Is the junior developer position dead?
The actual title of ‘junior developer’ is one that many seasoned tech pros have held, but there’s increasing concern it’s a title new developers won’t hold. Indeed, a pass through Dice shows the actual title of ‘junior developer’ yields fewer results than you might think.
Using ‘Silicon Valley’ as a location filter on Dice.com, we found just under 2,000 open junior developer roles; a search for ‘junior web developer’ resulted in roughly the same number of jobs, as did ‘junior iOS developer’ and ‘junior Android developer.’ While it’s difficult to nail down the total number of jobs (open and filled) available in the Silicon Valley area, an analyst for Forbes put it at 220,162 in 2016 (and it’s surely increased since); that’s a pretty stark ratio.
In a blog post published earlier this year on Medium, developer Melissa McEwen writes about her first “real” job out of college: junior application developer. But junior roles, she adds, are drying up. Why? Companies have told her: “’We don’t hire junior developers because we can’t afford to have our senior developers mentor them.’”
She goes on to say: “I’ve seen the rates for senior developers because I am one and I had project managers that had me allocate time for budgeting purposes. I know the rate is anywhere from $190-$300 an hour. That’s what companies believe they are losing on junior devs.”
Yes, many companies may operate under the assumption that junior developers need too much training, and might leave after only a year or two for another firm. That sort of mentality has helped power a years-long debate over whether junior devs are worth it, or if companies should focus the entirety of their recruiting and hiring efforts on midlevel and senior developers.
But that doesn’t mean hope is lost for junior developers searching for a first (or second) job. Recruiting is an under-appreciated aspect in this discussion; recruiters do look at your experience when deciding whether to reach out, and are often willing to consider things such as freelancing projects and bootcamp stints, not just previous full-time jobs.
When searching for a new gig, also keep an eye out for developer roles that fit your experience, skills, and interests, but aren’t necessarily listed as ‘junior.’ You might be surprised at how many ‘full’ developer roles actually meet all of your specific metrics.
And if you need to build up your portfolio, or you’re simply not interested in a full-time position, there’s always contract work and freelance gigs to consider. Companies wary of investing in junior developers may simply want them to earn a reputation elsewhere first, and contracts are a great way to get experience under your belt.
So while landing a ‘junior developer’ role may seem problematic at moments, the opportunities still abound.