Career Development Plan for a Software Developer
So, you’ve achieved your university degree in a related technology, software engineering or computer science field but what’s next? Now, it’s time to put your new-found skills and expertise to the test, land yourself your dream job and progress in your career. Let’s take a look at what a career in Software Development* looks like and the possible opportunities for career progression available to you.
We will cover:
- What does the typical career advancement for a Software Developer look like?
- Who typically employs Software Developers?
- Software Developer job titles and responsibilities
- What alternative roles can Software Developers do?
- How to advance in your Software Development career
- Frequently asked questions
*Please note that Software Developer and Software Engineer are used interchangeably and will be throughout this article.
What does the typical career advancement for a Software Developer look like?
The career advancement for a Software Developer will look different for everyone and you should not compare your progression to others. Here is an example of what the career advancement for a Software Developer could look like for you.
Junior Software Engineer
A Junior Software Engineer is an entry-level role into Software Development, Typically, you will require a university degree, suitable work experience or a role-specific qualification to become a Junior Engineer. Some employers will provide on-the-job training without the need for formal qualifications. Working within this role, you will be responsible for building and launching software solutions, as well as maintaining the software and fixing any potential bugs. Some of the key skills required for this include knowledge of basic programming languages, as well as operating systems and algorithms.
Senior Software Engineer
To become a Senior Software Engineer, most companies will typically ask for 3 years relevant experience. The role involves designing and developing software while also overseeing and training junior team members. The skills required for this position include advanced programming skills and excellent communication to help you coach others in your team.
A Tech Lead is expected to have between 6 and 9 years of experience and is responsible for leading the technical team and providing advanced software solutions for complex systems. In addition to exceptional system design and architecture skills, project management is an important quality to have as a Tech Lead, as it usually involves managing other team members.
An Engineering Manager takes on a versatile role, overseeing development teams and supporting their career progression, allocating budget and resources and liaising with other departments. As with many managerial positions, an Engineering Manager requires a refined skill set and at least 10 years of experience, depending on the company.
The main responsibilities for a Technical Architect include managing the entire architecture and technical design process of software from start to finish and providing support for the tech team. A Technical Architect will also establish processes to ensure projects run smoothly and are completed to a high standard. To become a Technical Architect, you will typically require at least 6 years of experience in the industry with at least 2 years in a similar role.
Chief Technology Officer
A Chief Technology Officer works closely with internal and external stakeholders, supervising development projects. This is a very senior position and will usually require you to report to the CEO. A CTO is expected to have at least 13 years of experience in the industry. 
Who typically employs Software Developers?
It’s not just Software Development companies that are in need of developers! There are a wide range of other types of businesses that are always looking to hire Software Engineers. This could see you working in a variety of industries. including:
- Public Sector
Every industry has its own job titles, roles and responsibilities and, as such, career progression will look different for each. Let's delve into some of the different Software Development job titles and opportunities for progression in more detail:
Software Developers Job Titles and Responsibilities
Backend Engineer: A Backend Engineer works on the structure of a piece of software and writes server scripts and application programme interfaces (APIs) which will then be enhanced by Front-end Developers.
Full Stack Engineer: A Full Stack Engineer works with both the front and back-end, straddling both server and client-side responsibilities.
App Developer: An App Developer writes code for mobile and tablet applications, such as games, navigation and media apps, on either iOS or Android.
Data Scientist Developer: A Data Scientist Developer creates programmes that are designed to analyse data sets. This could be software to carry out statistical analysis or machine learning for extrapolation.
Wordpress or Shopify Developer: A Wordpress or Shopify Developer can be front or back-end, or both. They work to develop websites and ecommerce stores, designing and implementing new features and functionalities.
UX/UI Developer: A UX/UI Developer is in charge of enhancing user experience and user interface by improving the appearance and usability of websites and apps.
Game Developer: A Game Developer has the exciting role of creating interactive gaming programmes using a range of frameworks and programming languages, such as DirectX, OpenGL, Unity 3D, WebGL, C, C++ and Java.
DevOps Developer: A DepOps Developer builds, tests and implements systems software to improve key business infrastructure and operations. This could be scaling cloud environments or creating workflow processes, for example. DevOps Developers encompass both an IT and Development role within a company.
Security Developer: A Security Developer designs systems to ensure the security of software, identifying vulnerabilities and providing solutions to keep sensitive data protected.
SDET: A SDET, also known as a Software Development Engineer in Test, is responsible for not just writing code but testing it, too. They work across the entire software development lifecycle.
What alternative roles can Software Developers do?
You may have completed a Computer Science degree or have years of experience in Software Development, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue an alternative career. Here are some more niche careers you could follow with Software Development expertise.
- Business Analysis
- Data Science
- Project Management
- Scrum Master
- Product Management
- Cloud Computing
- Robotic Process Automation
- Technical Operations
How to advance in your Software Development career
When it comes to working in Software Development, you will need a diverse skill set and the ability to implement real change within your organisation, be that improving integral business operations or building pioneering software solutions.
There are a few things you can do to help support your career progression and reach your full potential, including:
- Asking lots of questions and continuously learning on the job
- Challenging yourself to take on extra responsibilities outside of your role - just make sure not to overload yourself with work to avoid burnout
- Supporting other team members and learning from one another
- Liaising with other departments, such as marketing or data, to gain a better understanding of the company as a whole
- Requesting feedback from your peers and seniors to constantly improve your skills
- Joining software communities outside of work to expand your professional network within the industry
- Additional reading or learning outside of working hours
- Building your online presence, such as on LinkedIn, publishing relevant articles and sharing your expertise
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average career length of a Software Developer?
Getting into software development provides a stable income and ample opportunities for progression, setting you up for a fulfilling career to last a lifetime.
How much does a Software Developer earn?
The salary you earn as a Software Developer will depend on a number of factors, such as your expertise, where you live and the company you work. Generally, working in Software Development will see you earning a competitive salary from the get-go.
Are Software Developers in demand?
Yes, Software Developers are one of the most in-demand roles out there with a projected employment growth of 21% by 2028, which is 5% higher than any other occupation. Find out more about why you should become a Software Developer.
What are the requirements to become a Software Developer?
There are various different routes to take to become a Software Developer. These include:
- Relevant university degrees e.g. computer science
- Work experience or apprenticeship
- Online programming qualifications
- Role-specific training courses e.g. The FDM Software Development Programme
If you’re not sure of where to start your journey into Software Development, read our top tips on how to become a Software Developer, or join the FDM Software Development Graduate Programme to jump right in.