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John Selawsky
Senior Java Developer and Tutor at LearningTree

Junior → Senior. How Many Years Do You Need to Become a Senior Java Developer

Published in the Learning Java group
As you may know by now, traditionally in the tech industry developers are divided into four gradations based on their qualification levels: Junior, Middle, Senior and Team Lead. Or five, if you include coding Interns as the lowest-ranked “soldiers” of the software development industry. Of course, these gradations are quite conditional and open to interpretations depending on the company or the country. Which is often confusing to programming beginners who are at the start of their professional careers in software development and are wondering what it really takes to grow from a Junior coder to Senior Developer.Junior → Senior. How Many Years Do You Need to Become a Senior Java Developer - 1And this is exactly the question we will try to answer today. So how long does it take to become a Senior Java Developer?

3 to 7 years

As usual, there is no consensus in the tech industry on how long it should take you to get from a Junior Developer to a Senior one. And most likely never will be since there are so many factors that play a role here, such as the type of company you are working for, job market conditions, your individual improvement, relationship in the team, and so on. But if you extract a specific number of years out of hundreds of different opinions, it would be 3 to 7 years on average. With the lowest average estimation (of the number of years to reach the Senior status) being around 2-3 years (in the right circumstances and in a company with frequent promotions), and the maximum is 10 to 15 years. As many experienced developers point out, it also depends on what you mean by reaching a Senior level exactly: just having a job with this title and the salary in accordance to it, or practical skills, experience, and competency that real Senior developers have as a result of years of hard work.


“The title definitely does vary from place to place. In general, I look at a Senior developer as someone capable of jumping into a complex code base and thriving, owning significant feature implementation end to end, leading/helping Junior developers advance, keeping up with the latest and greatest tech and figuring out what fits and what doesn’t, etc. From that angle, I’ve observed that journey taking 5 years or so. Again, don’t let the actual title fool you. Some places over-promote, others just do away with titles all together (every dev is an SDE with different payscales), and a lot of it is non-technical growth that takes quite a lot more time,” said Wes Winn, an experienced software developer working at Smartsheet. According to Andrew Sharpe, Staff Software Engineer at VMware, it’s 10-15 years: “Perhaps 10–15 years experience. At VMware, we have several levels of MTS, culminating in a Senior MTS position, then several levels of Staff Engineer, culminating in a Senior Staff Engineer position, and then finally Principal Engineer. So the title “senior” can be used at several levels.” As Rajkumar Bhaduri, an R&D Manager at TEOCO Corporation, pointed out, the number of years may also depend a lot on the country you are working in: “1–2–3 years in India. 10–20 years in the U.S.” “In the eyes of a hiring manager, whose opinion is really the only relevant one: when they land a job with the title ‘Senior Software Developer’, not before. You can spend a decade shipping commercial software, but no one will care. What you need is that title. I only got the title by leaving my very slow-career-growth employer (MS) and taking on a senior position at NoA. How’d I get that job? Blew away the interviewers. How’d I do that? Well, a decade of experience didn’t hurt,” shared his experience on the matter Tim Cowley, a former Senior Software Engineer at Nintendo.

How to become a Senior Java Developer faster? Tips and recommendations

As the number of years it may take for you to become a Senior may vary a lot, you sure can do everything possible to make it happen faster. Here are a few tips and recommendations from experienced software developers on how to reach the senior level as quickly as possible.

1. Build a strong programming-related knowledge foundation.

Very often, having strong knowledge of basic programming-related subjects will help you a lot to progress throughout the career. These subjects include computational thinking, mathematics and boolean algebra, data structures, algorithms, design patterns, programming paradigms, and so on. You don’t have to learn everything of course, but the stronger your theoretical foundation gets, the easier it will be to achieve quick career progress later.

2. Put enough time and effort to truly master your programming language.

Then, of course you need to put enough effort to really master your programming language, Java in our case, and the technology stack that goes along with it. There are multiple ways to learn Java theory, such as textbooks, online learning courses, or YouTube tutorials just to name a few. Getting enough practical experience and gaining the understanding of how to apply the language is another stage. Even though you should never stop learning throughout the whole career in programming, truly mastering the basics of the language when a beginner seems to be an important factor to how fast your knowledge will improve further down the road.

3. Learn the most popular Java frameworks well.

The next step would be to learn the most popular Java frameworks, the more the better, and how to use them. Start with Spring and Hibernate as these frameworks are the most frequently mentioned in descriptions for Java developer positions.

4. Choose your IDE and master it.

Another good advice from experienced Java developers is to start getting used to using an IDE of your choice. IntelliJ IDEA and Eclipse are the most popular IDEs for Java developers. By the way, in case you didn't know, CodeGym has a special plugin for IntelliJ IDEA, which allows you to start getting used to this IDE when still learning the basics of Java on CG.

5. Learn to use version control systems.

Using version control systems, GitHub being the most popular one, is another routine component of your work as a Java developer so it is better to explore and learn all the details about these tools as well.

6. Constantly work on improving your code.

There are multiple ways and approaches to improve the quality of your code such as reading someone else’s code, using code reviews or reading books on the subject. One of the most popular ones would be Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin.

7. Learn about software architecture.

Learning about software architecture is another common advice for those who already feel confident with the language and the main technology stack related to Java development.

8. Write code every day.

And of course you should practice as much as possible by writing Java code every day or as often as you can in order to be confident in applying the new knowledge and skills that you learn in your work as a Java developer.