Must-Have Skills for Mobile Application Development

Find out what it takes to be a mobile app developer.

Average earnings for mobile application developers in the United States are expected to increase more than 8.2 percent in 2016. That trend reflects a growing demand for skilled software engineers.

Plus, there’s plenty of work in moving data to and from the cloud to support new mobile applications. Maybe all of these trends have convinced you that now is the time to move into mobile application development.

You may want a spot on the team that makes the next SnapChat or Candy Crush Saga. Or, perhaps you want to land a position at a larger company where you'd work to make business applications available to the tablets and smartphones other employees already use at home or on the road.

Use our Salary Calculator to find the starting pay for mobile application developers in your area. 

Skills and training by mobile app type

  • To create apps for kids or the next viral social game, you need a background in graphic or interaction design. Get some experience with Unity3d development and showcase your skills with Adobe technologies like Flash and ActionScript.
  • To build easy-to-use business tools, pursuing a degree in computer science or electrical engineering is a great start. You could also study object-oriented programming principles, such as Objective-C, C++ or Java, on your own.

Do You Need a College Degree to Get an IT Job?

Essential reading

Before you start sifting through job listings, it's essential to understand responsive design and memory and interface constraints, and how these relate to planning and testing interactions on tablets and smartphones.

And be sure you understand key concepts such as these:

  • The pros and cons of different mobile application development architectures
  • The fundamental differences between designing software for the Web vs. software for mobile devices
  • The importance of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – essential tools, whether you make hybrid apps or responsive websites
  • The latest standards and certifications for device networking, like Bluetooth and WiFi Direct

Learning by doing

Getting a start in mobile application development can be as simple as getting your geek on with the devices you already own and the networks you use all the time. Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer software development kits, tools and online tutorials to help software developers start writing mobile apps.

Start your app “what if” list by reviewing what features you want on a mobile device:

  • Do you dream about faster performance or better features of an app you frequently use?
  • Have you imagined a new way to utilize a touchscreen?
  • What does the app of your dreams look like?

Remember, there’s no better way to learn than by doing. After reading up and starting to play around with the tools of the trade, find out where engineers meet in your area and join them. Attend a hack-a-thon or a devcon.

Show and tell

You’ll likely need a sample project to show hiring managers, who will want to make sure potential hires in mobile application development are able to do more than repeat the latest buzzwords.

Mine your past for ideas. Did you write a “Hello, World!” project in college? Dust off that assignment or a similar one and build on it. If you’ve created an app already, rewrite it to show you have skills in more than one codebase (versatility is important). Aim toward creating a portfolio of applications that perform simple tasks or flows.

Be prepared to talk about what you can do in a way that ties your new skills back to the languages you know. Practice for interviews by talking through a design problem at a whiteboard with a friend or mentor.

Are you ready for these three tricky interview questions?

Start your search

By now, you have a handle on the challenges of mobile application development. You understand the importance of new design principles and Web standards. With your sample app up and running, it's time to start interviewing. 

Find a Mobile App Developer Job

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Note: This post has been updated. It originally appeared on 1/2/14.