Career paths for Programmers and Software developers

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A career in software development is not for the faint-hearted, and if you’re a recent graduate with big ambitions, then you have to shape your career well from the beginning. The good news is that we’ve put together the perfect guide for you on the main career avenues that you can pursue if you want a long and fulfilling career in programming and development, and all without hitting what most professionals in the industry refer to as the “glass ceiling”. Read on to find out more.

Techie or Manager?

If you decide to be a career- driven software developer or programmer, then your best bet is to join a corporation that is willing to pay you what you’re worth, based on the amount of time that you’ve invested in building and marketing your personal brand.

In the beginning, you’ll either start out as a technical developer or “techie”, or move into a managerial position, if you have the necessary experience that is. The question is, which do you prefer: manager or techie?

Big tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Facebook and others all rely on developers like you, and are always on the search for new talent. In fact, they’ll go as far as to develop a new technical link in order to incorporate that talent into the company.

Once you’re in, you’ll be given a choice to either go the management route in which case you’ll have to give up your coding skills, or stick to the technical side of things so that you can keep your coding skills sharp. That’s why you have to decide early on which route you want to take, based on the aspect of your work that gets you most excited. Is it working with a team? Or do you prefer to grind it out on your own for hours or even days on end?

Growth Avenues

Now, there are several growth avenues available for managers, as you can go from developer manager to section manager, to project manager, development director and lastly, chief technology officer, which is pretty much the highest you can go.

On the technical side of things, your path can advance to senior developer, and then later into a senior fellow, which is the highest position offered in most organizations for technical developers. That said, the tech industry being what it is, each company will create its own terms and positions anyway, so the scenarios might be different depending on where you end up working.

Now, if you’re wondering what goes into being a manager or a techie, we’ll go into that in a bit. First, a word of advice.

Know Yourself!

Just because managerial positions are available and seemingly offer more room for growth (and incentives!) doesn’t mean that anyone can do it. Truth be told, the managerial role is not for everyone, and while it might seem like the best path for you in the beginning, you might get bored with it in the long run and decide to do something completely different. The same goes for coding. What’s fun for you in your 20s might completely turn you off by the time you hit your 40s or 50s. Which is why it’s so important to understand yourself first, as well as the consequences of the options that you have available to you, and that’s why we’ve put together this list of the different career paths available to you as a software developer and manager.

So without further ado, here is a road map of the different career paths available for software developers and programmers today, and what each role entails.

Junior Developer:

The role of Junior Developer is usually reserved to fresh graduates, and mostly requires you to have basic script writing skills. While prior experience is not required, having at least 1 to 3 years of coding history will make your job easier, but is not a must.

Some of the skills that you need to have as a junior developer include preliminary understanding of application services, databases, as well as the fundamentals of an application lifecycle. Here, you’ll learn by trial and error until you’re able to write the type of complex yet flawless code that is achieved by Senior Developers.

Senior Developer:

To become a senior developer, you need to have at least 4 to 10 years of experience in the field, know how to write complex applications (without making mistakes or writing bad, useless code), and thorough understanding of the entire lifecycle of an application.

At this stage, you can be called upon to work on an app, no matter what stage it is in in and still crush it. And thanks to your experience, your comprehension of application services and databases will be fully developed. Once you’ve reached this level of expertise, you can easily go off on your own to establish a startup or become a CTO, if you so wish.

Architect or Lead Developer:

As an Architect or Lead Developer, you need to at least have a minimum of 7 to 10 years’ experience, have the same level of expertise as a senior developer, and be able to develop the type of complex systems that can only be implemented by a team of seasoned senior developers and learning junior developers. As an architect, your job is to use your deep knowledge of programming patterns and anti-patterns to create and scale all types of different applications.

A Lead Developer, on the other hand, is there to guide Senior as well as Junior Developers, which is quite similar to what managers do but without the power to hire and fire staff. Your work as a lead developer will also involve organizing the tasks to be implemented, writing code and making decisions on final execution.

From here, the most complex and demanding roles are as Mid-Level Manager (who reports to a Senior Leader), or Senior Leader, which is also classified as CTO, VP or CEO, and report to the Board of Directors.


As you can see, careers in software development are aplenty, and programmers have never been in higher demand as they are now. So, take advantage of the opportunities available by planning your career early on, as that’ll make it easier for you to step up to the plate when your big break comes along. Hopefully, our post will help you map out your career more clearly and find the right path for you to take.