Are there any commonly accepted criteria of what a candidate needs to be considered for a software developement role carrying the "Senior" tag? Is it just a matter of experience or are there requirements for particular qualifications?

Additionally what (if any) are the main differences in expectations between software development roles that carry the "Junior" and "Senior" titles?

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    I'd also add that being a senior can depend on the actual work. If you are working on some new technology, you will be declared "senior" much faster than for something that's been in place for a long time. – everyone Mar 8 '18 at 15:28
  • Rule of thumb: You can consider yourself senior once you answer more questions from your colleagues than vice versa... – Alexander Mar 8 '18 at 15:30
  • @everyone, That was straight sight, easy to understand. Thanks. – Doug Mar 8 '18 at 15:31
  • @Alexander, I'm in agreement. I shoud start myself doing that. – Doug Mar 8 '18 at 15:32
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    I've taken a shot at editing the question to see if I can make it answerable here on TWP, I'm not 100% convinced I've succeeded if I'm honest though! Hopefully it's still consistent with your original intent if not you can always revert it or edit further. – motosubatsu Mar 8 '18 at 15:50

You're a senior if you can comfortably meet the roles/experience for the job being offered.

You're also a senior if you can uncomfortably meet them, but you have the chutzpah to carry it off.

Seniors can get blamed for things going wrong, juniors have to be "mentored".

That's basically it.

  • That's perfect. Clear explanation, except for the word "chutzpah". Btw, what does it mean? Thanks. – Doug Mar 8 '18 at 15:42
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    Self-confidence, audacity, cajones... – user44108 Mar 8 '18 at 15:43
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    @Doug chutzpah = Audacity, and lots of it. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 8 '18 at 15:47
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    I always thought senior meant that you're able to take charge within a title and don't need to be guided and can guide others to do tasks. You're expected to take initiatives on taskers as well as make tasks. – Dan Mar 8 '18 at 18:40
  • @Dan The way I interpret your description is a lead role. In my opinion they are equal in experience. A lead dev (for example) takes more charge, while a senior "carries out tasks". (I'm a junior myself atm so please forgive any possible flawed interpretation) – Edwin Lambregts Mar 9 '18 at 15:02

So, "senior" isn't a standard term.

There is no rule about "seniority", as there generally isn't a global (or even, often, country-wide) body that regulates whatever field you might be in. Maybe for pilots? I'm unsure on that. Anyway, i assume you're an engineer/IT type of some sort given the detail in your question.

Seniority thus depends on the company you're in, and the expectations they have. A senior Google engineer might be expected to know about algorithms, for example. A senior engineer at a bank might be expected to have a lot of depth of knowledge about trading systems and processes in general.

Seniority, then, is largely based on two + 1 things

  • where you are
  • what you know
  • who you know

the first will vary - and if it requires industry exposure then can be hard to gain outside of the industry.

the second, of course, is within your control to some extent. Senior to junior isn't some magical "jump", of course, you'll have varying degrees of knowledge.

the third, as mentioned in comments, is really dependent on the industry. A senior sales person will know a lot of people, for example, and this alone will make them "senior". The more well known you are, however, can have an incredible impact on your seniority and ability to get senior roles, regardless of industry.

The other thing to note is that, generally, seniority comes with it a requirement to learn other areas outside the initial specialisation. So, you might become a senior Php person. But then you'll also need to know about unix, and databases - maybe begin to know about optimisation, or maybe python too.

As you become senior, people will come to you to ask you questions. You will thus need to be able to learn, if not actually know this knowledge (although the constant questioning will make you learn it).

This is different to becoming a manager, incidentally - a senior engineer is not the same as an engineering manager, and the two sadly require quite different skill sets, although the leap from senior engineer to engineering manager generally just expects you to pick up this knowledge.

Which is sad, as the skills required to learn the knowledge to become a senior engineer are also completely different skills to becoming an engineering manager. You cannot, for example, just "google" the solution to inter-personal difficulties as you can google why some code isn't working.


Difference between Junior and Senior?

When there is a need to divide the current and future employees into two groups, the company will divide them based an whatever criteria makes sense to them.

Criteria can include: start date, degrees, years of experience, sales from last year, training classes, certifications...

Then in a few years they discover a need to divide them into three groups...

In some professions there are standards set by an outside organization, in those cases there is a better mapping between the titles and the standards.

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