Mobile App Development School Programs: What You Can Expect
From the record-breaking Facebook IPO and the breathtaking sale prices for mobile software companies such as Instagram − not to mention the cut-throat patent wars between Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung - it may seem obvious that the future of computing is in mobile apps and devices (stratechery.com, 2013). As the computer world heads even more toward all-things-mobile, applications should be headed right along with it. But, the big question may be: can you get a degree in that?
While mobile application development degrees may sound a bit like a thing of the future, they do exist. In fact, a number of schools offer certificates and degrees in mobile application development. Length of these programs can vary from several months to a year or longer, but classes generally focus on computer programming, information technology, artistic courses, writing and graphic design. Supplemental open courseware classes may also benefit students who have already graduated with a degree but lack the specific mobile development experience needed for employment.
Although some schools do not offer specific programs in mobile development, a good portion offer courses and programs that can help aspiring software developers to create mobile applications. Mobile app development can involve game design theory, aesthetics, technical communication and marketing principles - the classes might be there if the degree as a whole is not. As well, if a school does offer a specific mobile app degree, it may be possible to pursue your own unique coursework pairings, such as computer programming combined with graphic design.
The skills helpful to success as a mobile application developer
Creating mobile applications can require a broader base of knowledge than is required for software or web development. Mobile devices are being integrated into classrooms (kqed.org, 2013), hospitals and retail stores with few device changes, meaning applications designed to turn an iPhone into a portable sonography machine must work with the standard iPhone, not just ones modified for hospitals. Tablet applications meant to facilitate student engagement need to be able to work with the same device features as someone building a mobile-friendly website. As a result, understanding how to write compelling communication and implement intuitive artistic design elements can be the deciding factor when it comes to downloading an app. As a result, it may be beneficial for mobile application developers to have creative and artistic skills to design intuitive menus, features and interfaces of the application; knowledge of technical writing best practices to accurately communicate with the user; and programming skills to create and fix problems that arise with new device operating systems.
However, while some may focus on the programming aspect of mobile design, it may be worth remembering that in 2000, Microsoft released what may still be the first true "tablet" PC - a decade before Apple released the iPad (datamation.com, 2002). Yet, the craze for tablet PCs didn't take off in 2000 partially due to what the late Steve Jobs described Microsofts' "lack of taste," or what he saw as difficulties with visual style (cultofmac.com, 2010). For that reason - and because many mobile devices are touch-based - the importance of graphic design and aesthetic appeal in mobile development should not be overlooked.
The tools mobile application developer may need
Designing an application for a mobile device can be tricky - and not like development for a web site for which many visitors may have similar hardware or screen sizes. With the exception of Apple, each generation of mobile phones and tablets have different screen resolutions, operating system standards and hardware capabilities. Developing a mobile application for one platform, such as the Android OS, may mean having to design it all over for another platform.
The following tools may help developers produce mobile applications on multiple platforms or make cross-platform development easier.
- appMobi, jqMobi, & jqUI - open source query selector for mobile devices that helps developers build HTML5 apps. These tools were built for the mobile touch-based web.
- Appcelerator - a cross-development platform that allows developers to produce native mobile apps and desktop apps for all with cloud data support.
- MoSync - another cross-platform development tool that combines compilers, libraries and profiles into a common programming standard capable of supporting Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Moblin.
- Whoop - mobile web development made easy by allowing developers to produce single platform content with the ability to transition to other platforms using a drag-and-drop mobile elements feature.
Career outlook for mobile app developers
There is no salary data or career outlook available from a reputable source for mobile application developers. Nor does the Bureau of Labor Statistics track the profession or include it in any of its larger professional categories. However, the salary data and career outlook for software developers - who develop non-mobile applications for traditional computers - may provide a idea about possible career outlook and salary potential for mobile application developers.
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, software developers working specifically in application development could see national occupational growth of up to 28 percent from 2010 to 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). This growth is projected to be a result an increased demand for computer software and applications such as computer games. As of May 2012, applications software developers earned a national median annual wage of $90,060 with the highest 10 percent earning more than $138,880 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $55,190 during that time (BLS.gov/oes, 2013). Degrees in mobile app development may be the next new thing out there. It may be time to check to check them out.
KQED, Mind Sift, Parents Want Kids to use Mobile Devices in Schools, 2013 - http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/parents-want-kids-to-use-mobile-devices-in-schools/
Infoworld.com, 10 Heavy Duty Tools for Mobile App Development 2012- http://www.infoworld.com/slideshow/65689/10-heavy-duty-tools-mobile-app-development-202776
Masable.com, Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools, 2010 - http://mashable.com/2010/08/11/cross-platform-mobile-development-tools/
Free Video Lectures, Mobile Application Development Courses, 2011 - http://freevideolectures.com/blog/2011/07/mobile-application-development-courses/
Cult Of Mac, Jeremy Toeman, What Steve Jobs Meant By Saying Microsoft Has No Taste, 2010 - http://www.cultofmac.com/62114/what-steve-jobs-meant-by-saying-microsoft-has-no-taste/
Datamation.com, Thor Olavsrud, Tablet PC Coming to an Office Near You, 2002 - http://www.datamation.com/netsys/article.php/1495701/Tablet-PC-Coming-to-an-Office-Near-You.htm
Stratechery.com, Ben Thompson, The Facebook Flop, 2013 - http://stratechery.com/2013/the-facebook-flop/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics May 2012, Software Developers, Applications - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151132.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Software Developers - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Software-developers.htm