A Recruiter's Guide for Software Development Job Titles

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Publish date:

October 10, 2022

Updated on:

March 7, 2024

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A Recruiter's Guide for Software Development Job Titles


Without a trace of doubt, the IT industry has developed a lot throughout the past few decades. From a few software developers working in a garage to the large and established corporations we see today, the industry has seen it all. Together with industry growth, software development job titles for recruiters have become increasingly more complex too — so it's more than understandable if you find it difficult to keep up with the best practices in hiring software developers.

We've put together a guide to help you tell the difference between the "programmer" everyone was hiring a couple of decades ago to the intricate, multi-faceted positions in demand today.

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Software Developer Job Titles for Recruiters: Then and Now

The most in-demand software development job titles have changed a great deal since the early days of Silicon Valley. Back then, there were only a few essential roles that needed to be filled to get a project off the ground.

These days, the landscape is much different. There are dozens of specialized positions that all contribute to the success of a software development project. To make things even more complicated, the industry isn't entirely standardized, so you might find people with the same job title doing completely different jobs in different companies. Despite that, however, the titles used today can be broadly grouped into a few distinct categories, which we will discuss a bit later on in this article.

To circle back to the expansion of the software development job titles, let's take a closer look at what, more exactly, has changed since the dawn of the first jobs in software development.

The Rise of Agile Development

One of the main reasons for the increase in software development job titles is the rise of agile development. This methodology changed the face of software development by breaking down projects into small, manageable pieces that could be completed quickly and efficiently.

The Increased Complexity of Software Development Projects

In the early days, a software development team might have consisted of nothing more than a handful of programmers. These days, a single project can require the expertise of hundreds of different professionals — from designers and user experience experts to security specialists and quality assurance engineers and marketers.

The Need for Greater Specialization

In the past, a programmer might have been responsible for coding an entire application on their own. Nowadays, however, most programmers specialize in a particular area, such as front-end development or back-end development. This allows them to become experts in their field and to produce higher-quality code more efficiently.

The Expansion of Open-Source Software

In the past, most software was developed in-house by a team of employees working for a single company. Nowadays, however, more and more software is being developed openly, by teams of developers from all over the world. This has led to the creation of new job titles, such as open-source contributor and maintainer, which didn't exist before.

A laptop used by a software programmer at home.

Modern Software Development Job Titles Explained for Recruiters

From Junior Developer to Senior Developer and beyond (CTO, CIO, etc.), today's range of software development job titles for recruiters is quite vast. Let's take a closer look at some of the most common software development job titles for recruiters.

Junior Developer

A Junior Developer is someone who is just starting a career in Software Development. They usually have 0-2 years of experience and are still learning the ropes.

They typically work on small, simple projects under the supervision of a more experienced developer. Junior Developers usually don't have much decision-making power and their job is mostly to code according to the specification.

In most cases, Junior Developers are college graduates with a degree in Computer Science or a related field.

In the US, a Junior Developer's average salary is around $69,000/ year.

Senior Developer

A Senior Developer is a more experienced software developer who has been in the industry for 3-5 years. They typically work on larger, more complex projects and have more responsibility than Junior Developers.

Senior Developers usually have a higher level of decision-making power and are often responsible for mentoring Junior Developers. In some cases, Senior Developers may also be involved in the management of a development team (usually a cluster of developers, but sometimes, larger teams too).

A Senior Developer's average salary is around $98,000/ year.

It is worth noting that some companies will also include Intermediate/ Mid Developers in their organization. In general, these are developers with 2-3 years of experience who are somewhere in-between junior and senior developers in terms of responsibility and expertise.

Lead Developer

A Lead Developer is a software developer who has been in the industry for 5 years or more. They typically manage a team of developers and are responsible for the overall development of a project.

Lead Developers typically have a great deal of decision-making power and are responsible for mentoring Junior Developers. In some cases, Lead Developers may also be involved in the management of a development team.

A Lead Developer's average salary is around $111,000/ year.

A Note on Specializations

Before we move higher up the totem pole, it's important to note that the titles of Lead Developer, Senior Developer, and Junior Developer are not always clearly defined. In some cases, these titles may be used interchangeably, or the title of Senior Developer may be given to someone with less experience if they are working on a large, complex project.

Furthermore, it is also worth noting that Junior, Senior, and even Lead Developers can specialize in back-end engineering or front-end engineering. A back-end developer deals with the server side of things, while a front-end developer focuses on the client side (i.e., what the user sees.)

Likewise, developers can also specialize in a development language or technology, such as Java, Python, PHP, Ruby, React .JS, etc.

Software Architect

A Software Architect is a software developer who has been in the industry for 10 years or more. They typically design and oversee the development of complex software systems.

