What Percentage of Developer Positions Should Be Junior?

by William Grosso

Related link: http://www.nylf.org/

A few weeks back, I gave a talk at a NYLF Technology Forum. NYLF itself is interesting-- it puts on week-long high-exposure events that give promising high-school students the opportunity to learn a lot about an industry, from people in the industry.

I talked about startups in Silicon Valley. I basically went through the gamut of "here's how they start, here's a brief look at typical organization structures, here's what the roles are, and what the positions are called ... " A sort of blend of anthropology and career advice.

One of the things that bothered me when I was preparing for the talk, and which was highlighted by the questions as well, is that, at least here in Silicon Valley, there aren't a lot of junior development positions.

I've been watching it for a couple of weeks now across a couple of sources, and it seems that, in terms of advertisements, less than 5% of the available positions are for junior developers (for example, if you look at craigslist in the San Francisco Bay Area, a typical day has about 30 advertisements, and 1 or 2 of those are junior).

It's pretty clear that if the market for junior developers is <5% of the total software engineering market, we're not in an era of huge expansion.

But, the question is: is 5% a harbinger of future shrinking in Silicon Valley (all the junior developer jobs are elsewhere) or a sign that we've gotten to a stable economy for software developers.

What's the percentage of junior jobs in a stable industry? And what other easily-spidered indicators are there?


2004-08-08 22:21:15
it's the labour pool
As long as companies can get away with hiring senior people who've been out of work for a good time after their employers went bankrupt or outsourced the entire IT department (except the project managers) to India or Russia for junior salaries, they will continue to not recruit juniors (who are less productive and cost more in training).

The market is (in the US, Europe is stagnant or even decreasing slowly still) cautiously expanding but the pool of unemployed experienced people is now so large that that alone can fill all or most available jobs for the foreseeable future (say a year or more).
Those people are often happy to work any IT job that pays more than unemployment benefits just to be back in the running and companies are taking advantage of that.
In the long run this may be destructive to the market in that the stream of true juniors entering the market may dry up (after all, 2 yeargroups of graduates are finding it impossible to get hired anywhere which discourages others to even start their studies leading to a shortage of new graduates 3-5 years from now which could be large enough to make for a slowdown in the IT sector of its own).

2004-08-08 22:54:30
Not really the question I asked
I'm curious about the sort of ambient data mining tells us about our industry. There are more available jobs (or, at least, more advertisements) now than a year ago.

But very few of the available jobs are junior positions.

What does that tell us? Well, first we have to figure out what the "natural rate" of junior positions is. When do we say "the recession's over"? Well, if the rate of junior positions is indeed un-naturally low, then the recession's clearly not over because employers are able to require an unreasonable percentage of senior personnel.

Which leads to the question: What's the right rate? What's the typical rate of junior jobs in a stable industry?

I can make some swag guesses, but I'm curious to know if there's some literature out there.

2004-08-09 01:40:05
how many new hires at mcdonalds are managerial positions?
2004-08-09 06:29:59
how many new hires at mcdonalds are managerial positions?
I have no idea. Can you supply information about the fast food industry?
Zhang Yining
2004-08-09 07:29:38
Not really the question I asked
I don't think there is a uniform or right rate of junior/all staff ratio. It's really depends on the type of the hiring company. Startup's usually have/require much lower rate than large consultant or system integration firms.
2004-08-09 23:45:01
Not really the question I asked
Well, if the rate of junior positions is indeed un-naturally low, then the recession's clearly not over because employers are able to require an unreasonable percentage of senior personnel.

Rather they can get away with rebranding junior jobs as senior ones yet still paying junior rates.

The economics are changing from a system of what was effectively paid apprenticeship to one where you won't get a job until you have proven credentials.
This is fine in the short term as it will mean job creation for the currently unemployed and possibly a chance for people to hop to better jobs but in the long term as I outlined it is destructive as it hampers growth by drying up the influx of new blood while the old hands grow older and older.

Whether that situation will be recognised in time and remedied (and in which way it will be remedied if at all) remains to be seen.