Software Engineer Salary Guide
The way to approach software development with systematic engineering.
So, what is a software engineer? A software engineer (SE) is a computer scientist who possesses the knowledge of programming languages and engineering principles to:
- Build software products
- Develop computer games
- Run network control systems
SEs are also called "software developers."
Why should I pursue a SE career? The US Department of Labor stated that as of 2020, 1 million people were working in this field. Moreover, the occupation has a bright future because of the massive reliance on smart devices.
The Department also predicted that the number of SEs will increase by 22% annually by 2030.
Therefore, this career path would be advantageous if you enjoy solving problems and making digital products easy to use. Moreover, the job would be fun and challenging for you since technology is evolving continuously.
If you choose this occupation, you also have a lucrative and broad choice of industries. For example, you can work in:
Or any other industry
To learn more about different industries, check out our Industry article.
To learn more about different players in the IT industry, check the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Investment Banking article.
Notice that the list above does not include IT. That is because the IT industry provides a wide range of opportunities, but if you include other sectors, you have flexibility, a significant advantage for your future.
The chances are that a company, regardless of the industry, would probably need a software engineer (SWE). The other advantage of the role is that you can work from home for companies in different cities or other countries.
In that case, the only requirement would be to submit all the work on time (meeting the deadline requirements). So, try to deliver the projects on time.
You also have functional flexibility after you have become an SWE. You can choose to work either with applications or with systems. You may also advance in your career and become a senior SEs.
It is a broad field.
Developers possess various technical skills such as:
Overall, there are two primary types of software developers:
- Applications Software Developers
- Systems Software Developers
1. Application Software Developers
The work of this type of developer is more client-focused. The primary responsibilities of application software developers are:
- Design software for the end-user to interact with
- Conduct requirements analysis
- Tweak software and release updates regularly
- Develop applications for Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, and more
2. Systems Software Developers
The systems software developers are responsible for both software and hardware needs. Their primary tasks include:
- Build networks and operating systems (OS) for user-facing applications
- Integrate disparate software products onto one platform
- Update to new technologies and maintain IT documentation
- Design and enforce IT standards
- Serve as systems architects or general IT managers
These two types could also be considered too general. If you want to be more precise, there are six types of software developers that are included in those two categories:
- Web developers: They are building websites via Wix and Square. They also work with CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
- Back-end developers: They primarily work on the logical side of business operations. They are making the process easier for the firm. The main languages are:
- Fullstack developers: They are a symbol of Front-end and Back-end developers.
- Mobile App Developers: As the name suggests, they build apps for smartphones we use daily. They can write native apps for iOS (on Swift and Objective-C) and Android (on Java and Kotlin).
- Desktop App Developers: They make desktop applications for Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Linux, and other operating systems.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in the US varies from $105,310 (for app developers) to $110,140 (for system developers).
However, the average annual wage for all software developers is $93,972, and most employers offer the following benefits:
- Annual cash bonus of $4,700
Salaries by years of experience in the US:
|Years of Experience||Average Salary per Year|
|Less than 1 year (Entry Level)||$87,809|
|1 to 2 years (Early Career)||$90,215|
|3 to 5 years (Mid Career)||-|
|6 to 9 years (Late Career)||$103,188|
|More than 10 years (Experienced)||$118,218|
"Ok, but what are the best-paid skills and qualifications for SEs?"
The most recommended skill is the Scala programming language. Indeed reported that the job positions requiring this skill have grown by 6.76% since 2018. In addition, engineers who possess this skill earn 24.3% more than the average salary.
Let us take a look at more critical skills and qualifications that pay well:
|Top Fields of Study||Salary||Job Openings||Companies|
|Engineering Management Degree||+78.42%||2 jobs||3|
|Business Information Systems Degree||+66.20%||14 jobs||19|
|Mechanical Engineering Degree||+36.77%||63 jobs||91|
|Electrical Engineering Degree||+6.71%||683 jobs||1,493|
|Medical Degree||+10.16%||200 jobs||415|
|Top Skill||Salary||Job Openings||Companies|
|OS Kernels||+17.55%||512 jobs||1,244|
|Big Data||+17.35%||398 jobs||1,005|
|Machine Learning||+11.71%||989 jobs||3,190|
|Data Structures||+10.99%||1,103 jobs||4,655|
Overall, you need to have the following skills to be successful in this field:
- Operating systems
- Coding languages like Python, Java, C, C++, or Scala
- Cloud computing
- Object-oriented programming
- Design testing and debugging
- Database architecture
- Version control
- Agile and Scrum project management
- Attention to detail
But, what are the most common benefits for SWEs?
