How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Junior Developer?

Computer programming is a complex field that has many steps on the ladder within each specialty. In the field of software development, a junior developer is the starting point of many entry-level programmers who wish to rise in the ranks to become a senior developer. There are many different paths you can take to become a junior developer and each path has an estimated time span with different educational objectives. 


You can typically attain the skill set for junior development in 6 months to 1 year if you choose to become a junior developer without studying for a degree. Receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer science takes about 4 years but gives you better consideration in the applicant pool. 


Becoming a junior developer can be achieved through online boot camps to learn the basics or the more traditional route of studying computer science at the college level. This article will explore both pathways and provide a rough estimate of how long this will take based on junior software development expectations. 

How Do You Become a Junior Developer?

The best way to think of a junior software developer is to think about traditional beginner steps in any field that has numerous foundations to learn to advance to higher positions. A junior developer is tasked with writing code and performing maintenance on a development team. You will be handling foundational work on development projects to decrease the basic workload of intermediate and senior developers. 


You will need to learn the basics of coding and at least be proficient (not necessarily exemplary) in at least one programming language (Javascript, Python, Java, etc.). You are correct in thinking that you do not have to be a stellar wiz when it comes to coding, but you will be expected to have mastered the basics, which is where education and practice come into focus. 

Self-Study and Online Coding Schools

You do not have to have a degree to become a junior web developer. This may sound odd or false since software development is a colossal undertaking–but it’s true. According to ZipRecruiter, online coding boot camp programs or even local tech schools that offer quick-study certifications are enough to provide you with the basic skills needed to apply for junior developer positions.


These programs are designed to teach you the basics in the following:


  • Basic coding knowledge
  • How to debug 


This may not seem like a lot, but these are the two core skills that you will need to have mastered to even be considered for a junior developer position. Since you will lack an intensive, four-year degree to sell your knowledge to employers, be sure to put your practice to work and build a portfolio to show potential employers. You need to show examples to make up for the quick education that you have in development. 


No matter what type of field you are wishing to enter, be it data science or engineering, artificial intelligence, game development, or even web development, you have to know at the very least how to code and debug. 


Not everybody has the time or resources to spend four years in college; therefore, completing an online program is the quickest and most efficient way to get the credentials you need to be hired as a junior developer. 


This route can take as little as 3 months up to 1 year, depending on the program and how much you want to learn. Learning as much as you can is always the best route to take.  

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

If online programs and self-study are the easiest way to get noticed by employers, making the commitment to attain a bachelor’s degree in computer science is the most practical and, arguably, the best path to take. If you want to become a software developer, getting a degree is the optimal choice, as this will give you knowledge in multiple programming languages. 


You will also stand out to employers almost immediately compared to applicants who have completed a quick-study program. Roughly 2 years of a 4-year computer science degree is dedicated to the field of computer and information technology. 


Employers always want their junior developers to be as knowledgeable as possible in the wider field as opposed to a quicker path to learning the basics only. 

Are Junior Level Developers the Same As Entry Level Developers?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the terms ‘junior developer’ and ‘entry-level developer.’ It can be said that both terms mean the same thing: junior and entry-level can both describe the first rung on the ladder of the job field. 


When it comes to software development, for example, some larger companies may include an entry-level position for an applicant that shows great potential, yet doesn’t necessarily have the same skill set as a junior developer. 


Under most circumstances, a junior developer can come from the completion of a coding camp with additional experience in the workforce or a portfolio showcasing about 6 months of successful freelancing. 


Alternatively, an entry-level developer position can be assigned for recent computer science graduates who haven’t attained any work or experience to showcase in their application. Most employers are looking for work experience; therefore, just attaining a bachelor’s degree is not always an automatic pass to become a junior developer. 


The differences in the position are only relevant if you seek to apply to a company that offers an entry-level position; be aware that most companies do not want to do much hand-holding when it comes to developers, so tailor your future job search before you commit to an education pathway. 

How Long Does It Take to Become an Intermediate Developer?

An intermediate developer’s position can best be described as a junior developer who has attained enough experience to qualify as successful navigators of programming architecture. The next position above this is the role of a senior developer, which is where creativity and individual programming architecture is allowed to flourish. 


At the intermediate level, it all comes down to how well you can code. Your work as a junior developer is what is going to determine when you can advance to the intermediate level. An intermediate developer should be able to work alone and have mastered the components of algorithms and can work at a proficient level of competence.  


How long it takes to get to this mid-level is entirely up to you. Staying in the role of a junior developer should never exceed 4 years. However, the general timeframe given to advance to an intermediate developer is usually 1 to 3 years. 


Software development is all about attaining a higher and more advanced level of thinking when it comes to creating and maintaining complex systems. 


You cannot expect to make this happen in a couple of years; ideas and practice need time to gestate in your brain before you move on to the next phase. This takes a few years, at the very least and you need the practice as a junior developer to succeed. 


In summary, you can expect to become a junior developer in 6 months to 1 year if you choose to attain a coding skill set in a coding program or the 4 years it takes you to attain a computer science degree. There are variations based on the trajectory you take, but the best path to take should involve putting your knowledge to work before you apply for a junior development position. 


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