Blockchain is redefining what’s to come for web technologies, carrying a herculean promise to democratize the web.
The hang up? There’s a long-standing shortage of software developers, many of whom are boxed out of the profession by credentialism and antiquated resume practices, especially if they’re self-taught. Stack Overflow’s latest developer survey found that 71 percent of its 70,000 respondents used videos, blogs and other online resources to learn to code.
Even so, the market is growing. The market size for global blockchain technology was valued at nearly $6 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 86 percent from 2022 to 2030, according to Grand View Research’s latest Market Analysis Report. Blockchain and crypto-related job postings surged by 395 percent from 2020 to 2021 — outpacing the wider tech industry — according to a LinkedIn analysis that used data sourced from its site.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Blockchain Developer
- Understand blockchain fundamentals
- Learn about decentralized applications
- Get certified
- Learn about cryptoeconomics
- Acquire hands-on experience
Although blockchain easily gets synonymized with cryptocurrency, hosting digital asset platforms is just one of the many applications made possible via immutable, public ledgers. Crossing countless sectors, blockchain implementations have also increased efficiency while cutting costs for global transactions, restored accountability in supply chains and food operations, reduced theft and fraudulence in retail, increased scalability in real estate and streamlined healthcare procedures.
Whether you’re a software developer looking to upskill your way into Web3 or an aspiring coder fresh to the tech scene, blockchain could be a viable route to consider for your next career move. Blockchain developers are not only changing enterprise across industries, they’re also reinventing the infrastructure of the internet.
What Is a Blockchain Developer?
Blockchain developers are software developers fixed to the emerging, decentralized technology. They build applications based on blockchain protocol architecture, managing all front-end and back-end design, development and maintenance.
The blockchain technology itself, which operates via a public, distributed ledger, is known for its immutability, high level of security and consensus algorithms that create endless potential for trustless, decentralized networks.
Programmers looking to specialize in the emerging tech field require a certain level of knowledge, aptitude and experience to “make it.” But first, let’s cover the different styles of blockchain developers.
How Much Do Blockchain Developers Make?
Types of Blockchain Developers
Blockchain developers can be divided into two categories — core and software developers — which are distinguished by their roles and responsibilities.
Core Blockchain Developers
This type of developer architects and maintains the foundational framework of a blockchain system. This is done by coding a consensus protocol at the “core” of the distributed ledger, establishing its design and executive functionality. Simply speaking, it serves as the skeleton for which add-ons interface and are built upon.
Core blockchain developers supervise the network and establish security patterns.
Blockchain Software Developers
Using the protocols implemented by core developers, blockchain software developers create applications, from front end to back end, that will run on the blockchain platform. Applications come in both web and decentralized varieties, the latter being commonly referred to as dApps.
These tech experts are responsible for developing the smart contracts, self-executing, peer-to-peer documentation that secures agreed terms and conditions between two users in code, signature to blockchain technology.
Blockchain Developer Skills
Learning the languages that run blockchain domains are a prerequisite to writing them, of course. Here are some coding skills blockchain developers are expected to know:
- Programming: Knowing how to create a set of instructions for an application to follow is fundamental to a developer’s toolkit. Blockchain, being predicated on cybersecurity, escalates this essential skill as the success of developers in this field depends on their ability to write hack-proof code.
- Data structures: Considering the fact that blockchain is essentially a database, developers are required to know how to organize and store data in order to construct immutable, efficient systems. Tools such as linked lists, binary trees, heap, hashing and graph algorithms help execute these protocols.
- Databases and networking: Conceptually, understanding the mechanism of distributed ledgers and network topologies is a must in creating peer-to-peer systems.
- Cryptography: The blocks in a blockchain are linked together by encryption, a method of systems and protocols that prevent third-party access to information. In blockchain, it’s commonly seen in two forms: asymmetric-key algorithms and hash functions. Encoding digital security measures, such as block ciphers, message integrity and authenticated encryption, is integral to the job.
- Smart contracts: The self-executing, programmable contracts include the protocols that automate transactions, eliminating the need for interference of an intermediary. Programmers can develop smart contract protocols on platforms such as Solidity, Hyperledger, Corda, Ethereum, to name a few.
- Blockchain protocols: Currently, there are four types of blockchain architectures: public, private, consortium and hybrid. Developing the know-how and purpose behind each one will lend career focus.
How to Become a Blockchain Developer: A Step-by-Step Guide
Given the novelty of Web3 technologies and the industry as a whole, career opportunities only recently have been extended to those outside of entrepreneurial roles. Whatever the path, keep in mind that it will look different for everyone.
1. Understand Blockchain Fundamentals
Perhaps it goes without saying, but you can never be too careful — taking the time to understand the basics of blockchain technology is essential before trying to build upon them. Learning about why blockchain came to be and why its practical application is in demand is almost as important as knowing how to code its inner workings as a developer.
