itwbennett writes “You can make a decent living as a software developer, and if you were lucky enough to get hired at a pre-IPO tech phenom, you can even get rich at it. But set your sights above the average and below Scrooge McDuck and you won’t find many developers in that salary range. In fact, the number of developers earning $200,000 and above is under 10%, writes blogger Phil Johnson who looked at salary data from Glassdoor, Salary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How does your salary rate? What’s your advice for earning the big bucks?”
Some interesting replies (heavily US centric view):
Anonymous Coward :
I make 200+k a year working in Washington state, I’m a devops(aka a seriously good generalist).
To be blunt, I am better than most people and no I don’t know everything. The problem with most people they have ZERO initiative in improving themselves. The fact is I’m a high school dropout which started coding for cash when I was rather young. I torched my childhood for education and experience, I regret nothing. I’m always in a state of learning, keeping up with new tech, OSs of all types, security and even find time for a personal life.
TL;DR: stop playing video games and hit the books continuously.
– Depends on where you live
In Taiwan, I make about twice what the average person with an equivalent education level in a different field would make, but that’s still way, way lower than $200000usd a year. Adjusting for the cost of living, I’m actually pretty well off, but this pay would suck in the US.
– Issue Is…
I work in IT for a large multinational company and the issue I see with our approach to developers is better, faster, cheaper. In reality what this boils down to is cheaper and good enough. Projects tend to drag on for longer then they should but the development expense from a salary perspective is fairly minimal because the bulk of it is being done offshore.
I think if you want to earn the big dollars as a programmer either need to be the best in the field working for one of the big tech guys like Apple, Google, Etc… Or you need to go work for a start-up for bad starting wages but a percentage ownership in the company.
The only other option I see is going out on your own and starting your own development company but then if you earn big dollars it’s because your business is doing well not because you are programming most of the time.
– Re:This just in….
Anonymous Coward :
I do it doing mere web developing… as a freelancer. If you’re good, big companies will hire you for months for $80 – $100 per hour. They will do that because they are failing to find the right guys, or management read about flex work in a magazine. This does not sound like much, compared to the hourly rare of a lawyer for example. The magic trick is billable hours. Do this for 10 months a year, and you have $140000. Do it for 8 and you still make more than my lawyer. Then I do some hosting, domain name, mail services etc. for some prior clients, run some ads on private project sites, and have a small hobby webshop with specialized items.
Before this I was a web developer for web development and design companies. Then what the client pays goes to sales guys, middle management, project managers, and the boss. And a little to me. Oh, they might have nice extras such as a car or whatever. Which means you don’t get the cost of that paid, but you pay the overhead. Freelance isn’t for everyone though. You need the skills, the discipline, the market/location, the client skills, and so on. And if you work your way up in a big company, you’ll have more budget and may have more interesting possibilities.
– I make a decent living as a Data Analyst
Anonymous Coward :
Posting anonymously only because I know my employees read Slashdot but:
I make a very decent living (not 200k but well above the median income for the area) working managing data analysts using SAS and R. This field is rapidly growing and without enough graduates coming out of college with the appropriate mix of programming, math, and business skill we find ourselves looking for anyone with any relevant knowledge combination.
This void is being filled at a nearly alarming rate of high salaries for what amounts to somewhat limited skill. The average salary for someone with 3-5 years of related experience is just under $100,000/year + benefits, which is pretty impressive for an area which has a median income of about $53,000 a year.
Want to get money as a developer? Learn to write SQL, SAS and now especially R and be able to do simple statistics, generate explanatory charts on queried data, and have decent communication skill.
The #1 advice I can give is NOT to take a “full time” job. Work as a contractor. Contractors have always gotten paid significantly more than “full time” developers, and have the added benefits of being able to move between jobs much more quickly.
– Location & Risk/Reward (4, Insightful)
Two factors to consider: Location and risk/reward ratio.
The “$200,000” figure — as mentioned earlier in the discussion — is extremely location-dependent. Let’s say you live in Salt Lake City, UT and make $100,000 per year. I’m from the area, and $90K-$110K seems to be a very typical pay rate for sysadmins and programmers with 10 or more years of experience in their field, if you include health and other benefits in the W-2 (all the employers do!). Then let’s cross-reference that with the Cost Of Living calculator at http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/ [cnn.com] . To enjoy an equivalent quality of life, here’s what that guy needs to make (these are all area averages, not the specific cities referenced):
San Francisco, CA: $171,987
Los Angeles, CA: $140,380
Seattle, WA: $123,784
Raleigh, NC: $99,154
Austin, TX: $97,991
New York, NY (Manhattan): $231,289
New York, NY (Queens): $162,684
Advice for earning the big bucks? If you want to earn a high-end “salary”, move to one of the technology hubs. Get an education in finance and high-end mathematics. Or get a security clearance, shine up your resume and skills, and plan to have no life outside of work due to travel abroad. Get some solid experience, get in on some high-profile projects, and job-hop when you’re at the apex of your visibility in your company for much better pay.
If you don’t want to live in Silicon Valley or New York, then be your own boss. Write your own products. Innovate in a field that lacks innovation. Develop software nobody has really thought of before. Monetize it and make a living. Cash out by selling the company to a bigger fish, and start working on your next idea. My company, for instance, buys small companies who create innovative software a LOT and integrates that software into its other offerings. And that strategy works very well for continually expanding the customer base and revenue. Sometimes it works out well for the little guy, sometimes not. It’s a risk of running your own business.
