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Software Engineer career path

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  1. Software engineering job titles
  2. 3 types of Software Engineer career paths
  3. What does the typical Software Engineer career path look like?
  4. How to start (and advance) your Software Engineering career
  5. Launch your software engineering career with Multiverse

Learning Software Engineering could open the door to many job opportunities, but how do you know which ones are right for you? When you're deciding which roles to pursue, it can help to know what the Software Engineer career path looks like.

Our growing reliance on technology has fueled the rapid growth of the software engineering industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for Software Developers(opens new window) will increase by 26% between 2022 and 2032. Many tech companies are actively working to recruit more diverse talent to meet this growing demand and create more inclusive work environments.

There are many directions your Software Engineer career path could take. Let's take a closer look at different paths, job titles, and tactics to help you advance your career.

Software engineering job titles

In addition to your Software Engineer career path, you’ll want to consider what types of roles to pursue. Software engineering is broad, but you can narrow it down by looking at common job titles, their responsibilities, and average salaries.

Front-End Engineer

Front-End Engineers are responsible for planning, building, and implementing the user interface. It is also known as the front end, the part of a site or application that users interact with and see.

At a minimum, Front-End Engineers must learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Those who excel in the role have an eye for design and like to develop and improve user experiences.

According to Indeed salary data, Front-End Engineers can earn anywhere from $68,000 to $188,000, with an average salary of around $113,599.

Back-End Engineer

Back-End Engineers cover everything behind the scenes that makes an application work. It’s known as the back end.

Their responsibilities may include developing, testing, and maintaining APIs, algorithms, databases, or new features. Strengthening soft skills like collaboration and problem-solving can help Junior Back-End Engineers advance to senior roles.

Back-End Engineers use a mix of programming languages that may include Java, Golang, Elixir, Python, C++, and more. They may also use serverless computing to build scalable applications that don’t rely on traditional infrastructure. Popular serverless computing platforms include AWS Lambda and Google Cloud Functions.

The salary for a Back-End Engineer ranges from a low of $110,000 to $223,000, with the average falling around $157,000.

Full-Stack Developer

A Full-Stack Developer combines the skills of a Front-End and Back-End Engineer into one role. It is more of a generalist role that requires a combination of front and back-end experience.

A Full-Stack Engineer might design, build, or maintain user interfaces and UX features or APIs and databases. They are responsible for developing and maintaining an application.

Many Full-Stack Developers use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate software testing and other routine tasks. They can also incorporate blockchain technology into their applications to protect data and create tamper-proof transaction records.

Full-Stack Developers earn $123,414 on average and around $191,000 on the high-end.

Mobile App Developer

Mobile App Developers are similar to Full-Stack Developers in a scoping sense—often, they’ll touch both the front and back ends within an app.

Mobile Developers usually learn languages like Java, Kotlin, and Swift to create applications that will work on a range of systems (Android and iOS) and devices (phones and tablets).

Mobile Developers also use cybersecurity techniques to protect user data. For instance, they may use encryption algorithms to secure sensitive information and authentication mechanisms to verify the user’s identity.

Mobile App Developers earn anywhere from $83,000 to over $193,000. The average salary is $126,237.

Data Engineer

Data Engineers design, build, and optimize how companies gather, store, and serve data. The role combines data science with development.

Many Data Engineers use AI tools like GitHub Copilot to generate and debug code. They can also use AI to automate routine tasks, such as coordinating data pipelines and processing big data.

The salary range for a Data Engineer starts around $82,000 to $197,000, with an average salary of $126,923.

Security Engineer

Security Engineers keep a company’s data and systems safe. They plan network and hardware updates, implement and monitor an application’s security, test for exploits, and respond to security incidents when they happen.

According to estimates, the salary for Cyber Security Engineers ranges from around $86,000 to $150,000. The average salary is $81,580.

Game Developer

Game Developers build games that people can access and play from multiple devices — computers, game consoles, smartphones, tablets, etc.

