What Separates a Junior Programmer from a Senior Programmer?


If you ever applied for a job as a programmer, created a LinkedIn profile or spoken to recruiters, you’ve asked yourself this question: “How do I know if I’m a junior, mid-level or senior programmer?”

The truth of the matter is, there is no one, definitive answer to this question. Everything depends on context, project scope and, sometimes, that extra bit of confidence.

But there are general guidelines which can determine into which category the kind of work you do fits. We’re here to explain those guidelines.

Here’s our list of five things that separate a junior programmer from a senior:

1. Experience in programming

This is obviously the first thing that comes to mind – how long have you been doing what you’re doing? 

A junior level programmer can be anyone who has about or less than two years of experience. Anything above that can be considered mid-level. And once you start getting into those double digits, as soon as you hit ten years of experience, you are certainly qualified enough to be consider a senior programmer. Obviously, depending on how hard you work and how quickly you learn, it could take significantly less time to “upgrade” your job title.


  • Junior programmer: Less than 2 years of experience
  • Mid-level programmer: 2 to 9 years of experience
  • Senior programmer: A partir de 9 años de experiencia


A nice little way to describe it is that the junior programmer will say “I found the bug!” They will think they solved it all just because they found the one issue and everything seems to be working for the time being. The senior programmer knows better. He simply says, “I found bug.”

2. Ability to decide what tools to use vs. using the tools they know

Secondly, senior programmers are expected to have a wider range of skills from which they can choose the most appropriate for the project at hand. They look at a task and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different types of languages, frameworks, etc. That helps them chose the best tool for the task.

A junior programmer, however, cannot be expected to do that. That doesn’t mean they’re bad at what they do, they just don’t have that broad scope of knowledge. So they will not necessarily pick the best tool for the job. Instead, they will pick the one they know best, even if it is strictly worse than another solution.


  • Junior programmer: Work with tools, programming languages that he knows
  • Senior programmer: Pick the best tool for the job


3. Approach of the project

Senior programmers approach projects in a planned-out, organized way. They think about automation, about maintenance in the future and about other ways to deal with the problem than the one suggested. They can offer those alternatives and explain why they think one particular method is better.

A junior programmer will take the task and method of completion without second-guessing either. They should not be expected to consider future implications of their work. They can be expected to complete the task in the way it laid out for them, but no more and no less than that.


  • Junior programmer: Complete the project without second-guessing
  • Senior programmer: Planning, long-term focus, automation.


Find your next programming project.   Check the latest opportunities

4. Amount of supervision required

How much a programmer knows directly correlates with how many questions they need to ask to understand a project and complete it by themselves.

They may be expected to be the head of the team – rather than ask their clients questions, a senior programmer provides the answers. And while some clients love to micromanage freelancers, most know how to let the people they hired do the job they hired them for. That’s why when a contract is written out for a senior programmer, a client will usually expect you to be able to supervise yourself.

For junior programmers however, almost the exact opposite is the case. If a client hires a freelance junior programmer with a vague task in mind and then proceeds to be annoyed at all the question that freelancer asks, it’s their own fault. A junior programmer can be a part of a team, but cannot be expected to be at its head as a supervisor. They will need some looking over the shoulder, especially if the task is not clear-cut.


  • Junior programmer: Work better as part of a team
  • Semior programer: Able to supervise himself


5. A senior .NET developer can still be a junior for HTML

In the end, it’s all about context. A senior developer is not senior in every single field.

They might be proficient in a lot of things, but the levels of proficiency certainly vary. If you have been writing HTML code for several years for example, you could be a senior in that particular field. But that doesn’t make you one in every single other field.

That is the determining factor – so when applying for positions that state they require a senior programmer, make sure your seniority is in the right field.


Have you experienced any other ways in which junior and senior programmers are different from each other? Let us know in the comments below this article!

Create your freelance profile and land new projects without any fees!

 Sign up now

More articles

  • How to Deal with Client Revisions as a Freelancer

    One of the most frustrating challenges for many freelancers is dealing with repeated client requests for revisions on a project. This is a factor you need to be prepared to deal with on a regular basis - so check out our tips to dealing with client revisions properly.
  • 8 Ways to convince clients they should outsource

    Outsourcing is something a lot of big companies do today. It can help businesses grow in many ways: finding experts that they don’t have readily available in-house, saving time and money and helping get new points of view and fresh ideas from outside.
  • 10 skills which no freelancer can do without

    We often talk about how many things are needed to be successful as a freelancer, but we rarely say which exactly, mainly because they really are a lot. Everybody who has tried out being a freelancer for at least a year or two, knows just how vast the required skillset can be. For those of you thinking about going into freelancing and wonder what they could do to increase their chances of success, here are the 10 skills you are absolutely going to need:


  • No comments available

Comment this article