The key differences between a junior and senior developer

In software engineering, career growth is determined by how much knowledge and experience you’ve acquired, little wonder everyone wants to become a senior developer.

Asides from the variation in pay, which according to Indeed can be as high as double that of a junior developer, senior developers set themselves apart in different ways. During high-level technical projects, senior developers play a very crucial role in the decision-making process and can dictate things such as the framework or language to be used.

In practice, a senior developer has the skillset to solve almost any type of problem with little or no supervision. They can easily assess the risks, ask the right follow-up questions, discover the right workflow, analyze the possible bottlenecks and provide a much stable, documented and tested solution. But for a junior developer, they can only solve a limited set of problems while providing a smaller number of alternative solutions.

One obvious requirement that sets a junior developer apart from a senior developer is their years of experience. While this isn’t set in stone, most organizations who are looking to hire junior developers would require at least 1 to 3 years of experience, while for senior developers, it is typically from 6 years and above. However, it is the quality of their work that truly differentiate one from another.

Junior developers are typically focused on implementing a certain feature due to their natural inclination towards applying their programming knowledge. While this isn’t a bad approach, a senior developer would always look at the bigger picture by focusing on the overall architecture of the system. Rather than just looking at implementing a feature, they would analyse the consequences it would have on the whole system and the level of complexity or simplicity it would provide.

Due to the limited level of exposure and experience junior developers have, they are often going through a learning curve with different technological stacks, tools, libraries and frameworks. Senior developers, on the other hand, have passed through that phase and are rather focused on determining which tools or frameworks would be the perfect fit while designing a system.

A junior developer is probably only familiar with one or at most two programming languages, frameworks, or platforms. Therefore, when presented with a problem, they will always choose that instantly and eventually implement a semi-stable solution that solves some of the problems but only in certain use cases. The approach of a senior developer is more prolific as they will thoroughly analyze the business goals and the technical challenges such as the expected amount of traffic, various user roles and capabilities, different use cases and flow diagrams as provided by the product management team and much more.

Soft skills are very important for any developer at any level, but before you can attain the level of a senior developer, your ability to lead a team and collaborate effectively becomes paramount. Senior developers can manage and mentor junior developers, getting them to do what they want, in the manner they want it, using an empathetic and compassionate approach.

While different organizations have different metrics when hiring a junior or senior developer, one constant thing in both cases is their technical skills, experience and expertise. Therefore, it is important to constantly improve yourself and create codes that not only work but add value to the application. Becoming a successful software engineer is not only measured in terms of your code but the level of impact it has had on the overall success of the application that further makes life much easier for those it is intended for.