Staff software engineer VS senior software engineer

If you are asking what the difference is between a staff software engineer and a senior software engineer, this article is for you.

in this article, we’re going to discover:

  • the difference between a staff software engineer and a senior software engineer
  • the hierarchy in a software engineering company
  • What do senior engineers do?
  • What do staff engineer?
  • How senior engineer became staff engineer
  • finally give some tips

so if you want to know all aspects of a subject keep reading to not miss the steps.

Staff software engineer VS senior software engineer, the difference

A staff software engineer is a person who manages and leads a group of senior software engineers to ensure the fluency of the work. It paly the role of a leader, which ensures that the team of senior software engineers works in harmony to increase productivity.

In bigger software companies, the hierarchy is like the image below.

As you can see from the image above, staff engineers are higher grades than senior engineers.

in brief, we’re going to explain each software position engineering

1 junior engineer

A junior engineer is an engineer who has less than 2 years of experience. Normally junior engineers execute the daily task that manger like senior and staff engineers offer to them.

The salary of a junior engineer ranges from $80,000 in the beginning to $130,000 when he reaches 2 to 3 years of experience. This evolution in this career is unique.

In other words, no engineering field allows you to grow your income faster as much as software engineering.

You can read this article: 10 reasons why software engineers are overpaid

2 experienced engineer

Experienced engineers are people who typically have between 3 to 5 years of experience in the industry. These engineers don’t need an accompaniment like junior engineers. They know what they do.

As an experienced engineer, you can make $130,000 or even more if you work in some heavy math field like cybersecurity or data science.

you can read this article: 20 incredible CS jobs that have a ton of math(explained)

3 senior engineer

if you are skilled and very good at what you’re doing, in just 5 years, you can become a senior engineer. As a senior engineer, you will be taking or joining for your first time leadership position.

In other words, you will have a team to manage and be responsible for. You will be responsible also for mentoring and guiding junior engineers in work.

Senior engineers have two sides to jobs coding and leading. They are not like noraml engineers who spend their whole day designing and making apps.

As a senior engineer, you can be reaching $150,000 if you have a good portfolio and good skillset.

4 staff engineer

A staff engineer is a leader or responsible for all the senior engineers in the company, the job of a staff engineer focuses on managing the company staff, especially the rest of the team, including:

  • senior engineers
  • experienced engineers
  • junior engineers

But in most cases, the staff engineer has contact with senior engineers and the company’s director. It can also report directly to the CEO of the company.

An experienced staff engineer can earn up to $200,000, depending on his experience and productivity.

5 principal engineer

principal engineer is the highest engineering category you can reach as a software engineer developer. It is close to a staff engineer. And even some companies don’t make a differentiation between principal engineers and staff engineers.

They consider staff engineers and principal engineers in the same level of responsibility. They put them to work together.

But in general, the difference between a senior engineer and a staff engineer is that a staff engineer leads different levels of engineers, such as junior and senior ones. While senior engineers have a limited responsibility only to manage software engineers, especially the junior or beginners ones.

What do staff software engineers do?

Staff Software Engineers will spend an important amount of time mentoring and teaching other software engineers helping them to integrate fastly into the company by improving their skillset.

Sometimes staff software engineers may even have high-level roles in multiple teams, Mentoring them about specific projects.

Often, staff software engineers help improve the productivity of other software engineers.

Staff engineers typically are system architects and the head planner of the department they work on.

The most important thing about staff engineers is to ensure that the software engineers team works in harmony and solves some conflicts between engineers working on some projects.

And it is not uncommon for staff software engineers to be heavily involved in the recruitment and hiring of new engineers.

To summarise, a staff software engineer has actively involved 3 aspects :

  • in architecture and process improvements: think about how to improve the work and accelerate the speed of the work
  • manage and mentor an engineering team
  • have a good and solid opinion in terms of hiring new engineers

What does a senior software engineer do?

A senior engineer is a person that is responsible to make and design softwares in the company. To simplify a person that corrects and checks the software engineers’ work, including the junior ones.

This job has big similarities to staff engineering, but with less responsibility. Senior engineers have more authority and can complete their mission without no guidance.

Senior engineers are knowledgeable people on the team. It’s the people software engineers can go back to and ask for help.

But senior engineers don’t have total freedom to make individual decisions about problems like staff engineers or managers.

Staff engineer vs senior engineer job salaries

In terms of salary staff and senior engineers have no big differences in wages.

A senior software engineer can get between $130,000 to $200,000

staff engineers have a little big a higher wage from 140,000 to 210,000

The salary depends on the specialty. For example, cybersecurity engineers or data scientists tend to have higher wages than backend or front-end developers.

From senior engineer to staff engineer

Normally senior engineers need these 4 principals requirements that are:

1 – Have an experience

normally to transfer from senior engineer to staff engineer, you need 6 years or more of experience. This occupation is very sensitive. In other words, you will make a critical decision in the company.

So, in this case, experience plays an interesting role in this subject.

2 – Prove your talent

having 6 years or even 10 years of experience is not enough if you don’t prove your skillset in a domain. Because there are many experienced software engineers, you aren’t qualified to take this occupation.

The quality of the work you provide and offer to the company is the critical thing that allows you to take this position.

3 – Leadership skills

the third important thing is you need to have great leadership skills. Because the staff engineering job is human management more than technical engineering stuff like design and development.

if you don’t know how to communicate with people and convince them of your ideas, you won’t be able to take responsibility for a team.

4 – Teaching skills

The last important thing that companies consider is the ability to manage and especially teach software team engineers. Usually, this job is dedicated to senior engineers.

But staff engineers are the person who makes formation their staff to keep them updated in this fast-moving technology world.


To finish or close this post, we will give this simple analogy that differentiates the different levels of software engineers.

==> Junior engineers get a task of a day or 3 days as a maximum

==> Normal engineers get a task of a week

==> Senior engineers get a task or portion project for 3 months

==> Senior engineers get a big part of projects that last 6 months

The principal engineer is responsible for the whole project. He got the whole vision and knowledge of what is happening in the company.

These numbers are just examples, but the important thing is to know that the more responsibility you get, the wider your vision.

For further information, you can watch this interview talking about this subject.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.