaborative mindset, as they often work closely with other designers, data analysts, and programmers to develop successful software.  

The terms "software designer" and "software developer" are often used interchangeably, though the responsibilities of these roles can vary widely. In general, a developer understands how to code and may have the skills to build a successful end product, while a designer uses a systematic process to understand a program's requirements and the user's needs and to develop a dynamic solution. And as nearly every business uses software to run their daily operations and provide services or goods to consumers, software designers can work in a variety of industries and fields.

What Does a Software Designer Do?

male DevOps engineer

Software designers have various responsibilities, from researching competitors to assessing feasibility to collaborating with colleagues. A typical workday may include:

  • Researching, designing, developing, and testing of software: A large majority of a software designer's day is spent navigating between researching, designing, developing, and testing for one or more software programs. It's important that software designers can pivot efficiently from one stage to the next.
  • Maintaining existing software: Software designers often work with existing software programs to resolve errors, improve performance, or adopt new hardware. Maintenance is equally as important as designing new programs.
  • Assessing user needs: If the software doesn't meet a user's needs, then it's unsuccessful. Software designers are responsible for assessing if the software is performing as expected and implementing changes as needed. 
  • Considering cost/time constraints: Software designers often work within the constraints of budget expectations and deadlines. Time management becomes essential so that software programs can get into the hands of consumers at cost and on time. 
  • Consulting with clients: While most software designers do not work directly with clients, many smaller companies or freelance opportunities may require a designer to regularly consult with a client to ensure the final project meets their expectations.
  • Collaborating with team members: Software design involves consistent teamwork. Strong communication and collaboration between designers, programmers, and testers allow for superior software to be developed.
  • Recommending improvements: It's important for a software designer to be able to perceive areas of improvement within a program and to recommend strategies to optimize performance. Additionally, designers in senior-level roles will often need to compile and present reports to executives regarding their recommendations.

How Do I Become a Software Designer?

While many software designers are self-taught, having a formal education will help you advance in your career and will open up leadership opportunities.

To become a software designer, you'll need to:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in software engineering or a similar field.
  2. Apply for an internship to gain relevant experience.  
  3. Apply for entry-level roles to start building your portfolio.  
  4. Consider a master's degree or specialization.  
  5. Develop your knowledge via certifications, such as becoming a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) or IBM Certified Solution Designer.

Best Degrees for a Software Designer

Software Engineering – B.S.

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger...

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the...

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger opportunities.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish similar programs within 40 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,625 per 6-month term.

Certifications included in this program at no additional cost are:

  • CompTIA Project +
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 
  • ITIL®1 Foundation Certification

There are a wide variety of job titles this degree program prepares students for, including:

  • Software Engineer
  • Application Analyst
  • Software Tester
  • Systems Analyst
  • Multimedia Programmer

Software engineers are in-demand across organizations in every industry. Secure your future with a degree and additional certifications.

Information Technology Management – M.S.

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead:...

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready...

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead:

  • Time: 89% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,940 per 6-month term.

Included in your program—at no extra cost—is the opportunity to earn the valuable PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification.

Maximize the opportunities that your IT career path has afforded you—earn your master's and keep moving up. 

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What Skills Does a Software Designer Need?

A software designer needs a wide variety of technical and non-technical skills to be successful. Some of the necessary skills include: 

  • Analytical skills 
  • Organizational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Knowledge of and hands-on experience with web platform development
  • Knowledge of and hands-on experience with program testing
  • Knowledge of and hands-on experience with database management
  • Knowledge of and hands-on experience with operating system software
  • Knowledge of and hands-on experience with text editing software (e.g., Atom, TextMate, Notepad++, etc.) 
  • Understanding of IT architecture, data stores, and cloud-based systems
  • Specialization in one or more programming languages (e.g., JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc.)
  • Familiarity with computer equipment (e.g., CPU processors, servers, integrated circuit testers, mainframe computers, etc.)

How Much Does a Software Designer Make?


The average annual salary for a software designer in the U.S. is $110,000, with the lowest 10% earning less than $65,210 per year and the highest 10% earning up to $170,000 per year. Long hours are common in the field, so a willingness to work more than 40 hours per week is expected for success.  

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The constant need for new software programs and applications secures a high demand for software designers. Currently, the job field for software developers, engineers, and designers is projected to grow by 22% by 2030, significantly faster than the average occupation.

Where Does a Software Designer Work?


Most software designers work for software or IT companies or within the IT department of an organization. The largest employers of software designers are computer system design services, manufacturing, and software publishers.

Interested in Becoming a Software Designer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this lucrative career.

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