Are you interested in become a software engineer? It starts by knowing how to get there. Find out what the software engineer career path is in this article.
The first part of knowing the role and the career path is actually knowing what the job is, right?
A software engineer is responsible for developing and maintaining software applications or systems. They are logical thinkers. similar to software developer roles.
They should be highly proficient in at least one main programming language, and have a basic knowledge of many other programming languages and operating systems. A software engineer is usually required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Software engineers need to have attention to detail, problem-solving skills and communication skills.
Software Engineer vs Senior Software Developer
We’ve had a look at the job description of a software engineer, so how does it differ from a senior software developer? There are a few differences.
- Company title policy: Some companies, such as Google, offer their developers the title of “software engineer”, which may be similar to a software developer in other companies.
- Broader knowledge: A software engineer usually has more knowledge about more programming languages and software development in general.
- More design work: A software engineer is often required to perform some design work of code or a system, more than a senior developer does
- Software engineers are usually more senior: They are usually a role that is more senior than a senior software developer, but this would depend on the organisation
A software engineer career path usually starts at the graduate level. Their average starting salary is $63,620.
Junior Software Engineer
They often start as a Junior Software Engineer, which is a graduate role for those right out of university or college. Similar to a software developer, they write code for companies and develop applications, usually under the supervision of a team leader or more senior software engineers.
A junior software engineer is usually identified by:
- 0 to 3 years of experience
- Can write code in simple pieces of the application
- Supervised closely by team leader or senior software engineer
Once a Junior Software Engineer has enough experience, they are usually promoted to a Software Engineer.
A Software Engineer can develop code on their own, i.e. without supervision from other team members. They have more experience in the solution and application they are developing, and are therefore able to develop better quality code.
As they gain more experience, they learn more about software design and good quality code. They also learn about the development process in their company. They learn more efficient ways of writing code and getting things done
They can be identified by:
- 3 to 6 years of experience
- Can write code more efficiently, using best practices and design patterns
- No supervision needed
Once a software engineer gains enough experience, they may be promoted to a Senior Software Engineer.
Senior Software Engineer
The next step in the software engineer career path is moving into the role of Senior Software Engineer.
This role is more advanced and has more responsibility than a regular Software Engineer and other developer roles.
A Senior Software Engineer is expected to be able to write complex code, and even develop entire applications, possibly using more than one language and integrating it with the company’s overall systems.
They have enough experience with development that they can design effective and efficient code, whether it is a small module that fits into a larger system, or designing an entire system.
A Senior Software Engineer is often asked to mentor and supervise Junior Software Engineers, similar to what they went through when they started.
A Senior Software Engineer can be identified by:
- 6 to 10 years of experience
- Can write efficient code in multiple languages
- Design code and systems when needed
- Mentor or supervise more junior team members
What’s Next After Senior Software Engineer?
Once you’ve spent some time as a Senior Software Engineer, you have a few choices on what kind of role you move in to:
- Architect: responsible for designing solutions and working with multiple technologies. Less programming work involved.
- Team Leader: leads a team of other software engineers or developers
- Project Manager: ensures a project is completed by working with many different teams
The next step in the software engineer career path depends on the kind of work you want to do. You can continue writing code as a Senior Software Engineer, but if it’s no longer for you, you can move into one of these roles mentioned here.
Software Engineer Career Path Titles
So, we’ve covered the career path already for a software engineer. Some of the common career titles, as mentioned above, are:
- Junior Software Engineer (0-3 years)
- Software Engineer (3-6 years)
- Senior Software Engineer (6-10 years)
Depending on the company, the role of a software engineer at different levels of experience can be different. Some other software engineer career path titles are shown below.
An article on More than Coding explains one experience with job titles.
- Associate Engineer (0 years)
- Software Engineer (1-4 years)
- Senior Engineer (4-8 years)
- Principal Engineer (8-12 years)
- Fellow (12+ years)
Another article on Medium mentions a similar career progression:
- Software Engineer
- Senior Software Engineer
- Staff Software Engineer
- Senior Staff Software Engineer
- Principal Software Engineer
- Master Software Engineer
- Software Architect
- Chief Software Architect
Google also uses a software engineer structure, which goes like this:
- Software Engineer 2
- Software Engineer 3
- Senior Engineer
- Staff Engineer
- Senior Staff Engineer
- Principal Engineer
- Distinguished Engineer
- Google Fellow
- Senior Google Fellow
So, as you can see, the title of a software engineer can differ depending on the company, but the progression from junior to senior is similar.
Readers, what questions do you have about becoming a software engineer? Share them in the section below.