I have been teaching myself programming for 3.5 years. 2.5 years ago, I got permission from my boss to create a Rails application to improve some of the core functionality of my team. My official job title does not say “Developer” or “Engineer” but I think I have the experience to start applying for developer jobs. It worth my time to apply for Senior Developers positions, or do I need to focus my time on just applying for the positions that require less experience?
Titles are not as important as work you have done in a professional capacity - work experience for programmers refers to code you have written for work - hobbies or studies don’t count as work though you can certainly list them as personal projects
My personal opinion is to apply anyway. You may not qualify for the job they’re trying to fill but they may find another position more suitable to your level if they like you enough. Usually smaller companies will have the flexibility to do this.
Just keep in mind that if you do this, your application may get filtered out by HR people before it ever hits the desk of the Hiring Manager. Apply the normal route, but then try to email someone in the engineering department your resume with a letter explaining why you’d make a good fit with the company and so on. You usually can find at least one person on LinkedIn who works there.
Others may disagree with this strategy. Use your judgement.
Don’t get to caught up in job titles. If you believe you have the skills or can learn them, apply. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t get a call. If you get a call and you are not sure about something, say so and say how you are the best person to go learn it. Good luck!