It's the hottest job of 2018. But what's it really like to work as a software developer?

Software developers recently edged out other fast-growing, high-paying professions to snag the No. 1 spot on U.S. News & World Report's Best Jobs list for 2018.

This will come as no surprise to readers who follow job rankings, as software developers have also appeared among the best jobs for millennials and most reliable middle-class jobs for the next decade.

But what can students who have their sights set on Silicon Valley expect from the "best job" of 2018? Kristen Bahler spoke with software developers to understand what having the hottest job in America is really like.

Software developers, also known as programmers or coders, are responsible for almost everything that makes our digital world run, Bahler writes for Money magazine.

There's no set career path for software developers. Programmers can climb the corporate ladder or specialize in one skill, she adds. Most software developers have the freedom to do the job "how and where [they want to] do it," says Pooja Gada, the tech lead at Qventus.

The hours, however, can be grueling, Bahler writes. For developer Brandy Morgan, her 12-hour work day starts around 5:30 a.m. and ends a little before midnight.

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Programmers need to have thick skin and be comfortable as "forever student[s]," says Morgan. It's not possible to predict what skills will be in demand decades from now, Ryan Greenberg, a software engineer at Twitter, said on an EdSurge podcast. Technology is constantly changing, so students need to be willing to keep learning new programming languages throughout their careers, Morgan adds.

And succeeding in Silicon Valley isn't all about technical skills. Traditional soft skills like critical thinking, writing, and communication can go a long way in the tech world, according to software engineers on an EdSurge podcast.

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One drawback of America's hottest job? It's (still) dominated by men, Bahler writes.

In fact, few women reap the benefits of a STEM career. Women are underrepresented in engineering (14%) and computer science (25%) positions. And more than 80% of developers in the United States are male, according to the Census Bureau.

For Morgan, the tech industry's "boys club" reputation is one reason she chooses to work from home, Bahler adds. That "boys club" reputation may even turn women off from pursuing STEM degrees during college, according to a study from New York University.

Some believe that women avoid STEM careers because they don't like math or science, but women may be less likely to choose specific majors if they perceive gender discrimination in those fields, says Joseph Cimpian, the study's lead author.

Some universities are already taking steps to show female students they can succeed in male-dominated fields.

Harvey Mudd College, for example, connects female students with women working in STEM fields, which helps them envision themselves in those roles. "Women in STEM fields benefit greatly from having female faculty role models," says college president Maria Klawe. Harvey Mudd also sends groups of students to professional conferences for women in STEM, such as the Society of Women Engineers conference and the Grace Hopper Celebration. In just a few years, Harvey Mudd increased its share of female computer science graduates from 10% to 40% (Bahler, Money, 3/1).

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