Typical responsibilities for Game Developers include:

  1. Design characters and levels
  2. Create engaging game mechanics
  3. Write stories
  4. Test games

Due to its flexibility, most Game Developers learn C++, but it depends on the specific role and requirements. They can also use AI techniques like behavior trees and natural language processing to create more realistic and interactive characters.

The average salary for Video Game Designers is $84,418, but it can range between $50,000 to $144,000.

3 types of Software Engineer career paths

There are three types of Software Engineer career paths to consider—Individual Contributor (IC), Management, and Freelance. Let’s look at these software engineering career paths and how they all fit together.

Individual contributor

Many Software Engineers start their careers as individual contributors (IC). However, ICs aren’t always entry-level Engineers.

Those that thrive as individual contributors love to dive into hands-on projects. They prefer writing code, building the nuts and bolts of projects, and improving technical processes, rather than managing people.

Experience: 0-5+ years

Management or team leader

As Software Engineers gain more experience, they may move to a people management role.

As a manager, Software Engineers spend less time writing code. Rather than focusing on completing individual tasks or building their own expertise, they foster growth in others.

They lead teams of Junior Software Engineers, collaborate with other departments, and oversee projects from end to end.

Experience: 5+ years


Freelancers don’t have a traditional Software Engineer career path because they aren’t employees of an organization. Instead, they work with companies on a per-project basis.

Freelancers have a lot of freedom in how and when they work, but they don’t have traditional advancement opportunities like promotions and raises.

Software Engineers can freelance at any point in their careers. However, if they have a portfolio of clients that can vouch for their experience and quality, it may be easier to land projects. A portfolio can also help to attract higher-paying clients.

Experience: Any

What does the typical Software Engineer career path look like?

Most Software Engineers start their career as an individual contributor, writing code in an entry-level role. Then, after building about three to five years of experience, they move up to a more senior-level or management position.

Yet, everyone’s path may vary, so don’t fret if yours differs from what’s listed here. Let’s dive into what a Software Engineer career path may look like.

Junior Software Engineer

Junior Software Engineers are entry-level roles. They write code, build systems, and perform other hands-on engineering tasks. Honing soft skills like communication and collaboration can also open up opportunities to move from a junior to a senior-level, management role.

Junior Developers' responsibilities may include:

  1. Automating workflows
  2. Testing software and running quality assurance
  3. Handling errors and responses
  4. Building infrastructure
  5. Taking user stories and turning them into features
  6. Building APIs and back-end systems
  7. Creating front-end visuals and UIs

Experience: 0-4 years

Senior Software Engineer

Those who have been in the industry for more than four or five years may transition to a Senior Software Engineer role. Senior Software Engineers work on more complex problems. They usually fall in the individual contributor category, but they may mentor other engineers or lead development projects.

Senior Engineer responsibilities include:

  1. Working with DevOps teams to ensure a smooth software development life cycle
  2. Mentoring Junior Software Engineers to help them grow
  3. Working with data structures and algorithms
  4. Creating and iterating on projects and applications
  5. Guiding software architecture

Experience: 3-6 years

Principal Engineer

Some believe that career growth means moving into a people management role. However, moving up in the Software Engineer career path doesn’t always require people management.

Many companies offer Software Engineers two options to advance—managing people or building their technical expertise.

Principal Engineers fall into the latter category. They are Software Engineers who have extensive on-the-job experience. They usually have deep, technical expertise in one or two areas.

Although they may not manage people, they still need to have soft skills and collaborate with others within an organization. They may also train and mentor junior engineers on their team.

Examples of job responsibilities for Principal Engineers include:

  1. Mentoring and guiding other members of the engineering team
  2. Collaborating with design and product teams during the concept and discovery phases of new feature development
  3. Analyzing and translating business needs into technology solutions
  4. Taking part in the full software development life cycle including development, testing, delivery, and support

Experience: 6+ years

Engineering Manager

Engineering Managers fall into the people management category more than Principal Engineers. Although Engineering Managers also need technical experience, they focus more on managing a team of engineers day-to-day.

