The opportunity cost of "junior" in developer job titles

Please remove "junior" from your developer titles by Pam Selle argues convincingly that companies are the sole beneficiaries of job titles containing "junior," and even if somebody has a relatively low amount of industry experience, it isn't necessary to indicate that in their job title.

I agree, and want to add that if a company DOES choose to indicate experience level in the job title, the prefix "junior" — compared to "entry level" or a numerical level such as "1" — still functions as an excuse for companies to pay people less for doing the same work.

This post will use publicly available salary data from the US to illustrate the point.

Glassdoor

Where this data comes from: employee reports and job listings .

Here we see direct comparisons of job titles with "junior" and "entry level" tacked on. The "junior" variants make $3k-$8k less.

Payscale

Where this data comes from: employee reports.

Here the job title comparisons aren't as direct, but we still see that the titles without "junior" make $6k-$13k more than the highest one with it.

Indeed

Where this data comes from: employee reports and job listings.

This data disagrees with the point I'm trying to make: it shows "junior software engineer" making $4k more than "entry level software engineer".

I'm skeptical of this because A) here they're using way fewer data points than Glassdoor (like, 20x less) and B) it's the only data source I've ever seen that finds "developer" to be a more expensive word than "engineer" (which is a whole nother thing...). I don't know what all is going on here but I don't think it does much damage to the point, especially considering the next source, which is based on actual pay reported to the government.

H1B visa data

Where this data comes from: the US Department of Labor (via h1bdata.info).

Here we see several direct comparisons between "junior" and the numeric level "1," and they show the "junior" variant making $1.5k-$7k less. (I couldn't find a direct analog for "software development engineer 1", but that one is associated with a much larger gap).

Conclusion

My point isn't that people breaking into this industry aren't being paid well. Compared to most industries, these numbers rule.

But this data suggests that "junior" is correlated with a salary reduction of ~$5k-$10k per year. And my interpretation is that most often the word causes the reduction, because companies choose a title containing "junior" and then set compensation levels based on lower industry averages.

Also, to my ear "junior" is infantilizing — it evokes dad jokes and nicknames like sport, tiger, and kiddo.

So: if you work at a company that uses "junior" in developer job titles, consider changing it or advocating that it be changed to better support people who are new-ish to this industry.

And if you're new-ish to this industry, be aware that the word "junior" in a job title might cause you to leave significant money on the table, which can have a compounding effect over your career. And use this knowledge to negotiate.

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