The Top 9 Software Developer Skills for 2023

May 17, 2023 | What's Hot | 12 min read

The skills IT pros need to succeed in the software development field are constantly evolving. Learn the most necessary skills for developers today.

Whether they’re building apps for customers or developing internal tools to support their colleagues, software development teams can’t afford to ship buggy, broken products. But skills gaps threaten to throw a wrench in their efforts.

According to the 2022 IT Skills and Salary Report from Skillsoft, 66 percent of IT leaders are dealing with skills gaps, and software development is one of the top-ten skill areas that IT decision-makers are investing in right now.

While skills gaps are never good news, there is a silver lining here. By creating opportunities for people to build key developer skills, IT leaders can support the kind of mutually beneficial growth that employees want today.

How are software development skills training mutually beneficial? The benefits for organizations are fairly obvious: They cultivate the skills they need to stay competitive in the era of digital transformation. Additionally, professional development opportunities improve talent recruitment and retention, which are also among IT leaders’ biggest challenges.

On the other hand, employees benefit because building the skills needed to become a software developer offers them a path to a lucrative and rewarding career. According to the IT Skills and Salary Report, app developers and programmers in North America have an average base salary of $77,698, far higher than the median US salary of $54,132. As a bonus, IT pros tend to be happy at work: The IT Skills and Salary report found 74 percent are satisfied in their fields.

Download the 2022 IT Skills and Salary report to learn how IT professionals feel about compensation, certification, job roles, and challenges today.

What Are the Top Skills for Software Developers?

The organization and its employees grow together when IT leaders invest in software developer skills. But that raises an important question: What are the best skills for software developers to have?

The answer depends on many factors, including what kind of software the company develops, the tools the company uses, and the particular software engineering roles an individual is interested in.

That said, by using data from the IT Skills and Salary Report, along with broader trends in the IT industry, we can pinpoint some of the most universally useful hard and soft skills for software developers:

  1. Coding languages like JavaScript, C++, Python, and others
  2. Data science, algorithms, and machine learning
  3. Cloud computing
  4. Git and GitHub
  5. SQL and other database technologies
  6. Cybersecurity
  7. Project management and software development lifecycles
  8. Communication and collaboration
  9. Problem-solving

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

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Hard Skills for Software Developers

1. Coding Languages

Writing code is a fundamental skill required for software developers. But there are a lot of languages a person can learn. Which ones should developers — and their organizations — focus on? That depends on the kinds of developers the organization needs.

Front-end developers create and maintain the user-facing parts of apps and websites, like dynamic visuals and interactive fields. The most useful languages for front-end developers include HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript.

Back-end developers focus on the server side of a site or application — that is, the under-the-hood elements that power the service. Organizations can use many different languages for back-end development. Some of the most common include Java, Python, and the C family of languages (C, C++, and C# in particular).

When looking at data from the IT Skills and Salary Report, C languages seem to be some of the most in-demand tech skills today. Three of the most widely held software development certifications are C Certified Professional Programmer (CLP), C Programming Language Certified Associate (CLA), and C++ Certified Associate Programmer (CPA).

Full-stack developers do both front- and back-end development, so IT pros in this field typically learn a blend of both front- and back-end languages. Many full-stack developers also use Node.js, an open-source runtime environment that allows them to use JavaScript for both front- and back-end development.

Mobile developers build apps for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Accordingly, they specialize in mobile-focused programming languages like Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android.

Interested in learning more about coding languages? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

2. Data Science, Algorithms, and Machine Learning

As artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms reach new levels of sophistication, more organizations are looking to incorporate these features into their products and services. Data from the IT Skills and Salary Report reinforces the idea that these are critical skills for software developers: 27 percent of IT decision-makers are investing in data analytics, data management, and data science skills, and 30 percent are investing in AI and machine learning.

Of course, data science, algorithms, and machine learning are massive topics with broad applications in everything from cutting-edge innovations like ChatGPT and AI art to more established fields like content recommendation systems and social media feeds. That can make learning these important tech skills feel daunting. However, learning Python is one of the best ways to get started. This simple, flexible language is the foundation for many of the most sophisticated machine learning, data analytics, and data visualization algorithms.

Interested in learning more about data science, algorithms, and machine learning? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

3. Cloud Computing

The rise of the cloud is the hallmark of the digital transformation era, the technology that separates IT today from the IT of the past. It makes sense, then, that 41% of IT decision-makers are investing in cloud computing skills, according to the IT Skills and Salary Report. The report also found that Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) certifications are the three most popular non-cybersecurity certifications.

Platform-specific certification is likely the best way for new and experienced software developers to learn cloud computing skills. The cloud isn’t so much a singular technology as it is a whole new infrastructure with new ways of developing, hosting, and delivering apps. To comprehensively understand cloud computing, software developers must thoroughly engage with the specific infrastructures their organizations use.

Interested in learning more about cloud computing? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

4. Git and GitHub

“Version control” refers to the processes developers use to track changes to software code over time. It’s an invaluable skill for software developers because it allows them to collaborate on projects, quickly find and fix bugs, and avoid major derailments.

Most software engineers use two tools for version control: Git, a version control application, and GitHub, a web-based platform for Git repositories. For that reason, familiarity with Git and GitHub is practically a required skill for software developers.

Additionally, using Git and GitHub can help developers learn to read and understand code, making them better at identifying issues, fixing problems, and communicating with others. As we’ll see below, these are vital soft skills for engineers.

