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How to Become a Software Developer: Advice for College Students

By October 2, 2023November 7th, 2023Computer Software Development

Students entering software development, computer science, and data science have plenty of opportunities and learning experiences ahead. While the journey is exciting, it does have its challenges. It doesn’t hurt to have some advice to help you succeed inside and outside the classroom as you start working towards how to become a software developer in the tech industry.

Build Core Technical Skills

Wondering what to study to become a software developer? Having basic foundational technical skills in computer science and data science should be your first priority. Pay close attention and take detailed notes in your data structures and algorithms, computer organization and programming, and operating systems and systems programming courses in particular. These core subjects, along with a strong understanding of at least one programming language like Python, are taught early on in your college career for a reason. They are essential in software engineering and development and will be needed to not only excel in later semesters but also in your career post-graduation.

Identify Your Software Development Interests

There are many different paths that software developers can follow after college. Some even choose to focus their skills and careers on a niche. Consider what made you want to become a computer software developer in the first place, as well as what projects you enjoy or excel in. As you go through your courses and improve your technical skills, start thinking about where you want to focus your career. Paths like cybersecurity, IT, web development, and data science are options for graduates with a computer science and software development degree.

“Having a real vested interest in the program and being willing and able to not just work in the classroom, but also experiment, is very important for students,” said Dr. Angela Ramnarine-Rieks, who teaches introduction courses on topics like data science and basic computing in the Computer Software Development degree program at Villa Maria College.

Form a Community

Learning beyond the classroom is important for any degree program, but it’s especially important for aspiring software developers and computer science students. Fellow classmates, professionals, professors, mentors, and even online forums can be helpful as you build your skills, learn new principles, and plan your future career. Try to meet up and network with others in the tech community so you can see what others are learning about, what projects they’re working on, and how you can get involved. The encouragement and support a community gives is important, too.

“I encourage my students to immerse themselves in everything. For instance, students in Villa’s gaming program are always looking for programmers to help them out with their projects. Students should get involved in other programs to see what they’re working on,” said Dr. Ramnarine-Rieks.

Start Making a Portfolio

Hands-on experience can be the difference between landing your first position out of college or just missing out to another candidate. The best way to demonstrate your skills as a software engineer is to build a portfolio. Start with class projects that you’ve received positive feedback and praise on. Then, consider taking on personal side projects outside of the classroom. Ask other students how you can help them with their projects or solve problems with technology.

“Technology is integrated into everything. It’s so inter- and multi-disciplinary. Working with other students from other programs is a great way to build your experience and continue learning,” shared Dr. Ramnarine-Rieks.

Include these passion projects and partnerships in your portfolio so you have a diverse range of experience to showcase for internships or job opportunities in the future.

Don’t Be Discouraged By Setbacks

From programming languages and coding to algebra and complex algorithms, computer software development is no joke. It can be tough for anyone to learn. However, it’s important to remember that even the best software engineers still have their struggles. While you may face challenges from time to time, you should view these as opportunities to learn from mistakes and become a better software developer. Take things one step at a time, turn to your community for support, and try to break down big problems into smaller, more manageable pieces.

“The best advice I can give is to be comfortable with making mistakes and learning from them. That’s what programming and software development is all about. You can watch a video about programming, but if you’re not learning it by doing and making mistakes, you’re not taking full advantage of your time,” said Dr. Ramnarine-Rieks.

How to Get Into Software Development at Villa

Did you know that computer software development is one of Villa Maria College’s top bachelor’s degree programs? Our students get hands-on experience designing, developing, and deploying software systems from faculty with real-world professional expertise. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our computer software development opportunities, including certificate programs in IT support, UX design, and IT automation with Python.