The mobile app market is growing at an ever-increasing speed with no signs of slowing down. The Google Play app store alone sees over 3,700 new apps become available every day. Forecasts predict that mobile apps will be worth £31 billion yearly to the UK by 2025. There are thousands of app types available, from banking and social media apps to augmented reality or virtual reality experiences. So how can you enter into the world of mobile application development?

Close up of different apps available on a mobile phone
Close up of different apps available on a mobile phone
It seems that there is an app to help us with every situation in life, from ordering a pizza to paying our bills.

What Does A Mobile Application Developer Do?

A mobile app developers job is incredibly varied, from working on apps for specific sectors like banking to developing gaming apps that incorporate a virtual reality element.

App developers build and test apps for smartphones, tablets, or computers, using programming languages for Mac, Android, and Windows platforms. They need to understand the entire process behind building an app, starting from accessing data about user behaviour to working with artists to design the concept.

Once an app has launched, an app developer will be responsible for releasing patches and updates. Each release allows mobile users to engage with content, improve their experience, and generally encourage increased app use.

Mobile app developers often work within a creative agency helping different customers create their apps. Alternatively, they might work internally for small, medium or large companies.

Becoming A Mobile App Developer: Skills, Qualifications and Experience

You don’t have to have a degree to become a mobile app developer. Many Junior Developers are people who have spent time working on their own mobile app launches. However, if you are looking at University courses to explore mobile application development, you might consider one of the following:

  • Computer Science
  • Software Engineering
  • Financial Technology

If you want to test your level of interest in mobile app development as a career, online courses are a great place to start. Many popular short courses are available at Udemy, or longer-term ones at Makers. While these courses don’t result in any formal qualifications, they will give you a good knowledge of certain elements. For example, which platforms to work on (like iOS or Android) and the basics of coding. Additionally, courses like this often walk you through what a mobile app project looks like from start to finish.

Diagram of the mobile app development process in progress
Diagram of the mobile app development process in progress
A mobile application designer maps out on paper what they want each page of their app to look like.

To work as a Mobile app developer, it helps to have an interest in the following. Although, you don’t need in-depth knowledge of everything on this list:

Coding and Operating Systems Knowledge

Experience in a computer language like Objective-C, C++, MySQL or PHP can help you learn how to create a mobile application. It also helps to understand how these could apply to mobile operating systems like iOS or Android.

Understanding Users

Both UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) play a crucial part in mobile development. UI is the app visuals, and the UX is how it works. Understanding this in some form is an essential part of developing an app.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

The future of mobile devices is AR and VR. Augmented reality and virtual reality are incorporated into many apps already, from social media to online banking apps. Predictions forecast that VR use will have increased by 18 times between now and 2022.

If you already work in Software Engineering or Web Development, it is also possible to sidestep into becoming a Mobile Application Developer.

Mobile app developer anticipating how users will interact with his app
Mobile app developer anticipating how users will interact with his app
Mobile app developers must have a good understanding of how their users will interact with their app in order to give them a good experience every time they use it.

A Day In The Life Of A Mobile Application Developer

No two jobs will look the same for a mobile application developer. The locations of these roles are incredibly varied. For example, you may work remotely as part of an agency that works with many clients. Alternatively, you could work for one company within an internal team of app developers.

The length of the contracts will also vary. You might work in permanent employment for an agency as a developer working on multiple projects. Or you could find yourself working on a series of shorter-term contracts remotely or internally for a large company.

Let’s talk to Sarah, who works as a Junior App Developer for an agency. The agency Sarah works at creates mobile apps for finance and banking clients. What does her day look like?

A creative agency team working on a mobile app
A creative agency team working on a mobile app
When working in a creative agency, developers may work on projects for several different clients.

Working As A Junior Mobile App Developer

Sarah’s days are incredibly varied, and her office is based on an Agile working environment. Sarah likes this as it gives her the freedom to work remotely on some days or start later on others.

On Monday at 9.30, Sarah has a stand-up meeting with her cross-functional team. This includes working with Graphic Designers, Data Scientists, and Senior Mobile App Developers.

In the meeting, Sarah finds out about the latest updates from users testing one of their banking app prototypes. Afterwards, Sarah will continue developing the mobile app using this feedback. She’s working on three apps at the moment, so has plenty of projects to keep her busy. The apps she creates focus primarily on business banking apps for iOS, the platform she’s most knowledgeable in.

A little over half of Sarah’s week will be coding and building the apps, or developing patches for live apps. She also has other ad hoc tasks which could change daily, such as:

  • Troubleshooting a coding problem with her team
  • Giving feedback to a Graphic Designer on why an image doesn’t work with the app’s code
  • Implement a new part of the app based on some user experience feedback

What Hours Does Sarah Work?

Sarah’s hours are pretty varied. If she works from home, she normally starts earlier and works later. Of course, this means she can unintentionally work quite long hours. Sometimes, when a deadline is approaching to launch an app, she can work into the evening.

Luckily, the flexible work pattern means she can make back the time by starting later on other days that week. Her team works closely together and are incredibly supportive of each other.

Laptop and mobile used for online learning
Laptop and mobile used for online learning
Mobile app developers are expected to keep their skills up to date. Employers will usually allow time for this.

What Does Sarah Want To Do In Future?

For two hours every week, Sarah has time for training and personal development. This means that Sarah can learn more about machine learning in apps and the rise of artificial intelligence. By learning more about these skills intends to become a Senior App Developer role in the next two years. In future. Sarah hopes to even become a Director at the company she works for.

Want to become a Mobile App Developer? Check out our latest jobs to find out the current salaries offered and what employers are looking for.

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