How long a software developer’s career can last? This is something the majority of people who are seriously considering being professional programmers can’t help but wonder.

It’s a very natural question to ask when talking about such a demanding profession by all means. No one wants to invest years in learning a skill that will cease to stay relevant in a few years or would get harder to monetize when you reach older age.

So today we will try to answer this question and provide some information that would help you to get a clearer understanding of what to expect.

How many years an average career in software development lasts?

Of course, when it comes to specific numbers and projections of how long you can expect your career in software development to last, there will be no defined answers, as all of this is very subjective and individual.

We do know, however, that many professional programmers like their jobs so much they remain Senior Developer for decades in some cases, even when they have options for career advancement, such as moving from coding to managerial positions.

Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, which is considered to be one of the most comprehensive professional developer surveys out there, can provide us with some relevant information on how long typical software developers tend to stay in this career path. Overall, out of almost 48,000 professional developers who took part in the survey, around 60% learnt how to code more than 10 years ago and 25% mastered programming over 20 years ago.

When it comes to the number of years coding professionally, 33.6% of responders or slightly over 16,000 people all around the globe said they have been working as software developers for more than 10 years already. 11.4% or 5,447 people surveyed said their professional career has been ongoing for more than 20 years.

Given that the software development industry itself isn’t very old, true veterans who have been in this profession throughout their whole life are harder to find, but such people exist and aren’t super rare. Specifically, 0.4% or 191 out of 47,779 professional developers who participated in Stack Overflow’s survey said they have been coding for more than 40 years. And 48 people said they have been in the profession for over half a century!

This is not surprising as we know that software developers on average tend to really like their jobs. And Java developers especially. According to research by recruiting website Indeed, Java developers are the least likely to leave their profession among all professionals in general, not just in the tech sector. Their career-switch rate is less than 8%, while for the software developer profession in general it’s 27%, and for database administrators, for example, it’s 35%. Even when offered a higher-level managerial position, the majority of Java coders just don’t want to give it up. This may be the best proof of Java programming being the right profession choice for the majority of coders.

Career advancement options for software developers

As you can see, it is not very unusual for software developers to have life-long careers in various coding roles. Of course, this is not for everyone, and many people do prefer moving to other positions or even taking other career paths eventually.

Luckily, there are plenty of career advancement options for software developers within the industry. Let us name just a few.

Higher management positions

  • CTO (Chief Technical Officer)
  • CIO (Chief Information Officer)
  • Chief Digital Officer
  • Chief Innovation Officer
  • Team Lead Software Engineer
  • Software Architect
  • VP of Engineering
  • Head of Product

Product roles

  • QA Engineer
  • Project Manager
  • Product Manager
  • Scrum Master
  • UX Designer

Customer-oriented roles

  • Sales Engineer
  • Developer Marketer
  • Technical Recruiter
  • Evangelist/Tech PR Executive
  • Customer Support

Development operations support

  • DevOps Engineer
  • Technical support
  • Database Administrator
  • Reliability Engineer

Analytical roles

  • Security Analyst
  • R&D Engineer
  • Data Scientist

Independent roles

  • Freelance Developer
  • Development Consultant
  • Startup Founder