Interested in learning more about Git and GitHub? Check out this course on Skillsoft:

5. SQL and Other Database Technologies

Databases are fundamental parts of how so many apps and websites function today. For that reason, software developers need to know how to work with these databases, including how to search for information, add and update data, and keep databases secure.

Many of the most popular database management systems today, like Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server, use a programming language called Structured Query Language (SQL) to perform functions. Learning SQL is a great place for software engineers to start with database management.

There are, however, other database management systems that don’t use SQL, like MongoDB. Software developers need to keep in mind the specific databases their organizations use.

Interested in learning more about SQL and other database technologies? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

6. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is top of mind for many IT decision-makers: 31 percent are currently investing in cybersecurity skills, according to the IT Skills and Salary Report.

While cybersecurity and software development are separate fields, developers do have a role to play in keeping their organizations and customers safe by ensuring the software they build follows cybersecurity best practices.

Plus, holding cybersecurity certifications can help software engineers boost their pay. Four of the ten highest-paying certifications in North America are cybersecurity certifications, according to the IT Skills and Salary Report. These include Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and AWS Certified Security - Speciality.

Software developers can take a few different approaches to strengthen their cybersecurity skills. Earning cloud security certifications can help them build more secure apps for cloud environments. Learning about cryptography can help them protect sensitive data. A secure software lifecycle certification, like the Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP), can help developers build cybersecurity into their products.

Interested in learning more about cybersecurity? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

Soft Skills for Software Developers

While tech skills development is critical for software engineers, soft skills are equally important. Software development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Apps and websites are built by people — people who need to work effectively together to ship the best products they can. Toward that end, here are some key soft skills for developers to have:

1. Project Management and Software Development Lifecycles

Whether Scrum, Agile, DevOps, or some combination thereof, every software development cycle follows some methodology. The better a developer knows that methodology, the more efficiently they can work inside it. Different organizations use different methodologies, so software engineers and IT decision-makers should focus on whichever one forms the basis of their particular process.

On a broader level, developers may also pursue generalized project management certifications like Project Management Professional (PMP). These can equip them with skills they can use in nearly any software development cycle. Plus, PMP certification can increase a developer’s salary, according to the IT Skills and Salary Report.

Interested in learning more about project management and software development lifecycles? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

2. Communication and Collaboration

Software development is a collaborative process. Developers need to explain their code to team members, document their code clearly, and understand the code the other people are writing. They must also communicate with clients and customers to understand what they need from a product and incorporate their feedback into the build. Learning the fundamentals of effective communication can go a long way.

Interested in learning more about communication and collaboration? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

3. Problem-solving

At its core, software development is about solving problems. Software engineers must design and build apps and services to help customers solve their pain points. Furthermore, developers will inevitably run into bugs, broken code, and other challenges when making software.

Problem-solving, then, is one of the most critical software developer skills. Developers must learn how to think creatively and critically, invite and use feedback, and analyze their code to fix the issues that arise.

Interested in learning more about problem-solving? Check out these resources on Skillsoft:

How Do You Gain the Top Developer Skills?

Software developers need a broad set of skills to succeed in their roles. Cultivating those skills can seem daunting, but the good news is that tried-and-true resources are available to help. Whether you’re an IT decision-maker looking to close team-wide skills gaps or an individual employee who wants to level up, here are a few software developer training resources to explore:

Online Training Programs

Online training programs are particularly popular among IT pros. According to the IT Skills and Salary Report, 63 percent of IT pros have used web-based, on-demand training sessions in the last 12 months, and 37 percent have used live instructor-led online training.

What makes a great online training program for software engineer skills? The IT Skills and Salary Report can offer some insight here. According to the IT pros surveyed, the most important factors are quality of content (cited by 46 percent of respondents), opportunities for hands-on practice (41 percent), updated content (33 percent), and multiple learning methods (24 percent).

Attending Webinars

Webinars can be another effective tool for learning the skills needed to be a software developer. While webinars don’t offer the same kind of comprehensive instruction as full training courses, they can provide deep dives into specific topics. Plus, webinars are often free and relatively brief, making them easier to fit into a busy schedule.

Learning From Peers

Research shows that peer-to-peer learning can be an effective way of building new skills. It can also help build camaraderie among teammates, which in turn helps software developers learn vital communication and collaboration skills.

According to the IT Skills and Salary Report, many IT pros already embrace peer-to-peer learning: In the past 12 months, 25 percent have joined an online community like GitHub or Reddit, 26 percent have attended informal learning sessions at work, and 23 percent have engaged with influencers and other professionals on social media.

IT leaders can support peer-to-peer learning by establishing formal opportunities like mentorship programs, weekly lunch-and-learns, or setting aside time during meetings for shareouts.

Choosing the Right Software Developer Training

As the software development industry continues to evolve, keeping up with the latest trends and technologies can be a challenge for both individuals and organizations. With the right professional development opportunities, however, employees and employers can close their skills gaps and grow together.

Yet finding the right IT training provider can be difficult. Organizations and their employees need training solutions tailored to their unique needs. That’s where Codecademy for Enterprise comes in.

Codecademy for Enterprise is an online training solution that has helped many businesses and individuals build the software developer skills they need. Featuring interactive practice opportunities, personalized learning, and peer-to-peer communities, Codecademy for Enterprise can level up your organization’s tech skills with hands-on, immersive training.

Learn more about Codecademy for Enterprise.