One of the most attractive aspects of software development is the potential for career progression. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in software development, it’s essential to understand the possible career paths, milestones, evolutions, and progression opportunities that come with it.
The software developer career path is fast-paced, and with the right mindset and commitment to learning, you can move up the ladder quickly. Starting as a tester or in customer care is a common entry point, but with the right opportunities and hard work, you could become a senior developer within years. Keep in mind that the specifics of your new software career path may vary based on your chosen path, employer, and industry changes.
To succeed in the software development field, it’s important to always be learning and taking advantage of opportunities. The software development industry is constantly evolving, so staying up-to-date with new technologies and trends is key. By doing so, you can continue to progress and achieve your career goals in this exciting and dynamic field.
Some common software developer career paths and positions are detailed below.
Junior Software Developer Positions
Starting a career as a software developer can be scary, and apart from the barrier of impostor syndrome, the focus is on finding your first role as a software developer/engineer. Regarding impostor syndrome, unfortunately, it’s something that has to be dealt with. But know this; you are not alone.
However, when it comes to finding your first career as a software developer, many junior roles are available. In addition, with new technologies coming on stream all of the time, there are many programming areas to choose from, and it sometimes helps to know which area of programming you want to start in. For example, if you are interested in data analytics, start making the right connections on your LinkedIn and keep an eye on openings in that role on your favourite job site.
Software development career paths that new developers should keep an eye out for include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Junior Web Developer – A Junior Web Developer is an entry-level web developer who works with experienced developers to build and maintain websites and web applications. They have a foundational knowledge of web technologies and assist with testing, debugging, and project documentation.
- Junior Software Developer – A Junior Software Developer is an entry-level developer who works with experienced developers to develop, test, and maintain software applications. They have foundational programming knowledge and assist with coding, testing, and documentation.
- RPA Developer – An RPA (Robotic Process Automation) Developer creates and implements automated solutions using RPA software tools. They design, develop, and deploy software robots to automate repetitive tasks and conduct testing, troubleshooting, and maintenance to ensure efficiency. They collaborate with stakeholders to identify areas for automation and increase productivity.
- Back End Developer – A Back End Developer is responsible for the server-side development of a website or web application. They work with programming languages such as Java, Python, or PHP to build and maintain the systems that power the website or application. Back End Developers focus on the functionality of the site or app, including data management, server-side scripting, and database integration. They also collaborate with Front End Developers to ensure a seamless user experience and smooth integration of all website components. Overall, Back End Developers play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the technical infrastructure of a website or web application.
- Test Developer – A Test Developer is responsible for designing and implementing software tests to ensure the quality and functionality of software applications. They work with testing frameworks and tools to develop and execute test cases and to automate the testing process wherever possible. Test Developers collaborate with developers and other stakeholders to identify and resolve software defects and ensure that the software is working as intended. They also contribute to the development of testing strategies and procedures and may be responsible for maintaining testing documentation. Overall, Test Developers play a crucial role in ensuring that software applications are reliable, efficient, and meet the needs of end-users.
- Tech Support Engineer – A Tech Support Engineer is responsible for providing technical assistance to customers or internal users experiencing issues with software, hardware, or other technology products. They use their technical expertise to troubleshoot problems, diagnose issues, and provide solutions to restore functionality and minimize downtime. Tech Support Engineers also document technical support requests and solutions to ensure a knowledge base of information is available for future reference. They may also be responsible for training users on software and hardware use and may escalate complex issues to more senior engineers. Overall, Tech Support Engineers play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of technology products and customer satisfaction.
- QA Tester – A QA Tester, or Quality Assurance Tester, is responsible for ensuring the quality and functionality of software applications. They work with testing frameworks and tools to design and execute test cases, identify and report defects, and provide feedback to developers and other stakeholders. QA Testers collaborate with development teams to ensure that software applications meet user requirements and are user-friendly. They also contribute to the development of testing strategies and procedures and may be responsible for maintaining testing documentation. Overall, QA Testers play a crucial role in ensuring that software applications are reliable, efficient, and meet the needs of end-users.
- Data Analyst – A Data Analyst is responsible for analysing and interpreting complex data sets to extract insights and inform business decisions. They work with data visualization tools and statistical software to collect, analyse, and interpret large amounts of data from multiple sources. Data Analysts also collaborate with stakeholders to identify business problems, develop analytical solutions, and present findings in a clear and understandable manner. They may also be responsible for data quality control and the development of data models. Overall, Data Analysts play a crucial role in helping organizations make informed decisions based on data-driven insights.
- Database Developer – A Database Developer is responsible for designing and developing the databases that store and organize data for software applications or websites. They work with database management systems such as MySQL, Oracle, or SQL Server to create efficient and scalable database structures that meet the needs of the application or website. Database Developers also collaborate with software developers and other stakeholders to ensure that the databases are properly integrated into the application or website. They may also be responsible for database administration tasks, such as backup and recovery, security, and performance optimization. Overall, Database Developers play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the technical infrastructure of software applications and websites.
