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Your Guide to Software Developer Salary and Career Growth

As our lives become more digitalized, software developers - the technical and creative minds behind computer programs and applications - are more sought after than ever. More and more companies are looking for talented tech professionals, so the software engineer career track is growing faster than average job growth. Between 2020 and 2030, the demand for software engineers is projected to rise by 22%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, it is no surprise that the number of people interested in starting a career in software development is constantly growing. Highly skilled IT specialists can earn robust compensation today, and the need for software developer skills across industries can help drive salaries even higher.

Whether you are about to start your career as a software developer or you are an experienced software engineer looking for ways to grow at work and increase your pay, this article is for you. We prepared helpful tips on how you can advance in your career while increasing your value as a tech expert and maximizing your income.

What Type of Software Developer Salary Should You Expect?

When looking for a job at career sites, it is easy to find an average starting salary or the overall average compensation of different IT jobs. However, a software developer career is a path that offers multiple levels of salary. Typically there are four levels of engineering:

Level 1: Software engineer salary

According to the latest Glassdoor Report, the starting salary for an entry-level software developer is around $111,000. However, it is important to note that the compensation may vary greatly depending on multiple factors such as previous coding experience, soft skills, location of the job, etc.

Level 2: Senior software engineer salary

The Level 2 software engineers usually make around $117,000, while in large tech hubs they can earn an average salary of $135,000. Senior software developers typically have 5+ years of working experience and a greater competency in skills and languages.

Level 3: Staff engineer salary

The average salary for a Level 3 engineer in the United States is around the same as a Level 2. Top earners at tech giants like Amazon and Meta can potentially make up to $200,000 as staff engineers.

Level 4: Principal engineer salary

The vast majority of software engineers do not progress to this level as it often requires 10+ years of experience and excellent managerial skills. This level is far less about coding and more about business and theoretical ideas. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a principal engineer is around $142,000, but it can go up to $900,000 at the big tech companies.

How Can You Maximize Your Software Developer Salary?

Update yourself

Even if you specialize in a particular niche, it is essential to keep improving your skills, especially if you plan on moving from one job to another. Any proven technology you work with may be out of date, so you need to ensure that you are on top of new technologies that come into the market. You should also pay attention to hot languages or tech industry trends and invest some time in learning them.

Consider freelance programming work

Freelance programming work is another way to break through the salary ceiling that you may run into at most companies. Working a freelance may mean that you will earn more than a full-time developer. You can often charge more than a company would pay you in a full-time role, especially if you work on an urgent project. However, getting to that point may require you to spend some time prospecting for new projects before you can build a pipeline of clients.

Switch companies

As with jobs in most fields, you will likely hit a salary ceiling if you work for one company long enough. Your work becomes stagnant at some point after a few years. You may still get small increases in pay, but switching to new teams and doing new things for companies working on different technologies will eventually reward you better. Planning to change tech jobs every four years is a healthy baseline. 

If you are looking for new job opportunities, you might need some professional help in your job search. Employa is working with companies that are actively looking for IT professionals. We match tech talent with innovative companies. If you think you would want to become a part of our client’s team, fill out the form here, and we will help you to land your next dream job.

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