What’s the Typical Software Developer Career Path?

Software development is one of the fastest-growing professional fields. You see, the world is fast-changing, with technology taking over at a swift pace. Venturing into software development would be an excellent move, but first, there are a few things that you need to know. I will direct you accordingly.

Just like any other profession, software development has its career path. In case you are asking yourself what’s the typical software Developer career path, then here is something for you.

What’s the Typical Software Developer Career Path? Management or technical?

Now at the junior level or before you start your career as a software developer, you have first to decide whether you are going the technical way or taking the management road. Now for most companies, upward mobility is usually limited.

What do I mean? Each company has its ranks, and as a software developer, you cannot scale positions higher than the set one. However, if you are working for large companies such as Apple, there are several steps that need climbing in the ladders of your career.

So, for such large companies, the main focus is usually on the technical aspect. You will find several technical ranks for software developers. However, there are still provisions for management fields.

If you are skeptical about management, but you want to advance in your career, you can opt for the technical field. The management road, however, dictates that you give up coding since your wok will be more of management and inspection. You could still code but rarely.

On the other hand, the technical track lets you keep on coding. You will scale higher ranks, yes, but you will still practice code. The management way, therefore, secures you jobs such as a developer or project manager or even the executive positions.

Here is how the career path of a developer looks like;

1. Junior developer

Whether you are fresh from college or self- education, the first step into a software development career is being a junior developer. A junior developer has little real-world computer experience. What are the requisites for a junior developer?

Being a junior developer does not require much. You are probably fresh from college and wouldn’t have much experience. As a junior developer, therefore, you should be able to write simple scripts, understand the expected application lifecycle and have a basic understanding of database and application services.

It is usual for junior developers to feel that they need a promotion soon after writing complex applications. You see, you are not inferior as a junior developer, the only difference between you and an intermediate developer is experience.

2. Intermediate Developer

As an intermediate Software developer, you would expect to support the company applications. You would be working with users, creating requirements, creating testing and improve the codebase. As an intermediate software developer, you will have solid foundation skills that will allow you to learn any technology fast.

3. Senior Software developer

A senior software developer is skilled at creating entire applications. The average software developer, therefore, spends most of his career years as a senior developer. A senior software developer, therefore, has extensive professional programming experience, the ability to handle complex codes and an in-depth understanding of databases, application services, and lifecycle development.

If you love writing codes but loath management, your entire career will be spent as a senior developer. Being a senior developer also makes you ready for other management positions in this vast field.

4. Lead developer/ technical architect

A lead developer is a software developer who is tasked with more responsibility and challenge but not team management. A lead developer is, therefore, a highly skilled senior developer who mentors other programmers into the coding world.

Even though lead developers still write code, most of their time is spent coordinating work and implementing different decisions. They also design super-complex systems so that other developers can implement.

To be a lead developer, one must have been a professional programmer for several years with the ability to demonstrate subject matter expertise. A lead developer should also have technical skills and the ability not only to conceptualize but also to plan and build different kinds of software.

Being a lead developer, therefore, opens up one to mid-level management positions. Technical architects, however, occupy the highest step in the technical career field and therefore if you choose to go the technical way, you are probably going to end up here.

5. Development Team Lead/ Software development manager

After being a lead developer, it is only right that one ascends to a management position. A software development manager is therefore tasked with several activities such as management of large projects, management of developers which involves hiring and firing.

A development team leader will, therefore, inspect workflow and asses productivity while reporting to a senior manager, which brings us to their central role. This position thus entails the coordination of all application and project leader needs with the development team.

Since this is a management role, a software development manager should possess suitable mediation and communication skills. Team leaders also fire and hire, which requires emotional strength and wellness.

6. Director/ Vice President/ Chief Technology Officer

This is the highest level in software development. Those in this category are tasked with the role of overseeing and assessing the work of other managers. This role also provides that those involved can set strategies and corporate directions.

This is, therefore, the highest management level which includes titles such as director, vice president, and Chief Technology officers. What is the job of a senior manager? A senior manager makes all the executive decisions in regards to software development.

He or she is tasked with creating long-term strategies, goal-setting and ensuring that all departments are accountable. Senior managers also inspect the managers, ensuring that their departments are all run. A senior manager can also fire managers in the lower brackets and hire new ones. They, therefore, report to the Chief Executive Officers or the board of directors.

Must I end up as a manager?

Absolutely not. You see the good thing with software development is that at no pint are you underpaid. In fact, most companies even have remunerations for interns. As a programmer, you, therefore, have several opportunities. If you are planning on traveling the career way, the ultimate step is always the managerial positions. However, if you do not feel like managing people, you are not out of options.

You can spend your entire career as a senior developer and still earn some pretty good income or you can choose the technical approach. However, if you are not wired for the career way, a shot at freelance is welcome. The world is inclined towards technology and be assured that you will never run out of options.

So, must you scale the career way and end up a manager? No. You can diversify, start up your firm after gaining experience or freelance. Either way, you will still earn some good amount in employment or freelance. This is one of the least careers that allow people to map out their paths. However, if you are to be successful and scale career ladders, there are specific considerations that you need to make. Here are some:

  1. Being open. Now, software development keeps evolving, just like technology. It, therefore, pays to keep an open mind. Give yourself a chance to learn since this career path is all about learning. You are probably never going to qualify as a manager if you do not have experience in a particular field. So, learning as you advance and gain knowledge is critical. This is also helpful for freelancers.
  2. While being open to new ventures, you need to understand and appreciate different roles in the software development career path. Therefore, appreciate the role of managers, executives, technical officers, and all other professions regardless of the position you would like to scale.

Starting as a junior developer might be hectic and a little bit scary, but it is not an inferiority ruling. Junior developers are also needed for a fully functional company.

These two principles are vital in scaling heights if you are looking forward to a career in software development.

The technical aspect allows you to advance from a senior developer to a lead architect as you progress. Have in mind, however, that each organization determines its tracks for technical or non-technical advancements and therefore there will be different positions and titles.

To advance in your career as a software developer, you also need to determine the direction of your scaling. Take into consideration; therefore, the type of developer you want to be and what scale you want to achieve. If you want to get into management, start working in companies that give a chance for such advancement. If you would like to be an architect, a company with a technical tract will serve you just right.

As a software developer, you are not however enclosed to a fixed career path. You can even change the plan later go technical if you wanted management.


A software developer career usually takes the technical or management way. It is therefore quite essential that one fully understands this before choosing the career path. Each step has its advantages and roles. If you would like to advance; therefore, software development is a highly rewarding career. Just have a plan and follow it.

Recent Posts