Software Engineer Titles Ladder

The Full Software Developer Title Ladder

For reference, based on ChangeLog’s Software Engineer Title Ladder, here’s a listing of software engineer titles in order of progression.

  • Junior Software Engineer
  • Intermediate Software Engineer
  • Senior Software Engineer
  • Staff Software Engineer
  • Senior Staff Software Engineer
  • Principal Software Engineer
  • Distinguished Software Engineer
  • Fellow
  • Senior Fellow

Important note about the term “engineer”: in some countries the term can be considered protected and require a license or exam in order for someone to be certified in order to use the title.

Developer Titles with Level Numbers

Some organizations will have a smaller selection of titles (Software Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Principal Software Engineer) and will add a “level number” to indicate which tier the title is in. The most junior developer could be an SDE-1 (or SDE level 59 if you are working at Microsoft), and the highest level could be level 2 or level 3 in the tier. It depends on the company and how they choose to structure titles.

It may look something like this:

  • Software Developer 1
  • Software Developer 2
  • Senior Software Developer 1
  • Senior Software Developer 2
  • Senior Software Developer 3

The Most Common Developer Title Ladder

Most companies, especially smaller companies and companies that don’t care much about their software developers, have a ladder that looks like this:

  • Junior Developer
  • Intermediate Developer
  • Senior Developer

Before the Developer part it’s usually Web, Software, Frontend, Backend, User Interface, Fullstack or some other qualifier.

Alternative Titles

Some companies will call their intermediate or senior developers one of these titles instead:

  • Software Architect
  • System Architect
  • Software/Web Developer (notice no prefix like junior or senior)

It’s basically title padding and an easy way to keep people happy and to enforce hierarchy.

The lack of a prefix also makes things look fairer than they are and lets the company get away with not precisely defining exactly who is a junior, intermediate, or senior.

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