Big Data & AI Accelerator
Author: Danger Crew
Last update: July 18, 2021

How to progress from junior to senior programmer?

Experience is just the entrance to senior level. Let's get a closer look in how to step up in career and what is the programmer career


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Sometime during career consultation Danger Education will receive the following questions: How long does it take to become a senior programmer? I have been working in the industry for ten years, can I call myself a senior programmer? What is the Programmer career?

Yes, experience is a mandatory requirement, but experience alone does NOT make you “senior”.

To become a senior programmer, some companies requires 5 years experience, some companies requires 10 years. Unfortunately there is no a clear cut in timeline.

Instead of focusing on experience, from what I can observe most senior programmers share the common attributes, which differentiate them from junior programmers. As a piece of advice, I would suggest you to develop the following attributes in order to be qualified for a senior level.

Beyond the Program

Junior programmers usually can NOT tell much the project assigned. They will wait for the instruction to be given and work on the programming tasks. In short they are focusing on “execution”.

Senior programmers will ask questions about the project. After understanding the client’s needs, they can tell how hard the project is, what are the available tech solutions for the tasks and their respective pros and cons. Last but not least they can also foresee the potential problems and take action before it occurs.

Make the call

Junior programmers usually are afraid of making decision. They are afraid of making mistake.

Senior programmers knows the client well and are willing to make the important call during the projects, for example which vendor services should be used, which client’s ask are not feasible. They understand client does NOT only pay them for the coding tasks, which can be outsourced to low cost region. They are paid for their expertise in the project.

Lead the project

Junior programmers usually prefer to work on their own tasks quietly.

Senior programmers know software development is a collaborative project, They will mentor and guide junior programmers to work the same project collaboratively. They will communicate and get everyone aligned on the same goal. They know what their teammates are good at and will assign the tasks accordingly to increase the efficiency of the project.

Know what you don’t know

Junior programmers usually don’t know many things.

Senior programmers also don’t know many things, but they know what they don’t know and will search for the solution, for example through GitHub or Stack Overflow. They know their weakness and will try to improve it by all means.

Knowledge vs Expertise

Junior programmers usually acquire different knowledge from different projects, and stop there.

Senior programmers will understand the knowledge deeply after learning about it. They will teach it to someone else, further sharpen the skills by applying it on other projects and identify the gap between the knowledge they currently have and what they should have. Eventually they turn “knowledge” into “expertise”.


‘Titles inflation’ is the common phenomenon across different industries nowadays in Hong Kong. Usually companies give unnecessary titles in order to please employees, which creates false expectation in the long run for their career development. No matter you want to become a senior programmer or assume a senior position in other industries, above attributes definitely can help you along the career path.