Concepts such as consensus mechanisms, hash functions, decentralization as well as private versus public approaches to the distributed ledger technology are a few topical avenues to read up on before diving into the back end.
Resources — tutorials, books, training and so on — can be found on and offline. Subscribing to programming-oriented YouTube channels, keeping tabs on tech blogs and opting into newsletters to stay up to date on the evolving field may also be a best practice.
FreeCodeCamp.org offers thousands of hours in hands-on programming practice as part of their curriculum, complete with certification programs and a YouTube Channel. Online learning resource Dapp University specializes in blockchain developer content, fixed to developing decentralized applications on the Ethereum platform. Developers-to-be can also sign up for their free training bootcamp.
2. Learn About Decentralized Applications
Decentralized applications, or dApps in shorthand, operate autonomously on top of open-source, distributed ledger platforms. Functionality is automated through the use of smart contracts.
The most widely used blockchain network backing the majority of today’s Web3 applications is Ethereum. In addition to facilitating the trade of ETH, the network’s native cryptocurrency, Ethereum hosts a software platform dubbed the Ethereum Virtual Machine, a sandbox where blockchain developers try their hand at creating dApps.
EVM’s versatility, iron-clad security and rich ecosystem of tools and resources is what makes it a popular choice among blockchain developers and a leader in dApp software development.
For newbie blockchain developers just getting started, Dapp University offers a video tutorial walkthrough on how to build dApps using Ethereum.
Popular alternatives to Ethereum include EOS, which prioritizes scalability for big businesses, and Hyperledger, a private and permissioned network.
3. Get Certified
A typical journey for an entry-level blockchain developer begins with a formal, four-year education in computer science or information security. Related fields, such as mathematics and engineering, may also be enough to set a student up for success. The most important aspect to cover here is obtaining both a developer’s skill set as well as the foundational knowledge on blockchain and basic cryptocurrency concepts.
As ranked by CoinDesk, the National University of Singapore came out on top as the best university to study blockchain technologies, followed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.
No degree? No problem. Although the majority of companies still list bachelors degrees as a minimum requirement, many employers have dropped the standard, instead prioritizing skills, in their hiring practices. The necessary skills to become a blockchain developer can also be acquired by enrolling in coding bootcamps or registering through online programs. Trainees should expect to endure 12 to 16 weeks of intense, compacted learning. Blockchain developer courses and certifications — with or without a degree — can also help strengthen a candidate’s position in the hiring pool.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Blockchain Developer?
4. Learn About Cryptoeconomics
The portmanteau refers to the combination of cryptography and economics to manage functions of a network, primarily focused on how to fund, design, develop and facilitate the operations of decentralized finance, or DeFi, systems. Familiarity with these platforms is central to blockchain development as they are some of the most commonly used applications in the field.
Cryptoeconomics is where cryptocurrency and blockchain meet, which also happened to be at the very beginning.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s contribution to the field — Bitcoin — is widely recognized as the first known proof of concept of blockchain technology, which went live on January 3, 2009, after its genesis block was mined.
Breaking news crypto platform Coindesk hosts an assortment of newsletters to stay in the loop on changes in the digital asset market while sites such as CoinGecko and CoinMarketCap track the top-performing coins in real time. For non-fungible tokens, check out Cryptoslam.
5. Acquire Hands-On Experience
As with any job venture, it’s important to seek out related opportunities prior to the gig.
Developers-in-the-making can practice their skills in hackathon events. This is where programmers of all disciplines join forces to collaborate intensively on a software project, which typically involves the design of a functioning, software system from top-down within a time limit.
Devpost, self-ascribed as “the home for blockchain hackathons,” posts online and in-person events, including the prize amount for top finishers. Web3 development platform Alchemy lists their top four picks as ETHDenver BUIDLathon, Solana Summer Camp, Polygon BUIDL It and ETHOnline — all of which are recurring competitions.
Practice labs, commonly referred to as “sandboxes,” offer a place to experiment with code within a contained, safe environment without impacting live sites. They can take the shape as a standalone, in-browser page or sidebar feature accompanying a virtual classroom, promoting a live learning experience by allowing the students to test code in real time.
Immersive learning experiences can be found on sites such as PluralSight, Skillsoft or CBT Nuggets. Alternatively, novice developers may want to start with collaborative projects, in likeness to a shared file on Google Docs, using online-code editing applications and prototyping tools like CodeSandbox.
Whether it’s branding your own chess game or building your very first mobile app, developing side projects allows tech newbies to dip their toe into programming without the high stakes of a team to let down or a job to lose. The first step is to decide which language to code in, then start slow by either finding a problem that can be fixed with code or copying a preexisting idea and making it your own. Courses offered by Simplilearn contain interactive projects — complete with a readily available teaching assistant and an auto-generated results report — that prompt programming students with detailed problems requiring coded solutions.
Starting even smaller, community sites like GitHub allow developers to contribute to open-source projects in need of assistance. The site also serves as an online portfolio of sorts, authenticating a user’s work experience with each submitted project.