Differences between software developers — Junior, Middle, Senior or Lead. There is a logical gradation between developer skill levels, which we will show you in the following post.

We are sure that you know that a junior developer is the entry-level position in the developer world, but can you identify the difference between a junior and a mid-level developer? When should a member of your team become a mid-level developer, and what skills should the lead have? How do you know whether you need a middle or a senior developer?

To make matters even more dramatic, the terms “developer”, “engineer”, and “programmer” are often confused today. As a result, it’s understandable that determining which type of job position your company requires can be difficult. But don’t bury your head in the sand, we are here to help!

So let’s go ahead and shed some light on these issues while also providing some advice on how to properly select the specialist with the necessary technical expertise.

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Junior, middle, senior, and lead developers – An overview

If you want to find the right software developer for your team, it’s key that you have a clear understanding of their role. The four software engineering degrees we mentioned above are a way for employers to clearly define a potential employee’s capabilities, how skilled and experienced someone is.

Junior Developer

Core Facts:

  • 0–2 years of experience
  • Degree in computer science or another degree program with IT specialization — or a comparable qualification
  • Basic knowledge of one or more programming languages
  • Ability to write basic program code

A Junior Developer is able to:

  • Fix minor bugs
  • Perform basic technical tasks independently
  • Work productive on a specific function of the product
  • Implement logical elements independently after initial guidance

A competent junior software developer is typically a backend-focused assistant in defining common obstacles and clarifying workflow progress, who is also decently adapting to working conditions in place.

But keep in mind:

  • Supervision is needed
  • Is likely to produce code with errors, so he or she will need multiple iterations of code review
  • Time will be needed to proper learn and adapt best practices

To sum it up: if you hire a junior developer you might save financial resources, but your junior developer needs someone that oversees his actions.

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Mid-level Developer

Core Facts:

  • 2 – 4 years of experience
  • Knowledge of several programming languages and technologies
  • Understanding of best practices in the industry with a tendency to use them
  • Acceptable debugging abilities
  • Can write programming code on their own

A Mid-level Developer is able to:

  • Take on responsibility
  • Fix major bugs in code
  • Perform other basic dev-ops tasks in addition to software development
  • Interact with other team members efficiently, especially in difficult situations

A middle degree in software development is someonet that moves more freely around his area of expertise. They are in direct charge of operational situations and occasionally instruct juniors.

But keep in mind:

  • They may not be very eager to acquire new or additional knowledge — they are happy with the status quo → This trait is usually the key factor in why people are often stuck at this level for a long time
  • Produced code always needs to be reviewed and tested

To sum it up: Need to get the job done quickly? hiring a middle dev could be the best option for you — especially if your budget isn’t big enough for a senior level developer.

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Senior Developer

Core Facts:

  • 4–8 years of experience
  • Expert level of bug fixing
  • Long-term experience in solving problems and tasks of different complexity
  • Deep view of project development with the ability to suggest and develop solutions for different situations

A Senior Developer is able to:

  • Transform business processes into programming code
  • Take the lead on large projects
  • Be responsible for mentoring junior and mid-level developers
  • Manage a prospering team of developers
  • Solve complex problems independently

Aside from having advanced software development skills, senior-level devs’ usually take on leadership responsibilities when working in a team with different skill sets.

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But keep in mind:

  • High amount of salary needed
  • Can overcomplicate technical solutions unnecessarily, while paying less attention to the financial aspects of the project, such as project costs and ROI

To sum it up: a senior developer can bring many benefits to your product, but you must be willing to pay for them. Since they might focus on the technical side of the solution rather than thinking about the business value of the feature, you need someone who can connect the two sides (ex.: a lead).

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Lead Developer

Core Facts:

  • 8+ years of experience
  • Essentially senior level knowledge paired with the ability to view all aspects of software engineering

A Lead Developer is able to:

  • Be the bridge between your development team and the other business-oriented departments of the company
  • Discuss and help the CEO or top management in ensuring that the development team and technologies chosen are aligned with the company’s goals and vision
  • Understand other disciplines such as management, product development, marketing, and so on
  • Think critically on the team’s current challenges as well as an overview of the team’s future challenges and the ability to communicate this to the management

These are full-fledged project architects, whose software engineering skills enable them to work on major backend and frontend patches of large projects while also competently assigning smaller tasks

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But keep in mind:

  • Top wage level
  • Usually only worth it for large and complex projects

To sum it up: Hiring a lead developer can be useful for your company if it has a team of junior and mid-level developers and you need a trusted, professional leader who has an overview of other business-oriented departments in the company as well as software development.

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What’s with the terms of software developer, programmer & engineer?

Software Developer

Is someone that is able to write code — building or programming software architecture is as much a part of the job as designing and maintaining software. With the help of various tools, a software developer also ensures that the software functions properly.

Software Programmer

If you ask goolge, it simply means that a programmer is someone who writes computer code. However, other topics such as debugging or troubleshooting systems are part of a programmer’s field of work.

Software Engineer

Testing, designing and software maintenance are part of the work of a software engineer. In short, this is someone who builds software solutions for the customer.

Today the three terms are used simultaneously and mean basically the same thing. As so often, it depends on the exact context.

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Key Takeaways:

Software developers are of course not exact copies of a single type of person. Personal characteristics play a significant role in their ability to perform one or more of the required tasks. One person may be viewed as a senior developer in terms of the one development platform and a junior in terms of another.

Don’t pay too much attention to the experience in years or other standardizations. Instead try to pay close attention to the personality, the sense of responsibility and presence of the person from a professional perspective. It will give you significant long-term benefits.

Also; resumes are good, but practice is key — put your potential employee to the test from the start by giving them a hands-on assignment.

Now that you have an overview of the different gradations, you can surely focus on your mission. In case you need help with reaching your next milestone we do have a solution for you. 🙂

 Get in touch with us. We are able to provide you with software engineers of all levels. Need a whole team for a special project? We also deliver embedded teams. Everything tailored exactly to your needs.

Let us know,

Team codecombinator 🚀

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