Most Devs Have Less Than 6 Years’ Experience

Most devs have five years or less experience.

While we tend to think of developers as a seasoned, curmudgeonly bunch (and that’s still true!), Stack Overflow’s recent survey suggests many are new to the field, and a majority have five years or less experience.

In the ‘developer profile’ category of the survey, experience is broken out as a sub-topic. It covers how long respondents have been coding, as well as how long it’s been since they learned to navigate the wonderful world of squash-one-bug-and-ten-more-appear. While the ’20 years or more’ line-item dominates all others when it comes to experience, quite a few have less than five years of experience.

In gauging ‘years since learning to code,’ Stack Overflow found that 29.5 percent of developers have five years or less experience. If we cushion the blow to account for some fuzzy language (the categories are listed as a frame of time, like ’1-2 years’ experience, and have a bit of overlap; 1-2 years and 2-3 years experience may blur the lines a bit), that number could be as high as 36.5 percent. We’ll cap this breakout at the ‘4-5 years’ category.

While about one-fourth of developers have learned to code in the past five years, 50.1 percent report they have been coding “professionally” for five years or less. That may seem like a head-scratcher, but Stack Overflow explains it nicely:

Web and mobile developers have significantly less professional coding experience, on average, than developers in other technical disciplines such as systems administration and embedded programming. Across all developer kinds, the software industry acts as the primary incubator for new talent, but sees a relatively low proportion of more experienced developers. For example, 60% of mobile developers at software firms have fewer than five years of professional coding experience, compared to 45% of mobile developers in other industries.

As Stack Overflow goes on to note, some learners don’t start their careers immediately: around 11.3 percent got a job within one year after learning to code, but 36.9 percent waited between one and four years before starting their careers after schooling.

Another interesting tidbit: 12.9 percent of developers have been coding professionally between one and two years, the largest single sub-category in its section. It trends (mostly) downward from there, but spikes back up (7.5 percent) when we hit the 20-year mark.

While 20-year vets still account for a healthy percentage of overall developers, they’re being outpaced by a new breed. It remains to be seen how long the new batch of developers will stick around, but the future looks bright at this juncture.

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