William J. Francis answers a question he is frequently asked by readers — how do I become an Android developer? — by offering advice to newbies and sharing go-to resource links.
When I started considering software engineering as a career, being an Android developer wasn't an option. However, for those of you who are thinking about starting your career or making a career change, Android development is certainly worth a look.
A promising career choice
IT Career Finder called mobile application developer the best computer job through the year 2020 because of the exponential growth rate. As of March 2014, estimates showed Android having more than a 50% share of the global smartphone market. With an average annual salary of 98K in the US, Android developers are in high demand, and the future looks promising.
Where to start
The successful Android developers I know have a very solid understanding of the fundamentals. For those of you able to take formal classes, I highly recommend getting lots of Java under your belt, and also as many low-level firmware and embedded fundamental classes as you can. Android development is an interesting mix of a high-level object-oriented language, with small footprint/embedded device limitations.
You have to walk before you can run, but it's never too early to dream up an app that interests you — in fact, having an end goal in mind can help you from getting too discouraged when you're wading through Android lifecycle events, fragments, and some of the other more difficult concepts to master.
There are so many great resources available for Android developers at every skill level. Everything you need to master the craft can be downloaded, including the tools. Below are some of my personal go-to resources.
- Google's official Android developer site: The first place every Android developer should start. It's not always the clearest, but it is the most complete reference available. If you decide to become an Android developer, you'll find yourself going back to developer.android.com again and again, so learn to love it.
- Mark Murphy's The Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development: An excellent reference that is available in print or instantly as an e-subscription. Mark has a gift for breaking down the most complex paradigms into manageable chunks.
- Vogella.com: Lars Vogel has been cranking out clear, concise tutorials since 2009. I also find his website to be one of the most well organized anywhere, and the quality of his source code is first rate.
- DevBytes: A growing collection of Android tutorial videos hosted on YouTube. The presenters are Google employees, so the content tends to be very up to date. DevBytes is the best place to look for tutorials on new features, as the feature release and the video tutorial release often coincide.
- Stack Overflow: Developers have been gravitating to Stack Overflow for years, and Android devs are no exception. Stack Overflow is not the place to look for tutorials, but it should be the first place you turn with a specific question or problem.
Also check out my Android development guide for newbies and my Android tutorials on TechRepublic. Okay, so these links are a little self-serving, but for the most part I write tutorials on issues that I could not find a solution for elsewhere on the web. If you don't find the solution to your problem, you can email and ask me. I'm always looking for reader input as to what sorts of tips and tutorials would be most useful.
Ready to build your first app?
In my experience there is nothing that teaches like doing. When interviewing a candidate for an Android development position, I am biased towards those who have shown the initiative to build an app, and get it in the store. So once you have the basics down, I recommend getting your fingers in the code and building an app.