Software Architects typically have a great deal of decision-making power and are responsible for mentoring other developers. In general, Software Architects don't have direct reports (unless they manage a specific team), but it is not unusual for a Software Architect to also manage a development team.

On average, a software architect in the US makes about $130,000/ year.

CTO (Chief Technical Officer)

The CTO is the executive responsible for the technology of a company. They typically oversee the development of all software products and are responsible for the technical direction of the company.

The CTO is usually a software developer who has been in the industry for 10 years or more. They have a high level of decision-making power and, sometimes, they are responsible for mentoring junior developers, as well as senior developers looking to grow their careers.

A CTO's salary is, on average, around $132,000/ year.

VP of Engineering

The VP of Engineering is the executive responsible for the engineering department of a company. They typically oversee the development of all software products and they too are responsible for the technical direction of the company.

Large organizations with multiple or very complex software products tend to need a VP of Engineering. The role can encompass a variety of tasks, including overseeing the work of software architects, managing development teams, and making high-level decisions about the technology used by the company.

The role of a VP of Engineering and that of a Director of Engineering are sometimes interchangeable, depending on company structure, how the product is built, and a series of other factors.

A VP of engineering's salary is around $175,000/ year.

CIO (Chief Information Officer)

The CIO is the executive responsible for the IT of a company. The role of a CIO is frequently mistaken for that of a CTO, but there is a major difference between them. The CIO usually focuses on internal systems (such as ERP, CRM, and BI systems) while the CTO focuses on products and software development, as well as how they interact with the market.

Like the CTO, the CIO will usually have a great deal of decision-making power, they will oversee high-level projects, and may be responsible for mentoring and managing other developers, development leads, or software architects.

On average, a CIO in the US makes around $106,000/ year.

A woman is interviewing for a software development job opening.

Conclusion: Software Development Job Titles for Recruiters

The IT industry is permanently changing. This means that, as a recruiter, you will have to learn to adapt not only to the industry standards, but also the particular needs a company has for a specific role.

Generally, standardized job titles are a great place to start when recruiting for software development roles. However, it is also important to be specific about the requirements of each role. For instance, a CTO job opening in a very early-stage startup will most likely not have the same requirements as it would in a large organization.

When in doubt, always ask the hiring manager or decision-maker what they are looking for in a candidate. They will usually have a good idea of the skills and experience that are necessary for the role. Listen, take notes, and bring all this information into the interviewing process.

Remember: job titles are secondary. What's most important is to make sure you find the right candidate — someone who fits the job requirements and the organizational culture. With the right candidate, any job title can be a success.


Q1: What is the job title of a software developer?

The job title of a software developer depends on their level of experience, the company they work for, and the specific software development role they perform. Some common job titles for software developers include Junior Software Developer, Software Developer, Senior Software Developer, Lead Software Developer, and Principal Software Developer. Likewise, if the company is looking for specialized roles, they might add "front-end" or "back-end."

Q2: What is another name for a software developer?

Software developers are also known as programmers, coders, or software engineers. Furthermore, there are specializations within the role of “software developer,” such as front-end developer, back-end developer, full stack developer, or web developer.

Q3: What are the levels of software developer?

In general, there are three levels: junior, mid-level, and senior. Junior Developers are entry-level employees who are new to the field. Mid-level Developers have a few years of experience and are able to take on more responsibility. Senior Developers are experienced professionals who often lead projects or mentor other developers. After that, Senior Developers can advance into being Lead Developers, Software Architects, Chief Technology Officers, and so on. The experience levels of a software developer depend on the company's organizational structure.


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Octavia Drexler

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Octavia is on a mission to drexlerize the undrexlerified, which, as narcissistic as it may sound, is actually not that self-centered (and neither is she, on most days). She is a marketer with nearly a decade of experience behind, over, through, and around her (like an aura, that is). She is also super-duper passionate about marketing tech products and translating techy gibberish into human language.

This is why, for the better half of her career, Octavia has been working with a variety of SaaS businesses around the world (give or take her sabbatical year in Agro-Tech, which she will tell you about five minutes into meeting her, somewhere in between confessing her passion for Leonard Cohen and Seth Godin, and complaining about sleepless nights she cannot really quit).

Aside from marketing and writing (d’oh), Octavia enjoys reading, science-fiction-y stuff, trying out new tools, and contemplating the inevitable moment AI will finally take over the world. She’s also into pretty bad music (not super-bad, but bad enough for people of good taste to raise a suspicious eyebrow).

She also has no idea why she wrote this entire piece in third-person, but it’s 1 AM, so she’ll leave it like this.

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