They help build big-picture roadmaps and strategies for projects and lead their engineering team to execute deliverables on time.

Because they focus more on people management, Engineering Managers also have direct reports. These are Junior to Senior-Level Engineers who report directly to Engineering Managers for performance reviews and career development.

Examples of Engineering Manager responsibilities include:

  1. Building, coaching, and managing a team of high-performing engineers
  2. Creating and collaborating on long-term technical roadmaps for teams
  3. Partnering with Engineers, Product Managers, Marketers, and other stakeholders to identify problems, experiments, and creative technical solutions
  4. Collaborating on product and organization objectives, and coordinating with cross-functional teams to deliver key results
  5. Maintaining regular performance management processes and helping direct reports with career development

Experience: 6+ years

VP of Engineering

The VP of Engineering is a senior-level, management position. They don’t write much code for projects but they lead and grow several teams that do.

A VP of engineering is responsible for multiple teams and projects and their progress. Their technical skills help them properly manage and supervise projects from a high level. They also have a direct hand in the hiring process.

VP of engineering responsibilities may include:

  1. Overseeing project preparation and approval
  2. Organizing budgets for projects
  3. Overseeing hiring, development, and organization within teams
  4. Translating business and product goals into a technology strategy
  5. Actively seeking opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving
  6. Communicate plans, strategies, roadblocks, results, and updates to other leadership

Experience: 10+ years


Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) are in charge of everything technical in a company, including engineering and many other departments. They may oversee Engineers, technical project management, data science, Development Operations (DevOps), and research and development (R&D) teams.

As C-suite executives, CTOs also have a mind for business. They map technical initiatives back to business goals, identifying opportunities to improve KPIs with technology solutions.

In addition to technical skills, CTOs need communication and leadership skills. They regularly meet with other C-level executives, company stakeholders, and senior members of various departments.

Chief Technology Officer responsibilities vary depending on the size of an organization. Early startup CTOs are more hands-on than enterprise CTOs, especially when it comes to product development.

Chief Technology Officer job responsibilities may include:

  1. Collaborating with the executive team to identify technical initiatives that support a company’s growth and financial goals
  2. Developing and leading the strategy for all technical initiatives
  3. Researching and implementing new technology systems, processes, and infrastructure
  4. Establishing and reporting on KPIs and budgets

Experience: 15+ years

How to start (and advance) your Software Engineering career

Moving up in the Software Engineer career path takes more than honing coding skills or stacking up years of software engineering experience. If you’re an aspiring or current Software Engineer, these tips can help you advance your career.


About 80% of open roles are filled through connections(opens new window) or employee referrals. If you’re not networking, then you’re missing out on career opportunities that you won’t find online. This is even more true for senior and executive roles where companies are looking for particular skills and experiences.

Networking with other software engineering professionals can also help you learn more about the companies and roles you want to pursue.

There are many communities for Software Engineers to connect. Multiverse’s Software Engineering apprentices get access to our online community where they connect and learn from their peers. We also host events to facilitate networking among apprentices, alumni, and thought leaders.

Other examples of software engineering communities and networking events include:

  1. IndieHackers(opens new window) - an online community of over 30,000 people who are building products and sharing their experiences
  2. Girls in Tech(opens new window) - a membership group that hosts in-person and virtual networking events, workshops, and conferences
  3. CodeNewbie(opens new window) - an online community and discussion forum for people who are learning how to code

Strengthen soft skills

The media often portrays software engineering as a lonely and solitary career path, but this stereotype isn’t accurate. Many Software Engineers work in teams with Data Analysts, Project Managers, and other specialists. Senior Software Engineers may also supervise entry-level professionals.

These essential interpersonal skills can help Software Engineers thrive in development teams and other environments:

  1. Collaboration - Develop positive relationships with coworkers and work in teams to reach common goals.
  2. Communication - Share your ideas and explain technical concepts to team members and clients.
  3. Problem-solving - Learn how to address complex challenges and create innovative software solutions.
  4. Time management - Prioritize tasks and complete projects on strict timelines.

