Developer pay: Here's how salaries rise with experience across programming languages

A fresh analysis of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2019 shows patterns in how programmer pay grows over time.

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Software development is a relatively well-paid profession, but how does the pay for programmers rise over time?

A new analysis shows salaries for developers tend to climb steadily for at least 20 years, rising to more than $100,000 in annual pay. The pattern was revealed by fresh analysis of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2019. The annual Stack Overflow survey is one of the most comprehensive snapshots of how programmers work, with this year's poll being taken by almost 90,000 developers across the globe.

As would be expected starting salaries vary significantly based on location, with the median pay for new developers in the US being $70,000, in the UK being $36,000, and globally being $26,100.

There's a similar gap when it comes to pay for experienced devs, with the median pay for developers after 20 years sitting at $138,000 in the US, $105,000 in the UK, and $99,200 globally.

SEE: Python is eating the world: How one developer's side project became the hottest programming language on the planet (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

As you can see in the graphs below, there are some common patterns regardless of location, with pay climbing steadily for the first 20 years or so before growth becomes less predictable, although this tailing off seems to happen later in the US than in the UK.

payus-so.jpg

The median annual salary in thousands of US dollars for full-time developers in the US charted against the number of years of professional coding.

Image: Stack Overflow / Count
payuk-so.jpg

The median annual salary in thousands of US dollars for full-time developers in the UK charted against the number of years of professional coding.

Image: Stack Overflow / Count
payglobalso.jpg

The median annual salary in thousands of US dollars for full-time developers worldwide charted against the number of years of professional coding.

Image: Stack Overflow / Count

Of course, these figures show an average across all developers, and the amount earned varies according to specialism, with a junior web developer typically earning substantially less than a newly qualified data scientist. These disparities are reflected in the salary related to developer's primary programming language, shown below.

stackoverflowlanguagepay.jpg

Most highly paid languages globally, on the left, and in the US, on the right. Shown are the median annual salaries for each language.

Image: Stack Overflow

The official Stack Overflow Developer Survey report found that reward for experience differs between languages, with developers using languages such as Clojure, Scala, Go, Rust, and R, being paid more for the number of years they've been working with the language than is true for languages like PHP, Assembly, and VBA.  

Repeated surveys have also suggested there is an ageism problem in the tech industry, particularly within Silicon Valley, with a 2017 report by Visier finding the industry tends to be less willing to hire gen Xers and baby boomers than millenials. One of the largest tech firms in the world, IBM, was recently accused of running a "fire-and-hire discriminatory scheme" aimed at purging older workers, in a lawsuit filed in the US.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

However, it's difficult to see evidence of ageism when correlating employment status with age in the Stack Overflow survey data, and, although the data doesn't ask the nature of the employment, earnings generally appear to also increase with age.

payage-so.jpg

The median annual salary in thousands of US dollars for full-time developers worldwide charted against the age of developers.

Image: Stack Overflow / Count

The generous pay packets for programmers identified by Stack Overflow are reflected by data from elsewhere, with the Dice 2019 Tech Salary Report showing technology professionals earned an annual average salary of $93,244 in 2018.

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