College courses to help you get rich? Maybe…

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One of the hottest new trends in college courses is taking hold at universities across the country, and students are signing up at breakneck speed in hopes of striking it rich while they are still in school. The courses? Mobile phone application development, of course, geared toward applications for smart phones like the iPhone and Android.

Although the field of smart phone app development is still in its infancy, new applications by the thousands are available on a weekly basis, and that trend isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. In fact, International Data Corporation projects that 450 million smart phones will be shipped in the U.S. this year alone, up from 303.4 million last year.

Students are ready to take advantage of the booming industry, especially because of the potential cash windfall if they develop an app that proves to be even modestly popular, like Mississippi State student Ross Waycaster did. Waycaster had a background in computer programming from his high school days, and is a business information systems major. He decided to take an elective course called Field Studies in iPhone Entrepreneurship, which focuses on app development instruction, combined with business strategy.

More Universities signing on
Mississippi State is one of several schools across the nation offering the courses to students. Other schools with programs include Rasmussen College, Harvard, Olin College, Syracuse and Stanford, which had a course for students before the iPhone was even formally released. This summer, when Apple held its development conference, representatives from 17 universities were present, ostensibly to get more information about developing their own programs.

One likely reason that universities are so interested is because so many students are interested; it’s a potential financial windfall for schools, too. Traditionally, computer science courses are usually only taken by students in the major, or in related majors. That isn’t true for app development classes. At Mississippi State, students from 24 different majors have taken the iPhone development course.

App Developers only need one good idea to get the cash rolling in
Hap Aziz of SunGard helped develop the app program at Rasmussen College. He says the key to success in app development is to focus on a single idea, rather than trying to cover everything with one app. Aziz says that students need merely “several months of direct practice with apps,” to be able to move on to developing and selling their own app on the iTunes store.

Even though Apple takes 30% of every app dollar that comes in, many students think it’s a great way to earn extra money, especially because once the app is developed, developers can just “sit back and let it roll in,” according to Waycaster of Mississippi State. One app he developed during the course was bought by 17,000 people – an app inspired by Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, called “Super Mario Jump.”  Of course, not everyone who develops an iPhone app is going to be successful, but the field does have a great deal of promise. Even though app development as a job industry is only four years old, Smart Trends reports that app developers earn a typical base salary of $42,453 to $67, 183.

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