Many of these software development roles require between 0 and three 0-3 years of experience, and the great news is that the vast majority of tech companies, big and small, promote from within. To find out what you could earn in your new software developer career path, download our free 2023 software developer salary guide.
At the risk of sounding redundant, the first promotion for a Junior Software Developer is to the role of Software Developer. The average salary for a mid-level Software Developer is generally healthy around the UK and Europe. In general, you would need more than three years of experience for this role. However, as already stated, it’s not uncommon for junior developers to experience quick career progression.
Along with a better salary, the promotion should prove more gratifying too, as a Software Developer’s daily duties are more creative than that of a junior one. They also have a more significant say in what happens during a project. This makes for a more enjoyable and challenging working day.
Senior Software Developer
Following mid-level software development, the next step in the career of a developer is a Senior Software Developer or Architect, which once again means a nice salary increase. It’s not entirely uncommon for a software developer to turn senior after five years, but it’s not like it automatically happens because you have that many years of experience. Like with any level, you have to work hard for career progression in software development. A senior developer might be in charge of a team or several projects. They might be required to develop entire products or applications, write complex code, and likely supervise staff below them and help them problem-solve.
Many senior software developers are happy to stay in that role for the rest of their careers. It’s varied, challenging and fast-paced. Plus, the salary is healthy and often rises in increments as experience accumulates.
However, should this person want career progression or to change direction, they are faced with a number of choices, for example:
- Lead Developer – A Lead Developer manages a team of software developers and oversees the development process to deliver high-quality software applications. They work with stakeholders to identify business requirements, translate them into technical specifications, and manage project tasks. Lead Developers ensure software applications are reliable, efficient, and meet the needs of end-users.
- Lead Architect – A Lead Architect designs and manages technical architecture, working with stakeholders to identify business requirements. They oversee the implementation of the technical architecture and evaluate new technologies for adoption. Lead Architects guide the technical direction of software development projects and ensure they meet business needs.
- Business Intelligence Manager in Analytics – A Business Intelligence Manager in analytics oversees the analysis of complex business data, develops analytical solutions, and manages data systems and tools. They ensure the accuracy and timeliness of data to support decision-making, manage a team of analysts, and collaborate with other departments. Business Intelligence Managers help organizations use data to gain a competitive advantage and drive business growth.
- Development Manager or Director – A Development Manager/Director oversees the software development process and manages the development team to deliver high-quality software applications that meet business requirements. They are responsible for project budgets, and timelines, and collaborating with other departments to ensure alignment with business goals.
- Technical Lead – A Technical Lead, leads a team of developers, provides technical guidance, and ensures that software applications are developed efficiently and meet business requirements. They are responsible for overseeing the development process and may research new technologies to improve the software development process.
- Project Manager – A Project Manager plans, executes, and closes projects within specific timelines, budgets, and quality standards. They allocate resources, manage project risks, and monitor progress to ensure that projects are completed successfully. Project Managers also communicate with stakeholders and prepare status reports to keep them informed.
- Programme Manager – A Programme Manager manages a portfolio of related projects to achieve strategic objectives. They develop programme plans, allocate resources, manage risks, and monitor progress to ensure that projects are completed successfully. Programme Managers also communicate with stakeholders and prepare status reports to keep them informed.
- Chief Data Officer – A Chief Data Officer (CDO) manages an organization’s data assets to improve business performance. They develop data management policies, strategies, and governance frameworks to ensure data quality, security, and compliance. CDOs also collaborate with stakeholders to identify business opportunities and develop data-driven solutions. They oversee data analytics and visualization efforts to provide insights for decision-making.
- Chief Information Security Manager – A Chief Information Security Manager (CISM) oversees an organization’s information security program, ensuring the development and implementation of security policies, risk management, compliance, security technologies, and incident response and recovery efforts.
- IT Director – An IT Director oversees an organisation’s technology operations, manages IT projects and budgets, supervises IT staff, and collaborates with other departments to identify technology needs and develop strategies for implementing new technology solutions. They ensure the effective use of technology to support an organisation’s goals and objectives.
- CTO – A CTO is responsible for developing and overseeing an organisation’s technology strategy, managing technology budgets, and leading the development of new technologies and products to drive innovation and business growth. They ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards and stay current with emerging technologies and trends to make recommendations for their adoption.
- Head of IT (or Head of any IT-related department) – A Head of IT oversees an organization’s technology systems and operations, manages the IT department, and ensures that the department is running efficiently. They also evaluate new technologies and ensure that the technology systems align with the organization’s business goals.
- And much more.
Like many trades, management is a logical trajectory for software developers.
The more you progress, the less you code
A career in software development generally follows other industries; the more you progress in your career, the less actual programming and coding you’ll do. Your duties become more people-oriented (building and managing teams) and macro (project management). Regardless of what level you are at, software developers are generally well paid, and as you progress through your career, the money increases, as do the perks.
Experience software development