The Key Differences Between Junior, Middle, and Senior Developers
We all know that when it comes to web, desktop, or mobile applications development, developers’ expertise is divided into several levels, and these are Junior, Middle, Senior, and Lead.
But what’s the actual difference between those? It’s basic stuff that Junior is a newbie, and Senior is way experienced professional. But what is the difference between Juniors and Middle specialists? What skills are required to become a lead developer, and how are they different from Senior skills?
Moreover, we often use “developer”, “engineer” and “ programmer” as interchangeable terms, but are they quite the same?
Let’s take a deeper look at these questions and answer the questions from above.
Junior is the least experienced specialist who normally has less than 1.5 years of practical experience.
Junior programmers know the very basics of computer programming and can write basic code in at least one programming language; however, they must perfectly understand computers from both software and hardware sides.
As for soft skills, a Junior developer should be striving to learn and be flexible in mastering new tools.
What do Junior Developers do?
- Fix small and less important bugs.
- Work with previously delineated by more experienced colleagues concepts.
- Work with internal tools and features.
- Get used to coding while not completing anything crucial.
- Learn back-end in minor aspects.
- Take part in initial project planning.
Junior developers are mostly focused on back-end engineering, assist in defining common obstacles; however, they are adapting to the workflows and other conditions. Juniors also require much supervision and code reviews.
Middle developers are more experienced than Junior ones since their experience includes working on several projects and is about 2 to 4 years. They are capable of setting up a dev env on their own, can solve various issues, working both in a team or on their own, and mentor Junior developers if they work in a team.
A Middle developer should be proactive, passionate about becoming better, and be competent in at least a couple of stages of the software development lifecycle.
What do Middle Developers do?
- Code clearly and make code more efficient.
- Review code and find major bugs there.
- Divide major tasks into sub-tasks and manage those.
- Write test plans.
- Work with bigger code chunks at the same time.
- Mentor Juniors and set goals for them.
Being a Middle developer means being capable of roaming about the area of one’s expertise easily. Middle developers also take more responsibility when it comes to operational things; however, they might still require assistance from Seniors in case they face a task they haven’t experienced solving before.
To become a Senior developer, one must have 5 to 8 years of experience in coding. From such an experience, they would learn to solve issues of different complexity on their own, understand the entire scope of the project they work on, understand the project’s aspects, suggest new approaches that are to improve development while considering the business needs. Senior developers’ experience also allows them to work as scientists to test, validate assumptions and connect the dots to conclude. Seniors should be also able to mentor their Middle-level teammates.
What do Senior Developers do?
- Write technical specification requirements and terms of reference.
- Solve various issues independently.
- Apply design patterns to distill complex problems.
- Take up a full-on workflow process from development to launching.
- Help Juniors and Middle developers, review their code.
- Can manage a team of developers who work on simple or mid-level tasks.
Aside from bringing their advanced skills to the project, Senior developers are usually responsible for their less experienced teammates, especially when it comes to working in a diversely-skilled team.
It usually takes a bit more than 8 years of experience to become a good Lead since one must become well aware of requirements acquisition, validation, management, architecture, code, integration, and testing before they start leading a team that is full of specialists of different levels.
When it comes to a Lead’s soft skills, it is worth mentioning that they must be efficient managers who constantly raise the software bar across multiple teams, have excellent negotiation skills to make their team follow them, and be able to justify the business goals and values.
What do Lead Developers do?
- Conduct technical interviews with candidates to define whether their hard skills fit the team’s needs.
- Build and implement a system anew.
- Analyze the project’s problem areas and conform design patterns to fit the needs of those.
- Predict challenges their team can face not in the near future only but the distant future like 6 months or 1 year.
- Manage the team in order to prevent the predicted issues.
- Generate ideas and suggest them to provide quantifiable business value.
- Deal with architectural problems involving many systems, not just coding issues.
Lead developers are full-scale project architects who can work on both major back-end and front-end patches of significant projects and knowledgeably set smaller tasks.
Programmer vs Developer vs Engineer. What’s the difference?
As we have mentioned at the very beginning of the article, people often confuse these three terms and use them interchangeably. Despite the fine line, those differ.
A programmer is the one who simply writes code and is not involved in other aspects of the project much. They complete the set tasks and are more of technicians.
Developers are more diversely professional than programmers. Aside from writing and reviewing the code, they work on technical documentation composing, test plans, and professional summarization of development cycles.
An engineer is usually an in-depth officially-qualified expert who is capable of not just coding but also solving complex programming issues and setting up development strategies with best practices.