A few decades ago, if you wanted to have a software application created, you simply needed to hire a developer and all of your problems would be over. However, increasing development challenges coupled with a shortage of skills have led to the spiking demand for software development skills. As the law of supply and demand would dictate, the situation has blown the salary package of software developers through the roof.

Although the news of a high salary may excite many, it’s important to carefully look at the bigger picture. For example, which country/region pays the best salaries? Also, where can you get the most opportunities as a developer? This is because, in most cases, salary is commensurate with experience, location, and industry.

In this article, we are going to break down everything you need to know about the salaries as a developer. We are also going to conduct a salary comparison between different countries and industries. At the end of it all, you should be able to estimate your potential salary after taxes before you decide to leave your current position.

Who are software developers?

Basically, these are the individuals responsible for building computer programs that allow users to execute specific tasks on either computers or other devices. A good example would be a Ruby developer. These individuals help build underlying systems that control the server side of web applications.

According to a [report by the IDC](report by the IDC), the global population of software developers in 2018 was estimated to be 22.30 million. Of this number, 11.65 million worked full-time, 6.35 million part-time, and 4.30 million non-professionally.

Restricting these numbers to countries, the United States hosts the largest population of developers, clocking in at 651,017. The U.S. is closely followed by China with 183,805, and India comes in a close third. However, this matrix is expected to see a major overhaul, with India expected to surpass the U.S. and China by 2023.

Global software developer salary outlook

Over the years, software developers have continued to register one of the highest average salaries compared to other professionals in the industry. For instance, in 2011, software developers earned an average of $89,280. Fast-forward to today, and the average global salary of a software engineer has pole-vaulted to $101,709. With that said, it’s important to emphasize that these numbers may vary depending on the city, country, region, and continent.

Software developer salary by country

Almost predictably, the country offering the highest minimum annual salary/pay rate is the U.S. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary in the U.S. is $101,790. For an entry-level software engineer position, the salary ranges between $56,000 and $85,000.

Software Developer's salary

Average annual software developer salary worldwide (Source: Mobilunity.com)

Eastern Europe emerges as one of the regions in Europe that has the cheapest workforce. The highest mean salary in a country like Ukraine is $24,652 annually. Belarus and Poland are also painted with almost an equal rate, which makes the region one of the best places to hire from, especially for remote work.

Software developer salary by coding experience

Another crucial element that greatly influences the developer’s salary is their coding experience. For example, earning an annual salary of $200,000 is unusual, although not unheard of. Salary.com indicates that a developer in the U.S. with five years of experience and above can earn up to $146,893. Using the same parameter, Glassdoor.com puts the number at $112,000.

In France, the same job cadre would attract a $40,000 salary package. On the other hand, Germany and Canada allow developers with the same experience to ask for anything between $55,000 and $75,000.

When it comes to salary by industry, machine-learning (ML) developers take the day. The average salary is $114,826, although the amount can go as high as $137,000. This upward salary trend is driven by big tech companies like Google fervently looking for ML specialists to support their latest innovations.

What does the future hold?

The aforementioned values being the current rates, what does 2020 hold for software developers? In reality, the future salaries of software developers will be influenced by multiple variables and uncertainties. However, 2020 looks promising for these professionals. It is projected that software engineering employment opportunities will grow at a rate of 24% by the year 2026, as compared to 11% of all other occupations combined.

This unprecedented growth is largely driven by the increasing demand for mobile, health care, and computer security software. Online purchasing and an upsurge of internet-enabled devices will also play a big role in the spiking demand for software developers.

What does all of this mean?

Over the past few years, salaries in the entire tech industry have stagnated. However, come 2020, employers will have to offer super-competitive salaries if they are to effectively compete in this tight labor market. A report by Forrester estimates that companies will have to pay 20% on top of the prevailing market salaries if they are to attract skilled software developers.

Based on this report and the current global average salary of a developer, it is safe to conclude that these professionals could average over $120,000 in 2020. The primary possible hindrance to such a boom could be the advent of more sophisticated development platforms that require less programming knowledge.

Final thoughts

How much developers can earn is a subjective matter. This is because many factors like experience, location, labor laws, industry, and cost of living come into play in determining the appropriate remuneration package. For instance, some people may recommend the U.S. as the best hunting ground for a developer. However, a high salary will rapidly erode when the general cost of living is factored in.

As a developer, on top of having excellent salary-negotiating skills, you need to consider job flexibility, working environment, telecommuting options, training, pension plans, health care, bonuses, etc.

As an employer still wondering how to estimate salary, always refer to a salary calculator, as it gives you an idea of the prevailing market conditions and the salary packages of different experience cadres. After all, when looking to hire a developer, simply looking at the cash amount is not only short-sighted but could also lead to losing out on a potentially excellent employee.