Working for someone in a “typical” IT or software engineering field is typically not gonna make you rich. It can make you a good living with solid pay and far less stress than running your own business or working in high-pressure financial and security markets, though. And you’re less likely to lose several fortunes on your way to making a fortune if someone else takes the risk, and you get paid the salary. Risk/Reward.
For me, quality of life matters a lot. I’ve been on both sides of the fence (trying to make it in business for myself vs. drawing a salary), and right now in my life it makes more sense to draw a reasonable salary doing a job that I love in a great environment working with quality people and making a positive difference without feeling that my job is my life. But I know I’m probably not going to strike it rich doing so… and I’m OK with that.
– Management, ownership, PhD but not “employees”
I would imagine that anyone wanting to earn over $200,000 per year (and not living in some of the super high cost of living cities like NYC or LA) would need to:
1) Have a PhD and a proven record in developing marketable, patentable technology. Basically advanced knowledge and experience that makes you extremely valuable AND very, very difficult to replace.
2) An ownership stake in whatever the business is beyond being a minor shareholder. This means partner or substantial investor in the business where you get to make decisions.
3) Management involvement, and this probably removes you from the programmer or “do-er” category.
I think salaries over $200k in most of the country would be extremely unusual for people who actually do work and aren’t management, highly educated/professionally credentialed or owners.
I think senior management generally doesn’t want to pay that kind of money for people who actually do work. I think it violates cultural norms in business by altering the status quo hierarchy. Pay is used to enforce the hierarchy and someone making that much money might feel a little too independent for his actual place in the system.
It’s also an open question why you would need to spend so much money for someone in that role. I’m sure there are a small handful of “superstars” who might be that valuable, but there’s only so many of those people, jobs and managers who recognize that.
And even if you found a job that would pay like that, I’m sure it would come with horrible deadlines, terrible travel, bad working conditions, etc.
– Absolute salaries need adjusting…
If you don’t take into account geographical issues, saying “$200K” means very little.
I am a Mexican software developer. I consider myself well paid, and while I am far from living a life of luxury, I get enough to even set some aside to make some savings. My salary? Somehwere around US$25K a year. And I find I am a bit over the average in my country — Take as an example the study on salaries for 2012 published by Software Gurú [sg.com.mx] , a national software development magazine.
(For reference sake, the US dollar is currently at ~MX$12, and we usually talk about our payment in monthly periods… so for your convenience, you can even read the numbers presented as if they were yearly salaries in US dollars 😉 )
– Just get out of debt and you’ll be fine.
Anonymous Coward :
Always strive to get the most you can, but honestly don’t worry about not making over $200k. Doing something you can enjoy is more important.
I was making $50k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
I then made it up to $100k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
Which was ridiculous! I’m making double the money but my debt ratio is the same!
I now have no car payment, investing money into retirement, giving, and I’m on goal to have my house paid off this year – at age 30.
Yes I know cost of living varies, but if you budget your money, stay out of restaurants, and get out of debt you’ll live great even earning well below Scrooge McDuck.
(Dave Ramsey’s baby steps…)
– 50K. 120K. Same work.
I made 50K doing IT for a department at MIT.
I made 120K for exactly the same work at a hedge fund.
THat’s a 70K price to pay for the intense satisfaction that comes from helping scientists engage in science. Worth it IMO.
– Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words…
Ever read “Freakonomics”? The author spent some time with a gang (There’s a story right there.) and found that economically the drug business resembles McDonalds. A few execs at the top make the big bucks, the rest have to live with their parents.
– Step 1: Move to an expensive area
I would imagine most jobs paying $200K are in areas where $200K does’t go as far as it would in other places. It is somewhat arbitrary to look at a dollar figure without looking at what it will cost you to live within a reasonable distance of said job.
– Re:Step 1: Move to an expensive area
Anonymous Coward :
Exactly. I make significantly less than the industry average for my position, BUT I live in a six bedroom, 3 bath house on half an acre in the middle of a small/medium city. Work is 10 minutes from the house, the house is 5 minutes from shopping, and I’m 45 minutes from great fishing (and 2 hours from world-class fishing). My children go to great schools. My community has a low crime rate. There’s a commuter airport ten minutes away and an international airport 3 hours away (by car). We have a nice theatre group in town and strong performing arts because of the local university. I work in a nice office with a door. I don’t work for a publicly traded company and so I don’t have to worry about the hellish nightmare called the quarterly report and all it entails. Oh…… and my bosses aren’t Wall Street jerks with over-inflated egos and under-performing morals.
What’s $200k compared to that? If I were to move to a large city I would have to command a salary of well over $200k to keep the same lifestyle. The money isn’t really in the big companies unless you are a top-tier executive. It’s in small to medium sized corporations where you can work in a smaller city for a comparatively higher standard of living.
– Re:Step 1: Move to an expensive area
Working in a location that pays higher dollars makes perfect sense if you are also investing that money in a house/condo in the same area. Why? Because it is not a bad retirement plan. You sell your $1m condo in downtown whereever and buy a nice home in a country setting for less than half that and live off the rest. Risk the housing market will go down? Yes, but not as much risk as in less dense areas, and IMHO lower than the risk of investing in the stock/bonds/currencies/minerals/commodities markets.
You should still have some retirement savings, but living and working in a high standard of living area and then moving out later is a good idea. If you can stand it.
The $200,000 Software Developer | Slashdot