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Learn app development with online courses and programs

To reach many of today’s consumers, businesses need to build apps. Explore mobile application development careers and mobile application development courses with edX.

What is app development?

In 2009, Apple started using the slogan, "There's an app for that,” kicking off a mobile development gold rush.Footnote 1 Broadly speaking, “application development” refers to mobile development. This entails creating software that can be installed on a mobile device; interviewing clients about their app idea; fine-tuning visual elements and user experience, which involves making an app interactive; implementing services that allow that software to connect to servers and other computers using an application programming interface (API); testing the app on various devices; and getting feedback from users.Footnote 2

With so much app development training available, it's important to know if a course provides a general education in a programming language like Python or JavaScript, or uses a programming language specifically for web development or mobile development. After all, Java programming, JavaScript, Python, or any other object-oriented programming language can be used to build apps that are web-based or mobile. So, a general app development course may not be necessary if one strictly seeks a programming career in mobile development. As a result, it’s important to read app development course descriptions carefully to make sure they fit one’s needs.

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App development course curriculum 

App development courses typically entail learning Java programming, Python, or other object-oriented programming languages in a development environment, which is a workspace where programmers can write and make changes to code without permanently altering the finished app.Footnote 3 Students also learn how to develop programs with cross-platformfunctionality, meaning the app is developed to run on multiple mobile operating systems simultaneously rather than requiring a separate version of the app for each operating system. App development courses can also cover user experience, which focuses on designing and improving upon what it’s like to interact with apps; software testing, which helps ensure apps do what they’re supposed to do; and more.Footnote 4 Footnote 5

Some elements of app development may be taught in a bachelor’s degree in computer or data science program. Those considering master’s-level degrees in data science may get the chance to specialize in app development depending on the program.

Jobs in app development

Careers in app development are plentiful given the ubiquity of mobile devices. One can build apps at the junior to senior level, be a mobile development manager, focus on user experience, write documentation, etc. These are positions that make use of programming skills. There are also careers related to application development performed by non-programmers, like advertising or technical writing.

Mobile development is also an opportunity to build apps in a variety of fields, so a career in app development doesn't necessarily mean working on the same types of apps all the time. It’s possible for programmers to work on video games, health monitoring, job productivity, digital streaming, navigation, and more. As a result, app development training could open the door to unique careers that cater to various types of programming experience, expertise, and interests.

How to become an app developer

Some people who want to build apps for a living have a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering, but that’s not always necessary. It may be possible to pursue jobs in this field with a degree in a related subject or with knowledge acquired through a boot camp. There are also professionals in this field with master’s degrees. It’s not always necessary to be great at math to work in mobile development either (an exception is programmers who build apps that use math to function, like accounting or budgeting apps).Footnote 6 The most important skill an app developer needs is knowing how to build apps, which can be learned outside of a university and through a short course or certificate program. 

It’s possible to take self-guided app development courses andbuild apps to gain relevant experience in programming languages. This route may be appealing to people who don't want to spend roughly four years at a college or take general education classes. Self-guided app development training also allows individuals to learn at a pace and style that fits them best. Some app development courses even come with a graduate certificate.

One advantage of app development training that ends with a graduate certificate is that it can be used to show hiring managers one’s level of dedication to mobile development. A graduate certificate shows an investment of time, money, and energy into skill development. A graduate certificate can also highlight that one has received mobile development training in a particular programming language, like JavaScript or Python, or that one has studied specific areas like user experience.

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