Here are the expected benefits for this profession in the US:
|- 401(k) - 401(k) matching - AD&D insurance - Commuter assistance - Dental insurance - Disability insurance - Employee assistance program - Employee discount - Employee stock purchase plan - Flexible schedule||- Flexible spending account - Food provided - Gym membership - Health insurance - Health savings account - Life insurance - Opportunities for advancement - Paid sick time - Paid time off - Parental leave||- Professional development assistance - Profit-sharing - Referral program - Relocation assistance - Retirement plan - Stock options - Tuition reimbursement - Unlimited paid time off - Vision insurance - Work from home|
According to Indeed, the following five companies are considered the top employers:
- Apple ($171,975 per year)
- Google ($159,189 per year)
- Capital One ($157,969 per year)
- Meta (Facebook) ($152,697 per year)
- Walmart ($151,702 per year)
You might think there's no point working there since the salaries are too low compared to other jobs. Before making the judgment let me give you another piece of the overall picture. I am talking about the total compensation structure. The total compensation consists of:
- Base salary (in most websites and official statistics, you see this figure only)
- Bonuses (could be 15-35% of your base salary)
- Stocks and stock options (stock-based compensation that might be twice your base salary)
Let us take the example of Google. The compensation varies by the level of hierarchy, scope, and responsibility of the employee in the company. Those in levels 1 and 2 are typically entry-level employees with little work experience.
According to Levels Fyi, the average compensation by the level at Google is the following:
|Level Name||Total||Base||Stock (per year)||Bonus|
|L3 SWE II – Entry Level||$190,995||$131,704||$38,375||$20,889|
|L4 SWE III||$268,349||$159,828||$80,179||$28,342|
|L5 Senior SWE||$358,415||$189,259||$132,418||$36,738|
|L6 Staff SWE||$497,577||$225,391||$214,818||$57,368|
|L7 Senior Staff SWE||$703,618||$265,059||$354,235||$84,324|
|L8 Principal Engineer||$1,055,656||$331,500||$604,531||$119,625|
The total compensation (Salary + Bonuses + Stocks) range for each seniority level is the following:
|Level Name||Total Compensation Range|
|L3||$150,000 - $250,000|
|L4||$210,000 - $360,000|
|L5||$280,000 - $488,000|
|L6||$363,000 - $660,000|
|L7||$500,000 - $957,000|
|L8||$710,000 - $1,273,000|
- Annually (if less than 32 GSUs)
- Semi-annually (32-63 GSUs)
- Quarterly (64-159 GSUs)
- Monthly (160+ GSUs)
According to Indeed, the highest-paying US cities are the following:
- San Francisco, CA - $114,639 per year
- San Jose, CA - $109,077 per year
- New York, NY - $108,853 per year
- Seattle, WA - $105,459 per year
- San Diego, CA - $100,636 per year
- Atlanta, GA - $98,851 per year
- Austin, TX - $97,344 per year
- Houston, TX - $95,936 per year
- Kansas City, MO - $93,057 per year
The top four states for a career are:
- California (+22% salary compared to the national average)
- New York (+12% salary compared to the national average)
- Maryland (+6% salary compared to the national average)
- Massachusetts (+5% salary compared to the national average)
"Could you please explain the career perspectives of several regions?"
Sure. We will talk about the seven regions of the US.
Here is the data based on Hack Reactor:
One of the regions with competitive salaries. The best states of the region include:
- New York
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Islands
All of these states offer salaries from $107,000 to $135,000. This salary might be decent or considered the bare minimum, depending on where you live.
For example, Pennsylvania has the lowest cost of living in this region. New Hampshire and Delaware are also considered affordable compared with other states but are still expensive. New York and Massachusetts could be the most expensive states.
The South region has the following leading states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
These states offer the third most competitive salaries after the Western and Northeast regions. However, the pay might be low in Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Although these states offer lower salaries, the cost of living is much lower. Thus it gives you a chance to have a higher difference between your income and expenses.
