Top career aspirations amongst student developers

Having long-term career aspirations can provide students with a sense of direction and help them make appropriate choices in their pursuit of knowledge. In turn, this speeds up their professional development and increases the likelihood of them achieving a successful career. In this chapter, we will take a closer look at the top career aspirations of developers who self-identify as students.

Solving problems is the top career aspiration among student developers, mentioned by nearly a third (32%) of them. This is closely followed by becoming an expert in a domain or technology (29%), building innovative products or services(27%), and working on challenging projects (26%). These findings suggest that, despite an apparent financial appeal,curiosity and chasing innovation are the primary motivators for students in their journeys to becoming professional software developers.

However, it is worth noting that maximising their earning potential is important for students too, ranking sixth on the list of top career aspirations.

Having good problem-solving skills when working on challenging projects is usually the key to building innovative products and services. As such, it is no surprise that these aspirations are frequently mentioned together by students who want to become professional developers.Those who want to build innovative products or services show an above-average level of interest in becoming entrepreneurs or working at esteemed companies. Furtheranalysis reveals that aspiring entrepreneurs are more likely to focus on maximising their impact on society, while those who express a desire to work for acclaimed companies show more interest in pursuing challenging projects.

Students who seek to become tech executives or company leaders place significantly lower importance than average on the most popular career aspirations. Instead, they prioritise building their own businesses while also showing an above-average level of interest in getting a specific job title. This is likely due to them being naturally career-focussed and prioritising pathways that will allow them to achieve their long term goals. On the other end of the spectrum, those who want to maximise their impact on society show a similar level of interest in building their own businesses. These developers are the most likely to aspire to build innovative products or services while also showing a high level of interest in mentoring and helping others grow.

As with most other topics, regional differences in culture and socio-economic circumstances manifest themselves as significant differentiators in career aspirations amongst student developers. For instance, South Asia is the region with the highest concentration of developers who self-identify as students (40%). In this region, 30% of students aspire to work on challenging projects -their top motivation-but are significantly less likely than students in other regions to show an interest in solving problems (26%) or building innovative products/services (22%). Instead, South Asian students are the most likely to prioritise obtaining a specific job title (16%) while also showing an above-average level of interest in becoming tech executives or company leaders (15%).

Students in South America, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe show the highest levels of interest in the global top-four career aspirations. However, while European students are significantly more focussed than average on maximising their earning potential (>30%), only 21% of their South American counterparts prioritise this when planning their careers. Instead, South American students are highly focussed on securing job opportunities at esteemed companies/organisations. In turn,they may be more likely to accept junior positions and lower salaries in exchange for job security and a promising career path.

East Asian students are the least likely to express a specific interest in becoming professional software developers. This suggests that students in this region have doubts about pursuing careers in software development and may be looking at other, unrelated jobs. Similarly, students from theGreater China area show below-average levels of interest in many of the top choices. In particular, we find that only 6% of them prioritise building their own businesses or becoming entrepreneurs, which is 19 percentage points below the average of the other regions. However, maximising their earning potential appears to be the key driving force behind why 33% of the students from the Greater China area want to become professional developers.

In North America, a high portion of students aim to become entrepreneurs while also showing the highest level of interest in maximising their impact on society. This is likely due to the highly prominent startup culture in this region. This effect is most apparent in Silicon Valley, which has established itself as the nexus of technological innovation and is home to many tech giants and startups. Similarly, students from the MiddleEast and Africa also show high entrepreneurial spirit in a region that is primed for a booming startup scene. In addition to this, the students in this region are the most likely to prioritise transferring their knowledge and experience to the next generation (28%).