Software development vs. application development: A comprehensive guide for beginners

by Meike Müller

Are you interested in the field of application development, but are unsure how it differs from software development and what career prospects it offers? This guide clarifies the core competencies, tasks and differences between the two fields and offers insights into training, salary and career prospects. Find out what distinguishes application developers and software developers and how you can position yourself in this dynamic field.

The most important facts at a glance

  • Application developers must be able to adapt to changes in technology, work in teams and apply creativity to problem solving.
  • Software developers need a comprehensive understanding of the software lifecycle and the ability to integrate software into different systems and architectures.
  • In addition to the traditional apprenticeship, training as an IT specialist also offers special specializations and further training geared towards the current and future needs of the IT sector.

Core competencies of an application developer

As an IT specialist for application development and programmer, it is crucial that you have a perfect command of your respective programming language. But that alone is not enough. An effective application developer must also be able to design software architectures and think analytically.

It is also important to remember that the world of technology is constantly evolving. Computer programs, programming languages and platforms change regularly, and as an IT specialist you need to be able to adapt and continuously learn.

In addition, modern software developers are not just lone wolves, but also team players. You need to be able to communicate effectively in interdisciplinary teams and collaborate with different teams on multiple projects. And let's not forget creativity! Creativity enables software developers to generate innovative solutions to problems and proactively tackle potential challenges.

Core competencies of a software developer

Similar to application developers, software developers also require various core skills. You must not only be able to master programming languages, but also have an overview of the entire software development life cycle.

Efficient management of your own workflow, including prioritization of tasks and communication within the team, is another important skill in software development. Software developers must also be able to systematically analyze and solve problems, especially through code testing and debugging.

Another important aspect of the core competencies of software developers is the ability to integrate software into existing systems and architectures, a deep understanding of system design principles and an ability to design scalable software systems that can cope with increasing requirements.

Job profile: IT specialist for application development vs. IT specialist for software development

Although there are many similarities between the job profiles of IT specialists for application development and IT specialists for software development, there are also important differences. IT specialists for application development specialize in developing software and applications for companies and customers, planning, designing and programming a variety of programs and applications, developing user-friendly interfaces and preparing cost estimates. On the other hand, IT specialists for software development are more specialized in system integration and architecture, a specific field within IT. The difference between these two professions is subtle, but important for those seeking a career in this exciting and ever-growing area of IT.

Fields of work and industries for application developers

Application developers often find employment in IT departments in various industries, contributing to the development of new technologies and applications. Their main area of employment is the IT sector as well as companies in various economic sectors.

The working environment of IT specialists in the field of application development usually consists of office environments, with regular meetings forming a significant part of the work.

Away from the purely technical aspects of the work, you can also work at middle management level in one of four training profiles that represent different professions in the IT industry:

  • IT Developer
  • IT project manager
  • Business administrator for information processing
  • Setting up software and communication systems, especially for business management processes.

Further training as a business administrator for information processing enables you to set up software and communication systems, especially for business management processes in companies.

Fields of work and sectors for software developers

Software developers in Germany often find employment in system and software houses, information and communication technology companies or IT service providers. Apart from IT-specific companies, software developers are also employed in other sectors and contribute to permanent employment.

Since you have a broad range of skills and knowledge as a software developer, you can work in various areas within the IT sector. For example, you can specialize in the development of operating systems, network technologies or databases.

It is also important to note that the fields of work and sectors for software developers depend heavily on current trends in the IT industry. As digitalization progresses and technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things become more widespread, new opportunities and challenges are constantly opening up for software developers.

Training paths and qualifications

Training to become an IT specialist for application development usually takes three years. From August 2020, the new specializations of data and process analysis and digital networking will be available for training as an IT specialist. There is also the IT baccalaureate program, which enables you to qualify as an IT specialist in 4.5 years, additionally as an IT project manager and concludes with an instructor exam.

After your apprenticeship, you can acquire further qualifications, for example through a subsequent course of study or by collecting additional certificates. Some of these additional certificates include the TGA certificate in one of 14 different specialist profiles, which enables IT specialists to specialize further. There are also vendor-related certificates from IT companies that can raise the profile of IT specialists and deepen their specialist knowledge.

Salary and career prospects

The starting salary for application developers in Germany in 2023 is between 48,650 and 56,690 euros gross per year. Professionals in application development with 3-5 years of experience have an average salary between €60,680 and €74,140, while experienced developers who have been leading a team for 6-10 years can earn around €88,550.

It is also important to note that salary in Germany also depends on the region, with Hesse offering the highest starting salaries for software developers. Strategic professionals in application development can take on management positions in companies and executive positions in large corporations.

Salary negotiations for application developers should begin after making a positive impression on the potential employer and should be based on an understanding of market salaries. By negotiating and positioning yourself correctly, you can achieve your desired salary.

Applying successfully in application development and software development

A well-structured CV increases your chances of standing out in the application process. Tailoring your application documents to the job requirements and the company's values is crucial to making a positive first impression on potential employers. It is crucial to emphasize both hard skills, such as proficiency in programming languages, and soft skills, such as analytical thinking and teamwork skills.

A compelling cover letter should show your enthusiasm for the position and the company and explain how your skills and experience are suited to the role. With a well-prepared resume, customized application materials and a compelling cover letter, you're ready to apply for your dream job!

An outlook: The future of application development and software development

The technology landscape is constantly evolving, providing an exciting glimpse into the future of application development and software development. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will increasingly drive the development of intelligent systems that can independently analyze data and recognize patterns.

The digital transformation of the workplace means that as an application developer you will be working in new innovative technologies such as affective computing, augmented analytics and blockchain. The Internet of Things and smart devices will change software development by enabling the development of new business models and process optimization.

Other emerging technologies such as augmented reality, firewall as a service, low-code/no-code platforms, progressive web apps, edge computing, quantum computing and blockchain offer further exciting opportunities for the future of application development and software development.


To summarize, both IT specialists in application development and IT specialists in software development require a variety of skills and knowledge to be successful in their respective fields. Although there are many similarities, the two job profiles differ in some important aspects. Regardless of your chosen career path, the IT industry has an exciting future ahead of it, with many evolving technologies and trends. The future of application development and software development looks bright and we look forward to seeing what comes next. Would you like to start an apprenticeship or are you already a qualified IT specialist looking for a new challenge? Then get in touch with us! We might have the right job for you.

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the core skills of an application developer?

    As an application developer, you should be proficient in programming languages, think analytically, be creative and continuously train yourself to adapt to changing technologies.

  • Where can application developers work?

    Application developers can work in IT departments in various industries and in the IT sector in general, as well as at middle management level or as a business administrator for information processing.

  • What does training as an IT specialist look like?

    Training as an IT specialist usually takes three years and also offers new specializations such as data and process analysis and digital networking. There is also the IT A-level program and various opportunities to acquire additional certificates.

  • How much can an application developer earn?

    An application developer in Germany can earn between 48,650 and 56,690 euros gross per year, with the possibility of a higher salary with more experience and responsibility. So, it's a relatively well-paid profession.

  • What does the future of application development and software development look like?

    The future of application development and software development looks very exciting, with evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Firewall as a Service and other forward-thinking developments. It's an exciting time for the industry.

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from 18.04.2024

Hello, my name is Meike. I take care of the EXWE back office and am responsible for our social media channels. All of our articles are meant to make your life easier and help you make decisions. Nevertheless, it can happen that something remains unclear, so: If you have questions about this article you can easily reach me at +49 231 93149827.

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