Your Software Engineering Roadmap: Climbing the Career Ladder

If you’ve decided a software engineering career is for you, here’s your software engineering roadmap and guide to climbing the career ladder.

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With the non-stop demand for new software and mobile applications (the global application software market is expected to grow 24.3% CAGR from 2021 to 2028), there is no denying the heightening need for software engineers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes the demand for software engineers is projected to grow by 25% from 2021-2031. 

So, with the evolving software landscape, how might this manifest in your career? The good news is there is a clear path forward in the software engineering field. 

If you’ve decided a software engineering career is for you, here’s your guide to the software engineering roadmap. 

Junior Software Engineers

Junior engineers perform a variety of entry-level tasks and projects for mid- and senior-level engineers. These may include:

  • Writing and maintaining code
  • Debugging software
  • Helping design software applications

Keep in mind, software engineering is a rather broad field. Thus, this is an excellent time to:

  • Learn and explore different avenues 
  • Reflect upon what you may want to specialize in later in your career

Job Titles

Job titles for junior developers can vary depending on a position’s specific focus. For example: 

Junior back end software engineer: Focusing on the server side of websites, junior back end engineers assist other higher-level software engineers with writing the underlying code to enable an application to operate. This involves understanding programming languages such as Java, Python, and Ruby. 

Junior front end software engineer: While back end engineers focus on the server side, front end engineers focus on the user-facing side of a given website or application. Front end Software Engineers at the beginning of their careers often leverage programming languages (e.g., JavaScript, HTML, and CSS) and design skills to help teammates build lasting software.

Junior cloud software engineer: A cloud engineer is focused on optimizing cloud-based applications and ensuring the programs meet customer expectations. At a junior level, you will typically handle your responsibilities under the supervision of a skilled cloud engineer. Understanding programming languages such as Java or C++ is recommended.

Salary Range

The salary range for junior software engineers is between $50,698 – $124,433 according to Indeed, with $79,426* as the average. Salary is dependent on location and experience.

Skills Required

Rest assured, it is possible to become a junior software engineer without a degree. Achieving this role requires commitment and dedication to the necessary hard and soft skills.

Hard Skills

Entry-level software engineers need excellent computer, programming, and development skills. They will also need to showcase this during technical interviews

Hard skills include knowledge of: 

  • Javascript
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • C++
  • Python 
  • Ruby

Soft Skills

Communication: While some tasks may involve working independently, more complex ones will merit teamwork and collaboration. Strong communication skills are the thread that cohesively weaves these parts together and will ultimately help one succeed in their role.

Willingness to learn: As a junior engineer, learning and development during this stage of your career is crucial. One must be willing to roll up their sleeves and continuously learn from different people and projects. This will lay the foundation for a successful and lucrative career.

Mid-Level Software Engineers

Junior engineers can progress onto a mid-level software engineering role after about 3-4 years working in a junior-level software engineer position. 

At this point in your career, you should have a good understanding of the software development lifecycle at your organization. In addition, you are confident in taking ownership of work with little direction and possess a high-level understanding of technical strategies.

Job Titles

With a more high-level knowledge, software engineers may choose to specialize in a particular area of software engineering. 

Job titles include but are not limited to: 

Systems engineer: A systems engineer works with IT firms and companies to install software programs. They maintain the overall system and conduct necessary repairs to safeguard security measures. 

Full-stack developer: Responsible for both front end and back end development, a full-stack developer creates visual designs for sites, mobile applications, and company platforms. They also run and maintain servers.

Salary Range

The salary range for a mid-level software engineer is $75,000 – $145,000 according to ZipRecruiter, with an average of $110,000.

Hard Skills Required

  • Computer science, design, and programming 
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Agile methodology
  • DevOps development
  • All programming languages noted under the junior-level section

Soft Skills Required

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is critical to a mid-level position, as you’ll dive into larger projects that require identifying errors and efficient solutions. This may involve staying up-to-date on new developments in software applications to make adjustments to match industry standards. 

Collaboration: Mid-level engineers must work with their teammates to ensure workflow processes are on track and aligned. For example, an engineer may need to be in contact with a user experience (UX) designer or project manager to test different applications/products and ensure projects are within budget.

Senior Software Engineers

As a senior-level engineer, you’ve reached one of the highest-paying software engineering jobs. You will begin to work with internal leads/managers/CTOs to design new software systems for your organization or clients. Depending on the nature of the role or team, you may spend more time mentoring, designing, and leading than programming.

Job Titles

Job titles include: 

Senior software engineer: With the responsibility of establishing and meeting goals regularly, senior software engineers divide complex tasks into a series of steps for the team. They do not need much guidance and provide project status updates to the executives/CTOs. 

Principal staff engineer:  The principal staff engineer often liaises with the chief technology officer (CTO) to build plans for the engineering department’s long-term strategy and implementation. They are responsible for ensuring the team meets objectives and stays within budget.

Other role titles may include engineering manager and director of engineering.

Salary Range

The salary average range for senior software engineers in the U.S. is between $90,730 – $222,239 according to Indeed, with $141,999 as the average.

Hard Skills Required

  • Over 8 years of experience as a software engineer
  • Knowledge of all necessary programming languages and/or cloud applications (depending on the nature of the role or company)

Soft Skills Required

Adaptability: Not everything will go as planned. Thus, as the project lead, you will need to excel at and be comfortable with adapting to changes. And, more importantly, discovering new avenues for growth and opportunities amid those shifts. Having experience working in an iterative development environment will work to your advantage.

Time management: As you often oversee the progress of projects and objectives, time management is critical to your success as a senior-level engineer. Time management not only involves planning milestones but building those milestones in a way that optimizes the team’s workflow.


After 10 to 15 years of experience in the engineering and IT field, you may choose to advance to an executive-level position at a given company. 

Being a part of the executive level involves making company-wide decisions and possessing the leadership skills to manage all technological aspects of the organization. This requires being comfortable liaising with key stakeholders across the business and working with them to design a comprehensive roadmap.

Job Titles

Job titles in this top bracket include:

Vice President of Engineering: A Vice President of Engineering’s supervision ensures the engineering team has what they need to execute desired results. They oversee duties for the team, such as recruiting, product development, quality assurance, budgeting, and strategizing. 

Chief Technology Officer: The CTO oversees an organization’s science, engineering, and technology efforts. They focus on aligning technology/engineering goals with other departmental and/or organizational objectives. This involves communicating with other executives and managing the engineering department’s budget.

Salary Range

The salary for a CTO ranges from $112,078 – $305,608 according to Indeed, with an average of $185,073.

Hard Skills Required

  • Knowledge of all programming languages 
  • Familiarity with high-end technologies 
  • Knowledge of product development in AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and security

Soft Skills Required

Decision making: A CTO must make strategic decisions on how to allocate resources and navigate issues while keeping aligned with company objectives. 

Leadership: A CTO must be able to lead and motivate with impact. This requires excelling at various leadership styles and understanding how to leverage them depending on the circumstances and individuals involved.

Learn and Grow with Flatiron School

Climbing the career ladder requires having the right resources and tools by your side. We encourage you to learn about and develop your skills using Flatiron’s Software Engineering program. Offering both part- and full-time courses, this program is meant to align with your schedule. 

Learn how Flatiron School can help you find success in your software engineering career path. Apply today

*Salary ranges and averages cited current as of September 2023 

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of September 27, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Anna Van Deusen

Anna Van Deusen is the Marketing Content Manager at Flatiron School. When not writing about tech and Flatiron School students, she can be found hanging out with her dogs on a beach…

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