The job market for developers might be picking up slightly these days but how much are you prepared to work for as a professional developer?

This topic was recently raised on one of the Australian .NET user group mailing lists and caused quite a heated discussion. To summarise, a subscriber posted to the list asking for a developer to work on an ASP.NET Web application project with a preference to work in C# over a three month period. The price was negotiable but a rough ballpark figure of $50 an hour was given.

Now this happens quite a bit on developer forums, but the next post caused quite a few mixed responses. It read -You have to be kidding!” and continued to tell the list that such work starts at $66 dollars an hour.

Some within the professional industry might think that this figure is a touch low for someone who has been professionally trained or has taken the time to learn the skills involved for this project. But do some developers really have a choice, especially when contract work like this can be hard to come by?

The skills of developers vary greatly and I agree that different services and skills are more complex and hard to find and should be priced accordingly. However the tools to build such applications are readily available so one has to wonder why developers think they are worth more than this rate?

As a full-time journalist I salivate at the thought of getting $50 dollars an hour for Web programming. Rates for such programming were three or four times that a few years ago because the tools were not as readily available and the work involved a little bit more hands-on coding magic. Well, maybe not magic, but it involved a little more trial and error than it does now.

In 2004 I believe it takes more time to find out exactly what a customer wants, to test the final application and to tweak any changes needed than to actually build the Web application. Much of the work for this type of application can be done by IDE’s, tools, examples and existing code.

What do you think? As software developers are we selling ourselves short for accepting apparent lower than market rates for our services? Do we need an award or industry group to judge market rates for skills and technology?

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