Salary Spotlight: Mobile Applications Developers

Across the U.S., a number of positions in the technology field are likely to see above-average gains this year, according to salary research from Robert Half Technology’s 2015 Salary Guide. Roles such as mobile applications developer, big data engineer and web designer may see a 4.8 to 10.2 percent increase in base pay. In the Bay Area, however, one of these roles stands out as the big winner in terms of salary increases – that of a mobile applications developer.

As the job title suggests, mobile app developers are responsible for creating apps used on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Typically, the software development team decides that consumers need an app to accomplish XYZ. Once the idea is approved, the mobile app developer writes the program, checks for any hiccups and makes it work.

Despite being in the tech capital of the country, it can be very challenging for Bay Area employers to fill mobile app developer positions. In many areas, the supply of qualified professionals continues to be lower than the demand. The need for skilled professionals who can develop applications for tablets and smartphones will only intensify as companies keep pace with the growing mobile market.

Experienced mobile app developers can expect to see the largest increase (10.2 percent) in starting compensation of any tech position listed in the Salary Guide. In San Francisco, that translates to an entry level mobile app developer earning between $148,350 and $222,870, on average. Next door in San Jose, the range is between $145,125 and $218,025. That’s some pretty serious coin. So, what does it take to be a successful mobile app developer?

Necessary Skills

First and foremost, mobile app developers need strong analytical and problem-solving abilities. Employers require previous experience building mobile apps and mobile websites for Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7. App developers also need to be highly skilled in several languages and platforms, including Java, Java EE, Java ME, JavaScript, JSON, Objective-C, .NET and HTML. A degree in computer science or computer engineering is typically required. And strong interpersonal and communication skills are indispensable in the job’s team-oriented work, with short release cycles.

According to David Knapp, metro market manager of Robert Half Technology in the Bay Area, mobile app developers need to start by choosing a clear direction. This means choosing a path of expertise in iOS, Android or mobile apps with tools such as PhoneGap or Titanium.

“Focus on an area of specialization in mobile app development and hone your craft,” he says, “whether it’s SaaS, video, payments or data. You won’t be a good fit for every position, but that’s the point. This focus will really set you apart when the right role does come up.”

Here’s a few additional recommendations from Knapp:

  • Demonstrate your expertise. In order to differentiate yourself, Knapp recommends having a portfolio of your work ready, or better yet, being able to demo apps that you’ve created. “It’s a very competitive marketplace, so anything you can do to showcase your knowledge and expertise helps set you apart from your peers,” says Knapp. “It’s also important to have your work posted to Github.”
  • Know the why behind the what. Make sure you have a solid understanding of all the components of mobile applications development to back up your specialization. Knowing the reasons behind what you’re doing is an important hiring factor for managers.
  • Build results. Recognize where you add value and build on it. Make sure you document any metrics or positive outcomes achieved through your contributions. Hiring managers care about results more than tasks and responsibilities.

Finally, if you’re looking to command a higher salary as a mobile app developer, the key is to have published apps, according to Knapp. “Enterprise-level or consumer apps will yield a higher salary than if you’re simply developing apps as a hobby. Also, while specializing is recommended early in your career, if you do acquire solid experience in both iOS and Android, you can bet that employers will have their eye on you.”

Tell us: Are you a mobile app developer in the Bay Area? If so, is there a particular skill that has helped propel your career to the next level?