It seems everyone wants a mobile app these days—even in traditionally low-tech industries like commercial fishing, construction and trucking. That means “a mobile developer with good skills can go anywhere he or she wants to—to any company in any geography,” says Chris Wood, managing partner at Kansas City staffing firm Paige Technologies.
While a lot’s been written about the strength of mobile games and the growing market for wearable technologies, there’s strong demand for mobile business apps as well. “There’s a really big push to find developers to work in enterprise-level companies,” according to Linda Daichendt, executive director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan, pointing to demand at major automotive, healthcare and even manufacturing companies.
“There’s a shortage because so many developers still work on their own and aren’t necessarily a good fit for a corporate environment,” she says. “And, there’s just not enough developers available.”
Wood agrees. He sees banks, insurance companies and similar corporate employers struggling to find mobile talent, in part because their company cultures are so at odds with the developer community. “Everybody’s having trouble attracting people because there’s not enough people to be attracted,” he says. “But in those industries, it seems their reputation precedes them. The very best of the best mobile developers want to work in Google-esque or Apple-type environments. They don’t want to sit in a cubicle from 8 to 5 every day and wear a shirt and tie.”
As a result, more companies are trying to change the way they present themselves to candidates, stressing their flexibility and other attractions of their workplace. “My interpretation is that it’s working, but it’s not working great for a lot of these clients,” Wood says.
When he looks at the market, Wood sees two types of developers: those who work on Android or iOS devices, and others who develop websites and applications that are “platform-functional,” meaning they’ll look basically the same whether accessed from a laptop, smartphone or tablet. In the Kansas City area, at least, the bigger push is for developers who know how to create mobile-enabled websites, he says. That fits with wider expectations for growth in development of such sites, especially as the technology behind them continues to improve.
“The companies I talk to are very interested in having people full-time,” says Daichendt. “In the absence of being able to find that, many of them are having to outsource to mobile development firms to get immediate work done and they’re still looking to hire their own internal employees.”
That’s all well and good, except, according to Wood, the best developers aren’t interested in full-time work. “They don’t want to go somewhere their skill set will be in high demand for a period of time, and then underutilized after that period,” he says. “Once they build the application, they want to leave because then it goes into maintenance mode. While enterprises tend to look for long-term workers, the developer says, ‘I want to go where I can build really cool things, and when that’s done, I want to go do it again.’”
Of course, there are developers out there who want stability along with the variety and constant challenge. For them, vendors that specialize in mobile-app development may be the ideal employer.
In fact, that’s the dynamic that led Matthew Chartier to start eyeWyre Software Studios in Mt. Clemens, Mich. “One of the things that brought me to starting the company was that I could be working on whatever projects came along … they’d be a month, nine months, two years, or whatever,” he says. “It was always changing.”
That variety is key: “Clients come and go, so you never get that feel that you’re stuck on a single project,” he says.
Wherever they’re working, mobile developers can command good pay. Android developer salaries range from $110,000 to $155,000, according a salary survey from staffing firm Mondo, while the range for iOS developers is $105,000 to $155,000. Developers skilled in Objective-C, commonly used in iOS work, earn more than $102,000 on average, according the most recent Dice Salary Survey.
- 9 Things Mobile Developers Should Be Following
- More Tech Jobs Seen in Non-Tech Industries
- Google Wants to Teach You How to Build Android Apps