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Roles of the Systems Developer

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Systems developers create software operating systems and applications systems. In either capacity, the roles of the systems developer encompass the entire life cycle of a software product, starting with the initial concept and continuing with maintenance tasks and ongoing updates. Systems developers are the professionals who produce the computer programs that we use and those that operate the myriad computerized devices that fill our modern world.

The Nature of Systems Development

There are several ways to categorize the roles of systems developers. One approach divides developers by program type. Operating systems developers produce and maintain the underlying software that runs a device. For example, Microsoft Windows is an operating system. Applications developers create programs designed for specific tasks. A spreadsheet and the apps on your smartphone are applications. Operating systems developers focus on computer functions, while applications systems developers provide tools that allow users to perform tasks. Job titles are variable. Systems developers may be called software developers, web designers, software engineers or various other titles. Regardless of the role or job title, a systems developer needs to be logical and creative. She must keep abreast of changes in an industry characterized by constantly evolving technology.

Systems Developer Roles

The system developer's responsibilities or roles begin as soon as a decision is made to produce a new software program. He consults with future users to determine what they expect the software to do. Once user needs are understood, he works with systems analysts and other developers to design the system and write the computer code. System developers carefully test the software before delivering it to users. They continue to monitor software performance and modify or update programs as user needs and technology evolve. For example, software is frequently changed to protect operating systems and applications from malware and hackers. Some programs, such as financial spreadsheets, must be periodically updated to reflect changes in tax codes, regulator requirements and technological changes.

System Developer Education

System developer jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers specifically ask for a master's degree as well. Typically, you need to major in computer science, software engineering or a related field, such as mathematics. A prospective developer should concentrate on computer programming and software design courses while in school. You need strong computer and analytical skills. The ability to communicate effectively and work well with others is also essential. Many developers need additional skills. For example, a systems developer who works for a financial institution should have an understanding of basic accounting and finance in order to create software that is useful to her employer. Students often gain experience while in school by working as interns. Others start in entry-level positions as computer programmers.

Career Salaries and Potential

Earnings and job opportunities for system developers are excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median salary of applications software developers at $110,080 as of May 2020. The best paid 10 percent made over $170,000. For operating systems developers, the median salary was $109,840. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $163,220. Demand for software developers in both roles is high because of increasing use of computer-controlled technology and applications programs. The BLS projects an increase of 17 percent in the number of jobs for applications developers from 2014 to 2024. Jobs for operating systems developers are expected to grow by 13 percent during the same period.


Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about career, employment and job preparation issues. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology with a focus on employment and labor from Georgia State University. He has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop career opportunities for people with disabilities.

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