arrow-left arrow-right brightness-2 chevron-left chevron-right circle-half-full dots-horizontal facebook-box facebook loader magnify menu-down rss-box star twitter-box twitter white-balance-sunny window-close
What does the typical career path of a software engineer look like?
3 min read

What does the typical career path of a software engineer look like?

Organisations now value one’s talent over their years of experience and may promote promising individuals to more senior positions at a faster pace than their older counterparts.
What does the typical career path of a software engineer look like?

As a software engineer, advancement in your career depends heavily on the growth of your technical skills, as well as the depth and breadth of projects you’re able to handle.

The timeline for this progress is typically not as linear as you may think. Organisations now value one’s talent over their years of experience and may promote promising individuals to more senior positions at a faster pace than their older counterparts.

Your path within a company also depends on whether you’d like to stay as a technical specialist or if you’d prefer to move on to a more managerial role.

Outlining job positions and their corresponding roles

1. Junior Developer

This is likely where one starts as a software engineer, often as a freshly minted graduate with little to no prior work experience.

The learning curve at this stage is steep but not impossible to conquer, so be sure to read up and learn as much as you can from Senior Developers on your team.

As a Junior Developer, you can expect to work on the following kinds of projects with the guidance of your teammates:

  • Replicating a webpage from a referenced website, then customising its design according to the project’s requirements using CSS or JavaScript
  • Converting images or documents that are laid out as PSD files to HTML for use on websites, emails or apps.

2. Senior Developer

While this is not always quantifiable, it takes roughly 3-4 years of experience for one to progress from a junior to senior role. As compared to Junior Developers, Senior Developers would have more experience working on a range of projects, and require little to no supervision on tasks they perform.

At this stage, it’s crucial that you keep your skillset relevant and updated with the latest web technology and industry trends. And while you may not be managing a team just yet, you’re certainly close!

Some examples of tasks expected of Senior Developers include:

  • Defining the entire infrastructure of projects independently and then building and implementing their key elements
  • Replicating complete APIs across a variety of different platforms

3. Lead Developer/Engineer

Besides being an expert in various coding languages, a Lead Developer must also serve as the liaison between the development team and the other departments within a company. At this stage, you may also have several junior members of your team who look to you for guidance and mentorship.

As Lead Developer, your scope will likely include:

  • Leading your development team on company-wide projects such as integrating information flows with complex databases
  • Spearheading the design and development of new product prototypes
  • Building complete processing engines, such as ones for payment

What About Managerial Roles?

Management roles requires a balance of technical abilities and soft skills.

As you progress in your career, you may be identified to take a step up to lead other software developers.

In these managerial roles, the majority of your time will be focused on managing project timelines and ensuring that your team delivers on the tasks assigned to each of its members. You may be expected to take a hands-on approach with this, meaning you’ll still be heavily involved in the software development process. While this is frequently out of personal choice, in many smaller organisations this is necessary due to the leaner team size.

To be identified as a suitable manager, professionals in this position are expected to possess:

  • Strong technical skills in multiple domains, with extensive experience across a variety of projects
  • Great interpersonal skills and leadership qualities to keep the team motivated and delivering on key stages of the project
  • The ability to effectively juggle multiple project timelines and clearly delegate the work amongst team members
  • Problem-solving skills to get projects past potential challenges or difficulties

The possibilities from here are endless. You could move on to middle management positions such as Software Development Manager before progressing to VP Engineer or even Head of Engineering. Frequently, you will find seasoned software engineers who have gone through the ranks to ultimately take on the title of Chief Technology Officers or CTOs.

What other factors affect the career path of a software engineer?

This is only the first of our series of articles on building your career in this field.

In our upcoming series, we’ll be providing you detailed perspectives on:

  • Other vital skills (often referred to as “soft skills”) critical to excelling as a software engineer.
  • Differences in the roles software engineers play in different entities such as startups, agencies or large MNCs
  • The pros and cons of working remotely as compared to working in an office