Software Engineer Career Path Guide (2023)

software engineer career path | app academy open

You may already know the software engineer career path is one of the highest-paying roles in any industry. But during times of uncertainty in the economy, it also provides more job security and opportunities for advancement than others.

So how do you become a software engineer and what does the career path look like when you’re in it? We’re covering all the must-know details now:

Current landscape of the software engineer career path

There are hundreds of thousands of job openings every year in the software engineer career path, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job outlook is also significantly higher than the average, growing at a rate of 22% over the next decade, so the current openings coupled with inevitable future openings in software engineering require a growing talent pool.

While software engineers tend to have a foundation in a number of programming languages, skills like Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and Python all have average salaries in the six-figure range.

Different levels and opportunities along the software engineer career path

Most software engineers on a typical career path start as a junior software engineer. As you move up the ranks, you’ll earn new titles and likely a lot more money. Here’s what a typical promotion path looks like and the salary each step of the way:

Junior software engineer.

According to BuiltIn, the average salary in the US for a Junior Software Engineer is $87,840. As a Junior, most software engineers are still learning the ropes and seeing how engineering departments function together and within an organization. They often assist the team with basic tasks under the supervision of more senior team members like writing simple code and debugging software tools. You won’t be making big decisions, but you’ll be moving projects forward so those big decisions can come to fruition.

Software engineer.

Glassdoor notes that the average software engineer salary is around $111,000. Some companies don’t have a stage in between junior and senior, but those that do give Level 1 software engineers the opportunity to learn more, build competency, and improve their skill set.

Senior software engineer.

As a senior software engineer, you’re starting to be included in the decision making process to move initiatives forward. You may not own a project entirely, but you’ll be expected to problem solve and know how to debug. Senior software engineers can earn between a wide range — on the low end, closer to $115,000 but on the high end, near $140,000.

Principal or staff software engineer.

Depending on the organization, you may move up from a senior to a staff engineer or potentially jump right to a principal engineer. In any case, these roles see you taking on a lot more responsibility. You’ll be managing a team of junior and Level 1-2 software engineers while owning full projects.

Principal software engineers are towards the very top of their departments. They’re often seen as leaders in an organization, particularly in the tech sector of their companies. Not only are they making decisions around a particular piece of software or a tool they’re creating, they’re making business decisions that affect revenue. Compensation for staff and principal engineers can range in the hundreds of thousands and varies greatly depending on the company you’re at.


Very few engineers will become a CTO or a fellow engineer. In these roles, you’re known on a global scale or as a thought leader in your field. Salaries for these roles again range greatly, from the hundreds of thousands into the multi millions.

At this stage as well, your salary and total compensation can’t be measured puerly in dollars.

What education is needed for the software engineer career path?

The opportunities to become a software engineer are endless, marked by the growing need for talent. Coding bootcamps have lowered the barrier to entry for many who can’t or don’t have the means to get a four-year computer science degree. Tech is at the forefront of industries that look for talent and coding competence over a college degree, so coding bootcamps are a great way to bolster skills and learn the most relevant languages for the industry.

No matter what your level of education is, coding competency and programming proficiency are two of the most important skills you’ll need to apply for roles. Whether you’re self-taught, taught by a bootcamp, or learn in college, you’ll need a portfolio and a resume to showcase these skills.

Start on the software engineer career path today — for FREE

If the software engineer career path is calling to you, try your hand at coding before investing in a bootcamp or a college degree. 

With App Academy Open, no purchase is required. Learn lessons in Python, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML & CSS, and other must-know languages entirely for free.

Learn more about App Academy Open here and find your free signup link.

Written by Dev App Academy

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