Do you understand the hierarchy of software engineer titles? If not, this article will help you distinguish the different levels, their roles, and how they differ from one another.
A job title is a designated post within an organization. The job title is always associated with a job description as well as its corresponding roles and responsibilities. As a job title climbs up the hierarchy, its scope and responsibilities change.
You may know a few job titles in tech companies such as Software Engineer, Senior Programmer, Full Stack Engineer, etc. However, a lot of people find these titles confusing. That is why this article will help you break down the different software engineer titles.
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What are the Most Common Software Engineer Job Titles?
There are many different software engineer titles and they vary for different companies. Nowadays, most tech companies adopt a dual-track career path. This means the employees can choose between managing code or managing people.
Here is the list of Software Engineer titles:
These titles are the most common job titles you’ll see from startups to large companies. For software engineers, this is the road most traveled. It is similar to primary school where there are entry-level engineers with only a few years of experience and programming foundations.
1. Engineer I or Junior Engineer
A Junior Engineer or Engineer I has approximately 1-2 years experience with at least one language of focus. They have a good grasp of basic programming foundations. Engineer I takes on tasks assigned by the Team Lead. They also contribute ideas during team meetings.
2. Engineer II or Mid-Level Engineer
These professionals have more than 2 years of experience in software engineering. This software engineer title ranks above Engineer I in terms of field experience and craft mastery. Engineer II tasks and responsibilities are very similar to Engineer I. However, they need less supervision and rework.
3. Senior Engineer I
A senior engineer is expected to create expert design concepts and foolproof debugging. They have 5-8 years of programming experience. Senior engineers can work independently compared to the aforementioned titles. They take on more complex projects and mentor junior engineers.
4. Tech Lead or Senior Engineer II
At this tier of software engineering titles, we see the blurred line between technical and managerial careers. If the engineer wants to manage people rather than code, they’ll want to pursue the Tech Lead position.
Tech leads should have more than 7 years of experience. Rather than writing code, they take on managerial responsibilities within the team. The tech lead must steer the team in the direction of success and provide sound technical direction.
If you would rather face code than lead a team, there is the option for Senior Engineer II. This position is for the most trusted engineer on the team who has proven knowledge of at least one domain of the company’s database. Some Senior Engineers II assume a tech lead position. Thus, they are also responsible for the whole team.
There is still a long way to go along the software engineer title ladder. The levels mentioned before are merely primary levels for every software engineer. If one wants to advance their technical knowledge and career path, here are the levels that you need to achieve:
1. Staff Engineer
Reading the level of Staff Engineer requires more than 10 years of experience. Expert knowledge of the codebase is a must.
2. Senior Staff Engineer
One must have approximately 12 years of experience or more. Compared to Staff Engineers, Senior Staff Engineers work closely with company leaders. They contribute to the multi-year tech strategy of the company to provide direction for design and architecture.
3. Chief Architect
The pinnacle of the technical career path is the chief architect. With more than 14 years of accumulated experience, the Chief Architect has a deep understanding of systems architecture, performance optimization, development best practices, and all other aspects of software development.
It is the chief architect’s job to monitor all the engineers under their wing, and suggest their promotions. Some companies call the chief architect the principal engineer, while some have both titles in their company. It depends on how the company defines the distinction of its tasks, roles, and responsibilities.
For people who want to lead people, there are managerial positions to set as goals. Here’s the hierarchy of software engineering management roles:
1. Engineering Lead
From being a tech lead, you can advance to an engineering lead that manages a larger team. Tech leads report to the engineering lead on their team’s progress, setbacks, and other concerns or achievements. Just because they’re in a managerial position doesn’t mean they don’t need to look at code. It only means dealing with less code and focusing on clearing bottlenecks for the rest of the team.
2. Engineering Director
An engineering director should have more than 10 years of experience and approximately 5 years of leading a team. Compared to the engineering lead, the engineering director does not only handle teams. They contribute to the technology research and development for the company.
3. VP of Engineering
To be a VP of Engineering, one must attain more than 12 years of experience. Additionally, the experience must come with competence in leading multiple engineering teams. However, this position is more than just experience and management. The VP Engineer works closely with the executive team. They are industry and business experts who can spot and remove bottlenecks to achieve business goals. It is also the VP’s job to recruit senior hires.
Now, we are in the highest attainable position for software engineers—Chief Technology Officer. The CTO is a member of the executive team of the company. Any decision that the CTO makes can improve or impair the company.
Depending on the business, the CTO is responsible for all software and hardware decisions, security, evaluating new technologies, and managing the developers and IT professionals within the organization.
Ready to make a hire? Learn more about building a successful software team:
Why Do We Need Software Engineer Titles?
There you have it – the various software engineer titles and levels. Some companies may have all these levels, while others may opt to only have a few. However, it is a must to have a hierarchy when it comes to these positions. Why is that?
These titles represent distinctive experience levels, tasks, and responsibilities for software engineers. The higher they climb, the more complex their roles are and the less oversight they should require. These levels also reflect the pay rate of the software engineer.
Moreover, the levels indicate the employee’s value to the company. This is based on what they can deliver, the quality of their work, and the significance of their contribution. By creating a standardized level, the company motivates the employees as well. They ultimately set goals that engineers should attain.
Career pathing is proven to help businesses grow. It has lots of benefits not only for the employee but mostly for the company. With a solid career path for engineers, a company can have greater returns, more engaged employees, and a high retention rate.
Tech professionals can easily get bored when they work the same thing every day. They need to have some sort of motivation that can push them to move further. With an established hierarchy, your employees will know where they are possibly headed. This drives them to learn further. In return, they deliver and contribute more to the company.
What Software Engineer Level Do You Need?
To build a successful software development team, it is important that you hire the right people. First, you must figure out what your company needs. What software engineer level does your company need right now? Once you figure it out, you can start recruitment.
But recruiting qualified, efficient, and skilled tech professionals might weigh you down. Recruiting and hiring is a long, cumbersome process. You might not get your software engineer fast.
You can opt to contact IT recruiters in your area, but the rates might not be worth it. Fortunately, there is always an option to partner with a trusted offshore software development company such as Full Scale.
Full Scale can provide you with custom software development swiftly and at the right price. You can consult with our tech experts and tell us what you need. If you need a team of developers and engineers, we will match you with developers with the desired experience who are available to join your team full-time immediately.
Find out our software development solutions today! Talk to us.