It is not surprising when developers wonder if they are getting the proper compensation, salary, or volume of responsibilities in their day-to-day job. Often, it is not uncommon that aspiring developers do not precisely know to which seniority level they belong, according to their current professional experience.
For this reason, in this article, I will make a clear difference between the different developer positions and explain what encompasses each position.
Software engineers start their careers at a junior level, but there are some reasons why developers should no longer use this exact title. Let’s differentiate between the developer levels and what factors signal that the developer is more experienced than they think. Such classifications help employers hire developers, as well as for career advancement.
The difference between developer job titles
Could you clearly state the difference between a junior developer and the rest?
There are four types of developer expertise: junior, mid-level, senior, and lead. They all differ based on the years of experience or the number of expertise years within that level, and the complexity of the obligations, respectively.
Many questions arise during such divisions and classifications. Here are some of them:
- When is someone no longer a junior developer?
- When is it time to progress to a mid-level or senior level?
- What makes someone a lead developer?
- What kind of developer you’d like to hire according to these expertise levels?
Based on the following definitions for each level, you will know what developer you need to hire for a specific project and understand what budget you’d need to hire developers.
Once we define the junior level as clearly as possible, it is easier to know when and how a resume level up happens next—clarified below.
A junior usually has relatively only a few years of experience of up to 1 or 1.5 years within the industry. What seems brief time-wise is compensated through eagerness and willingness to prove suitable for the job position through dedication and learning. A junior has had one or two significant experiences within less than 2 years in most cases.
Regarding their skills and responsibilities, they have a basic experience and knowledge of programming. They write and debug codes, solve minor troubleshooting issues, and take part in code reviewing.
And, for their education and qualifications, they preferably have a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering or Computer Science as a minimum requirement. They need to know how to work with operating systems and databases and adapt quickly. Also, knowledge of the primary programming languages like C++, Scala, HTML5, Java, and Python.
Is “junior” the same as an entry-level developer?
A junior software developer is not an entry-level developer.
The entry-level is usually not mentioned in classifications because it defines a developer with zero experience or looking for the first job. This is typically a starting point and stepping stone into professional development and learning.
On the other hand, as mentioned above, a junior developer has some essential experience, less than 2 years.
A mid-level developer has at least 2 to 4 years of experience. They have already mastered learning development skills and already have an expert's build-up professionalism, dedication, and work ethic.
They are perfectly capable of working alone, not just within a team, so supervising them is not crucial. At this point, a mid-level developer knows the steps for setting up an environment and can help out the junior developers in their work. So far, they have worked on at least a few big projects.
When it comes to the skills and responsibilities of a mid-level, they can edit code for better efficiency and write it according to the demands at hand. They can also simplify complex tasks by breaking them down and closely reviewing any complex code structures that need improvement.
The education and qualifications of a mid-level developer encompass at least Bachelor’s degree in software engineering or specific programs for engineering. Also, they need a minimum of 2 years of development experience in their respective tech stack.
The senior developers are experts with 5 to 8 years of experience. They are working perfectly independently at this point and conduct their self-development smoothly and quickly too. They can solve complex problems very fast and come to conclusions quickly, while at the same time, they guide the mid-level developers. At this point, they suggest many solutions for the success of a project in the long run and can delegate accordingly, too.
The skills and responsibilities of a senior software developer include working on complete processes, like the whole DDL (development-deployment-launch) alone and from scratch. They recognize significant issues and risks to resolve on time and constantly mentor the mid-level and juniors. Also, they can manage their team of developers for mid-level tasks.
Their education and qualifications include a Bachelor's or Master’s degree in computer science or software engineering, or similar, and sometimes, a master’s degree.
A lead developer has a minimum of 8 years of experience in the IT industry and often more than a decade. There are some lead developers even with 20 years of expertise, but the standard cutoff for a lead is a minimum of 8 years, or around a decade. They function and work as a manager of a sort—observing, mentoring, and working with multiple teams at once.
A lead developer’s skills and responsibilities include solving complex architecture issues, working on multiple systems, and solving complex coding problems. They also conduct a lot of specific technical interviews with new candidates. A lead can think ahead and suggest new approaches and solutions for possible challenges in work—thinking ahead for the upcoming year. They can assemble their senior staff team, and of course, they can quickly take care of an entire system implementation process from start to finish.
The education and qualifications of a lead developer encompass the usual Bachelor's or Master’s degree, too, in computer science or software engineering. Also, a solid and impeccable knowledge of all the necessary technologies that their respective company is working with. They should also efficiently conduct all cross-functional working processes and communications between teams on a company level.
How to advance from “junior” to another developer job title
The leveling up from junior to mid-level and beyond is notable progress that makes someone an experienced developer. Once juniors exit that category, they start building their professional expertise at another challenging yet rewarding level.
Here are some tips as a checklist to know whether or not to give a promotion from a junior to a mid-level developer to an employee:
- Research requirements in the job descriptions for a mid-level developer
- Focus a lot on working with software—designing, programming, implementing, and maintenance of apps
- Check if they have good debugging skills
- Check if they can successfully review their code
Removing the “junior” title from a developer’s title should be done after assessing their skills, capability to work independently, and how quickly they are progressing.
They can prove they have the expertise and productivity of a mid-level dev, because every progress starts from a junior position, and they’ll acquire more professional knowledge.
Many employers care about growth and hiring quality developers that will stay, and they indeed give junior developers a chance to progress to a higher level in most cases. All it takes is for the developer to have a clear self-evaluation and dedication to learning, and a desire to succeed.