How Do You Become a Mobile App Developer?

Scott Batchelor

Mobile app developers are software engineers who are primarily responsible for developing, testing and deploying applications used on smartphones and a range of mobile devices.

They typically work as part of teams which may include many other skill sets, including other specialised software developers, QA engineers, product managers and project managers.

Utilising a range of programming languages and development stacks, mobile app developers work across the two main app platforms, iOS and Android. Mobile developers can either be specialised in one platform or work across both.

Becoming a mobile app developer is more than just learning coding languages and development frameworks. An understanding of market dynamics, business needs, and consumer expectations is also required to build a successful mobile app that meets the needs of users.

In this article, we will look at how to become a mobile app developer and the benefits of pursuing an app development career, including advice from our very own mobile app development team here at Netsells.

Why get involved in app development?

Mobile app development is one of the fastest growing digital professions in the world. In 2020 there were over 218 billion global app downloads and collective global app usage time on Android devices reached nearly 70 billion hours per week

The possibilities for mobile application development are also impacting multiple industries, which opens up a raft of exciting projects for those looking to develop mobile applications. 

Advances in technology such as the rollout of 5G are enabling developers to implement advanced featuresets. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the development and adoption of mobile apps across the globe, with fitness, healthcare and education witnessing a distinct rise in demand for mobile solutions.

It’s no wonder then why app development is one of the hottest fields in tech right now. As a result, the demand for experienced app developers has also seen a massive jump, making it an attractive career prospect.

This demand is also spread across almost every industry, which means there are opportunities available in almost every sector you might be interested in. App developers can be found working for startups, large corporations, and even local governments. 

Definitely the best part of my job is seeing someone use something that I’ve built or worked on. Closely followed by getting to experiment and use some of the latest cutting edge technology to build solutions to genuine problems.”

Jack Colley, Senior Mobile Engineer

“I always loved the idea of being able to build something useful that could be carried around in someone’s pocket and used from almost any location.”

Mark Edmunds, Senior Flutter / iOS Developer

As a person I am both creative and logical, building mobile apps requires both of these skills to be utilised simultaneously. Whether you’re programming apps for the web or for smartphones, this job offers exciting growth, success, and creative opportunities.

Oli Warriner, Senior Flutter Developer

What education do you need to be a mobile app developer

It is possible to become a mobile app developer with little or no prior experience. The process of becoming a mobile app developer is very similar to that of becoming a software developer specialising in other platforms. 

One popular route is to become a self-taught developer, which involves teaching yourself how to code using free and paid-for resources.There are numerous tutorials, guides, books, and communities available that can help you learn the skills necessary to build mobile applications. 

You could also consider enrolling in a coding bootcamp or course which can provide you with a structured curriculum, mentors and dedicated tutors. This route can also provide you with the opportunity to develop your core, interpersonal skills by allowing you to deliver projects as part of a team.

A Computer Science or Software Development degree can be useful as this will give you a foundational grasp of software development concepts, however it is not absolutely necessary to pursue an app development career.

I started off by completing a few tutorials on the basics, then I set myself the challenge to build my own basic game. It took so long even though it was so simple, but it did eventually make it to the AppStore and got a few thousand downloads. After that, I moved away from games and started building more and more complex single screens from other apps to try and challenge myself and replicate them” 

Jack Colley, Senior Mobile Engineer

It’s also possible to switch from web development to mobile app development 

“I was originally a web developer, however I had a keen interest in mobile development. I spent a lot of my spare time digging through resources to learn as much as I could. Luckily I found that a lot of the skills I had were transferable. At the time I made the transition to mobile there weren't a massive amount of resources available, therefore I originally used textbooks and online documentation to build small example apps.”

Mark Edmunds, Senior Flutter / iOS Developer

“I started my career in development with an apprenticeship in software development, which allowed me to get into a small dev agency from the start. It was my career development within this company that gave me the experience I needed building mobile apps.”

Oli Warriner, Senior Flutter Developer

How long does it take to become a Mobile App Developer?

Entry stage app development roles typically require at least 1-2 years of experience in developing mobile applications. It can be extremely beneficial to build up a portfolio of projects, whether personal or commercial, to show a potential employer. 

After landing an entry level role, progression typically looks like:

Junior App Developer - 2-3 years of experience

Senior App developer - 3-5 years of experience

Lead App Developer - 5+ years of experience

However it’s important to stress that different developers learn and grow at different rates.

How hard is it to become an app developer?

Developing for mobile platforms is no easy feat. It takes a considerable amount of know-how, expertise, and planning to create applications which are on a par with the best in the market.

However it is possible for anyone to become an app developer with enough study, focus and practice.

 Take it in small steps, learn the foundations well. There are many areas to becoming a well-rounded developer, it’s not just about coding. Spend time improving your soft skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving, they will be useful on a daily basis.”

Mark Edmunds, Senior Flutter / iOS Developer

What are the different types of app developer?

There are two main types of mobile app developer, native and cross-platform.

Native App Developer

Native app developers are skillful in programming native mobile apps for different mobile operating systems. They will have advanced knowledge of native programming languages on either iOS or Android, or both platforms.

  • iOS (Swift, Objective-C, C++)
  • Android (Java, Kotlin)

Cross-platform App Developer

Cross-platform (also known as hybrid) app developers create cross-platform apps using a single code base for iOS and Android apps.

Cross-platform developers should have an understanding of one of the following cross-platform languages:

  • React Native
  • Flutter
  • Xamarin

What are the responsibilities of an app developer?

As an app developer, you’ll be responsible for translating business requirements, individual feature requests and product roadmaps into clean, well-tested code.

Essential technical skills for app developers

  • A thorough understanding of Git and version control
  • The ability to create complex layouts which are maintainable and scalable
  • Experience performing unit and integration testing
  • Experience with continuous integration / continuous deployment
  • Excellent understanding of core software development principles

Essential core skills for app developers

  • Commercial awareness and understanding of common business processes and revenue models
  • The ability to understand client requirements and how these are translated into features and functionalities
  • A problem solving mindset that allows you to react to problems and devise solutions
  • The ability to work as part of a team and collaborate with individuals across multiple specialisms
  • Great attention to detail and time management skills

Advice for aspiring app developers

We asked our mobile development team for the advice they would give to anyone considering a career in app development:

“Take it in small steps, learn the foundations well. There are many areas to becoming a well-rounded developer, it’s not just about coding. Spend time improving your soft skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving, they will be useful on a daily basis.”

Mark Edmunds, Senior Flutter / iOS Developer

It can seem overwhelming when you first start. There are so many different technologies and topics to learn. But don’t be put off. Start with something super simple and increase the complexity with every project and before you know it. You’ll have a portfolio of apps you’ve built.”

Jack Colley, Senior Mobile Engineer

“Be consistent with self development. Never stop learning. Be a brilliant team player.” 

Oli Warriner, Senior Flutter Developer

Resources to help you learn app development

Ray Wenderlich - https://www.raywenderlich.com/whats-new

Hacking with Swift - https://www.hackingwithswift.com 

App Brewery - https://www.appbrewery.co/

ResoCoder  - https://resocoder.com/ 

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