3. Upper Midwest
Most states in this region offer $90,000 to $107,000 salary. In Illinois and Minnesota, you have more chances to have a six-figure salary. North and South Dakota offer you the lowest range of wages.
This region is considered one of the most affordable regions.
4. Lower Midwest
This region pays a lower salary compared to the nationwide average pay. Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri are the states with rising wages and opportunities, but Oklahoma offers the lowest payment in the region.
This region has the best balance between pay and the cost of living. Most states are on the list of the most affordable salaries in the US. Although some metro areas could be too expensive, the region will still be inexpensive.
5. Rocky Mountain
Colorado is the dominating state in this region. The Denver and Boulder areas attract many tech companies and qualified employees. Arizona and Utah also offer great job opportunities for engineers. Remember that New Mexico State is at the bottom of the salaries list.
New Mexico also has a low cost of living due to its lack of opportunities. On the other hand, non-metro areas in Colorado are highly affordable for many people.
California, Washington, and Oregon offer you the most incredible opportunities in the US. The cost of living reflects that. The first most expensive state is California, with the second on the list being Oregon.
If you want to enjoy rising salaries and have some affordability, you better work in Idaho.
7. Alaska and Hawaii
In both states, you can easily find a job with a six-figure (>$100,000) annual salary. The only problem would be the cost of living. Unfortunately, these are the most expensive states, twice as high as the national average living expenses.
There are several steps to becoming a software developer.
1. Determine your software engineering career path
This is the first step you have to take if you want to start any kind of career. If you don't know your goal, how will you achieve it? You will be like a lost ship in the ocean. Here is the list of specializations in software engineering:
- Web Developers
- Front-end Developers
- Back-End Developers
- Full-Stack Developers
- Mobile App Developers
- Desktop App Developers
You might choose one occupation over another based on your skills and wants. Imagine your dream job, ideal working hours, the most appropriate corporate culture, minimum salary, and work mode (remote or at the office).
2. Learn skills through degrees, coding boot camps, or certificates
Getting a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, or engineering in four years might help you get into software engineering. You can also study computer science and other relevant courses in community college.
That way, you can transfer to computer development, but remember that these ways are not the only ones to get the foot in the door: another way is to get into a Bootcamp.
In a Bootcamp, you study practical, language-specific skills and information technology fundamentals. The duration of the Bootcamp is usually from 8 to 30 weeks. The main goal of boot camps is to prepare you to get a job as soon as possible.
If you don't have time for a degree or boot camps, you can get individual courses and study them at your own pace. You can pick any courses that are aligned with your interests.
Python is one of the most demanded skills in any IT profession. Our Machine Learning - Python Fundamentals course will help you learn Python's basics. If you want to study more advanced use of Python, check out our Applied Machine Learning course.
If you want to buy both courses, you can save money by purchasing our Python Machine Learning Package.
The following certifications are the most in-demand ones:
- Certified Software Engineer
- Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP)
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
- C Certified Professional Programmer (CLP)
- C++ Certified Professional Programmer (CPP)
- AWS Certified Developer
3. Take programming projects and build your portfolio.
If you want to get a job as an engineer, you've got to work as an engineer. Build your coding portfolio, a website that shows potential employers your credentials and professional experience. You have to include the following information about yourself:
- Programming projects
- Samples of your work (with screenshots)
You have to update your portfolio as you work. You can also add illustrations and animations to your work.
4. You should create your resume and apply to your first job.
You should build your resume. This is the most critical task in getting a software engineering job. After finishing your resume, you should submit it to the job search websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and JustTechJobs (tech-specific job search engine).
You should include the following sections:
- Programming languages
- Specialization areas
- Professional certifications
Always customize your resume to the position or company you are applying for. That way, you would increase your chances of getting a job.
Software Engineer Salary Guide FAQs
It depends on your efforts. It might take four years to go with a traditional bachelor's degree in computer science. On the other hand, studying the intensive boot camps and individual courses might even get a job in six months, so it all depends on you.
Three factors formed high salary for this occupation:
- limited supply for its demand
- high responsibilities
- the effort to be adaptive
The job is quite technical and requires computer science skills (acquired via either bachelor's degree or a specialized training program). In the beginning, it might be challenging. But, once you get comfortable with it and have practical skills, you can get a job quickly.