What’s in a job title?

6 Jan 2015

As job titles become more (ahem) ‘creative’, Marie McLoughlin of Hays demystifies some of the more common ambiguous ones out there.

A job title, as described by the Collins English Dictionary, is a name that describes a person’s job in an organisation.

However, as a recruiter within the IT sector, I have noticed growing confusion over the range of job titles to describe the same job.  Equally, two people with the same job title may be doing completely different things depending on whom they work for.

This article will highlight some of the more common, ambiguous job titles and the recent trends in the industry when it comes to titling.

Level 1, 2, 3 support, tech support, helpdesk support, IT support, deskside support, system administrator

These can be the internal or externally facing professional troubleshooters who aid the end user. The titles can cover the support given to the desktop office worker, looking for help with hardware and applications, through to the tech support giving advice to a member of the public or a high-level, technical professional delivering complex support to corporate IT departments. Yet there is no defined title for any of these.

Developer, programmer and software engineer

These titles can mean different things depending on whom you are talking to. Although they do not mean the same thing, they are interrelated. To me the term ‘software engineer’ is becoming more widely used on job descriptions but its meaning is becoming more generic. The role is not clearly defined until you consider a person’s level of experience. Junior software engineers are mainly involved in writing basic code while more senior individuals are involved in designing and developing large-scale systems and applications. While it cannot be assumed a programmer or developer simply writes code when there are jobs such as UX or UI developer that don’t require any code writing.

Project manager, programme manager

Project manager is possibly one of the vaguest titles in the IT industry, especially when you consider it can relate to managing projects in a myriad of other industries. Project managers typically organise people, time and resources and co-ordinate a project from start to finish, which in the IT world can be a huge range of challenges. A programme manager performs a similar job, but manages multiple projects at a time.

Business analyst, enterprise analyst

Business analysts and enterprise analysts more or less do the same job. They are responsible and accountable for the technical, operational and economical requirements and analysis phase of a project. They act as the primary resource in the requirements phase of a project and the primary business representative in the design and development phases of the project.


Due to the increased number of major US tech companies with large operations in Ireland, their job titles are also crossing the Atlantic. In the last few years, we have seen an increase in people taking on senior level titles, such as vice-president and assistant vice-president.

Return of the Jedi

Only this time it is in the form of a job title. Another recent trend in the development world has been the introduction of interesting job titles such as ‘Java Jedi’ and ‘Net Ninja’. Is it a fun, novel way of making your job stand out and attracting your target candidates or a silly fad? Time will tell.

From a candidate perspective, is it wise to call yourself a ninja, or even a VP for that matter? In today’s world, if you want to be a searchable candidate, you need to choose the most commonly searched term for your job role. The same applies to a hiring company when choosing a job title, for that matter. Of course the most popular job title in one country might be different to another so it’s worth considering the location.

You can test how common your job title is simply by entering the name into a common tech job board in the country where you are looking for a job, or advertising a job. Note how many times that job title is listed. If you see another job title, but a similar description of duties to your own, enter that search term and see if it is more popular. Or alternatively, talk to a good IT recruiter as they will know the trends and the most common terms.

Marie McLoughlin

Marie McLoughlin is a senior recruitment consultant at Hays who specialises in contract recruitment for project managers, testers, solutions architects and developers.

Job title image via Shutterstock

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