The 9 hottest mobile development skills

The demand for programmers and developers with mobile skills continues to rise, but which ones should you consider adding to your toolbox? We look at which skills employers like the most.

mobile development skills
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Mobile development is a hot IT topic, but which specific mobile skills are employers looking for most? We spoke with Dice president Shravan Goli and Mike Newman, president of On The GoWARE, to find out what IT skills businesses are clamoring for when it comes to mobile developers.

This list represents the mobile development skills employers and hiring managers are searching for within Dice's resume database.

Methodology: Dice looked at keywords within its resume database that hiring managers searched for from January through September 2013 when those queries included the words mobile + Android, iOS, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Symbian.

Key Survey Findings
Key survey findings

Demand for mobile developers, whether its mobile Web or mobile application development, is on the rise in a big way. According to recent research by IDC and Appcelerator, 63 percent of 6,046 Titanium developers surveyed said their skills have seen "increased" or "greatly increased" demand from enterprises in the past six months.

Enterprise semand is on the rise
Demand is shifting from mainly B2C apps to B2B apps.

Tablet growth
Developers identified tablets as the next emerging app platform. Android seems to be the exception, however, where 12 percent more developers favor smartphones.

Android device growth
Although the number of handsets is approaching 1 billion, this hasn't equated to the same amount of developer interest.

Java
Java

Java skills top the list of in-demand mobile developer skills. It also tops many lists, such as the Tiobe programming index, for example. Java is used mainly on the mobile application side to build native Android apps. "It's not a full version of Java, but a subset that Google adopted. There are a couple different frameworks, but anyone who knows Java can easily adapt themselves to building applications for Android," says Dice.com president Shravan Goli.

"If you're developing apps on the Android side, you'd better know Java. You don't really need Java for mobile Web, but Java is used more heavily on building Android apps," says Mike Newman, president of On The GoWARE, a firm that specializes in mobile app development and training.

.NET
.Net

Microsoft's mobile platform represents only a small percentage of the mobile development market, so what is driving the demand for this skill? Back-end integration. "Integration is vital for mobile solutions," says Newman, and with countless back-end systems using Microsoft products and services, it's no mystery as to why demand is high.

Cloud adoption is another reason demand for this skill is high, says Goli. According to a recent Infoworld article, cloud adoption has moved from interest and study to experimentation, and now it is moving to true production.

CSS
CSS

Cascading style sheets are used on most websites today and are responsible for how Web pages appear in your browser. When used in conjunction with JavaScript/jQuery and HTML5, CSS can help build impressive and eye-catching designs. They are all part of the mobile Web experience and an integral part of responsive design.

JavaScript
JavaScript

The mobile Web experience and responsive design are  driving demand for JavaScript skills. "JavaScript is more browser-level technology, so if you are building mobile Web experiences, you can leverage JavaScript," says Goli.

That said, there are also cross-platform tools, such as Titanium, that use JavaScript to help developers build their code set once and run it on any platform. The problem with tools like this is that there are often limitations and lags between features updates.

Quality Testing/Quality Assurance
Quality testing/quality assurance

In a recent report from CapGemini, 29 percent of respondents say they lack the specialist expertise to effectively certify mobile applications, making this skill one to consider adding to your toolbox.

"This is mostly on the application testing side for mobile experiences," says Goli. Mobile has been in high gear for about the last three years, and there isn't a wealth of people who know how to test for quality on mobile platforms, he says. As more businesses jump on the mobile bandwagon, companies either have to groom these skills in house or look for people in a very competitive market.

User Interface
User interface

Whether it's UI research, design, or UI developers, it's all about knowing how users think, according to Dice's Goli. Experts in this field understand and predict the behavior part of the equation and help shape how the experience needs to flow step by step.

"The user interface is as important as the back-end code. If you've got a user interface that is not working, counterintuitive, or frustrating for people to use, it won't matter if the back-end code works or not. Both Google and Apple have user interface guidelines because they want consistency in the way their apps are used," says On The GoWARE's Newman.

HTML5
HTML5

The debate rages on over native apps vs. HTML5, but regardless, demand for HTML5 skills is on the rise, making this another great skill to consider adding to your knowledge base. "This is the biggest part of the responsive design standpoint that people are leveraging today," says Dice's Goli. More businesses are leaning toward responsive design, which means demand will likely increase, he says.

"Whether it's mobile or desktop Web, you'd better know HTML5 because HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript have really become the preferred ways of handling everything that used to be done in Flash," says On The GoWARE's  Newman.

Linux
Linux

Linux is the OS many business systems run on, and demand is high on the enterprise side, according to Dice's Goli. "Linux is one of the fastest growing technologies in demand because it's open source. A lot of the new services and applications are built in Linux as a platform because it's cheaper to build, and more open source services are built to power your enterprise applications or consumer applications, allowing you to leverage more free things," he says.

Objective-C
Objective-C

"You better know Objective-C if you want to develop anything on the Apple side," says On The GoWARE's Newman. Demand for Objective-C skills, according to Dice data, is up 4 percent year over year. Some of that demand is likely the result of the release of Apple's iOS 7.

If you're considering going down this path, be aware that Objective-C isn't the easiest language to learn. "Objective-C is one of the stranger languages, and there is a little bit more of a learning curve. That is why you don't see a lot of crossover developers," says Newman.