Upskilling and continuous learning

Upskilling, or learning new skills, can help you gain the skills needed for Software Engineer career progression. However, be intentional about what you learn.

Look at the job description for roles you want to advance to. They will list the skills, experiences, and qualifications you need to know, so build your learning around it. You should also join professional organizations to learn about emerging trends and tools in software engineering.

For example, many employers prefer to hire Software Engineers with proficiency in AI and machine learning. Develop these technical skills by learning how to create different types of algorithms and work with datasets. You can also practice creating AI models with frameworks and libraries, such as NumPy and TensorFlow.

There are many online learning platforms to help you gain new technical knowledge. For example, Coursera and Google Cloud Training offer online courses and tutorials on AI and machine learning.

In addition, Multiverse’s AI Jumpstart module teaches you how to leverage AI in your current and future roles. Students also learn AI ethics, prompt engineering, core principles, and tools.

Many websites also offer free resources for learning new programming languages and developing hands-on projects. Popular options include Codecademy(opens new window) and freeCodeCamp(opens new window).

Broadening your horizons opens more doors on the software engineering career path, and targeting the skills of the job you want can be a big help when interviewing later.

Earn relevant certifications

Certifications enable you to gain specialized knowledge in software engineering and related areas. This expertise can unlock more senior engineer roles and help you stand out from other applicants.

Here are three in-demand certifications for Software Engineers:

  1. AWS Certified Developer - Associate - Demonstrate your ability to use Amazon Web Services(opens new window) infrastructure to develop and maintain cloud-based applications.
  2. Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional - This certificate(opens new window) shows that you know how to apply best practices throughout the software development lifecycle.
  3. Project Management Professional (PMP): Learn to lead teams through the entire development process. You’ll also master agile, hybrid, and predictive project management(opens new window) approaches.

Interview prep

Software Engineer interviews usually have a question-and-answer part and a technical assessment that may include coding tests, quizzes, or projects. To help prepare for interviews, research the company and practice your answers.

Multiverse apprentices can schedule coaching or interview preparation before interviewing for software engineering job placements. Big Interview(opens new window) is another resource with mock interviews with sample questions and answers organized by industry.

The technical assessment can be harder to prepare for, but the best way is to learn relevant programming languages and practice your coding skills with mock challenges. HackerRank(opens new window) and LeetCode(opens new window) offer free coding challenges for technical interview preparation.

Collaborate and take initiative

If you want to become a software engineering manager in the future, show your soft skills by finding opportunities to collaborate within the software engineering team and other departments. Showing initiative and eagerness to take on more can put you in a good light among your peers and help you develop soft and technical skills.

Be open to hybrid and remote work arrangements

According to a recent survey, 86% of Software Developers(opens new window) work entirely remotely. Many employers also offer hybrid work arrangements for Software Engineers who prefer to spend time in the office.

There are many ways to prepare for success in remote or hybrid work environments. Project management tools like Asana and Trello can help you stay on track and visualize workflows. You can also use email and videoconferencing platforms to communicate regularly with your development team and other colleagues.

Launch your software engineering career with Multiverse

Expand your technical knowledge and gain practical experience with Multiverse’s Software Engineering apprenticeship. This 15-month program includes a collaborative twelve-week bootcamp to help you gain proficiency in full-stack development. You’ll also study relevant programming languages based on your career path.

In addition, apprentices earn a competitive salary and work on real projects while preparing for a software engineering role. For example, Multiverse apprentice Shafee was hired as a Software Engineering Apprentice at ClassPass.

To get started, apply for an apprenticeship(opens new window) today. You’ll answer a few questions about your interests, skills, and career goals. Then, we’ll chat with you further to help you land a paid apprenticeship that strengthens your career prospects and earning potential.

Team Multiverse

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Team Multiverse

1 May 2024

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