Software runs the modern world, and software engineers are in high demand because they are needed to develop, deploy, update, and debug this software. This also means software engineers get paid well. The average pay for a full-stack developer is over $110,000 per year in the U.S. and is in the top 100 highest paying jobs, according to Indeed.
Of course, that's just the average for one software engineering job description and pay can vary widely depending on your title and location, but it is relatively high compared to many other careers. According to PayScale, the average salary for a software engineer is around $87,000.
In this article, we'll take a look at the average salaries for different software engineering roles as well as what factors to into determining your pay. The salaries in this article are listed in U.S. dollars, but software engineer salaries are lucrative around the globe.
What determines your pay as a software engineer?
There are quite a few factors that will determine how much you get paid as a software engineer. Here are the main factors:
Education is a factor that determines a software engineer's salary and one of the factors the engineer can control. While a college degree — especially a computer science degree — may help you get a higher salary when you're just starting out, it's not a requirement for many software engineering jobs. You can always get more education to build more skills by taking courses on new technology. Hiring managers and recruiters know that knowledge of and passion for technology are really the only requirements and won't pass on a good candidate with a great skillset just because they don't have a degree.
Having the right experience will also get a software engineer a higher salary. Software engineers with years of experience have learned things that courses and college never taught them. Senior software engineers who have more than six years of experience have worked with multiple software stacks, know the upsides and downsides of each, and make quick, accurate decisions that would take a junior engineer a lot more time and research.
The pay a software engineer receives also depends on their industry. This changes over time, depending on how the business landscape shifts and where software engineers are in short supply. Currently, transportation, education, communication, retail, entertainment, and healthcare pay the most for software engineers.
A software engineer's salary also depends on the technology they know and will be using on the job. For example, an engineer who knows how to build a website with WordPress will most likely get paid less than an engineer who creates machine learning models because many developers know how to build WordPress sites. Other technologies that pay high salaries are augmented reality, virtual reality, video game development, mobile application development, and embedded development.
Software engineers definitely get paid better in locations like Seattle and San Francisco than in other cities. But they also have to pay more for housing, rent, and groceries because the cost of living is also higher. Companies located in big tech hubs like these usually pay above-average salaries, but the competition for these jobs is fierce.
Software engineer pay by experience level
One of the biggest factors for a software engineer's salary is experience level. The other is knowledge. A senior-level engineer will get paid more than a mid-level engineer whose salary will be higher than a junior software engineer. Similarly, a full-stack software engineer will more often than not get paid more than either a front-end or back-end engineer.
But what about the terms junior, mid-level, and senior? What do they mean? The definition can vary a little, but for this article, we will use the following:
- Junior software engineer: 1 – 3 years of experience
- Mid-level software engineer: 4 – 6 years of experience
- Senior software engineer: 6+ years of experience
Many companies offer senior software engineers the option of becoming software architects or software engineering managers or directors. Let's look at front-end, back-end, and full-stack software engineer careers and how their salaries can vary with experience.
Front-end software engineer salaries
- Junior front-end software engineer: The average pay for a junior front-end engineer is $64,000 a year, but depending on other factors, it can range from $38,000 to $108,000.
- Mid-level front-end software engineer: The pay for a mid-level front-end engineer increases dramatically to an average of $76,000, with a range from $46,000 to $125,000.
- Senior front-end software engineer: The average salary for senior front-end engineers increases to $132,000 but can range from $63,000 to $169,000.
Back-end software engineer salaries
Back-end software engineers write the code that runs on a webserver. They build the APIs and services from which front-end applications get their data. They also must interact with databases and know how to write database queries with SQL.
- Junior back-end software engineer: The average pay for a junior back-end engineer is $78,000 a year, but depending on other factors, it can range from $45,000 to $135,000.
- Mid-level back-end software engineer: A back-end engineer with four to six years of experience can expect an average salary of around $77,000, with a low of $47,000 and a high of $127,000.
- Senior back-end software engineer: The average pay for a back-end software engineer with six or more years of experience is $120,000 and can range from $61,000 to $165,000.
Full-stack software engineer salaries
- Junior full-stack software engineer: The average pay for a junior full-stack engineer is $79,000 a year, but depending on other factors, it can range from $51,000 to $123,000.
- Mid-level full-stack software engineer: A full-stack engineer with four to six years of experience will find the average salary to be around $98,000, with a low of $ 62,000 and a high of $156,000.
- Senior full-stack software engineer: The average pay for a full-stack engineer with six or more years of experience is $130,000 and can range from $78,000 to $172,000.
How to become a well-paid software engineer
There are plenty of ways to become a well-paid developer. You can study really hard and practice your tech interview skills and try to land a job at a big tech company like Google or Facebook, where much of your payment will be in stock options and bonuses. You can build your skills while working in a junior software engineer position to advance as quickly as possible. You can add back-end web development skills to your front-end web development skills or vice versa to become a full-stack developer who can handle it all.
Whichever route you choose, building your skills as a software engineer is one way you can take control of your future salary. Knowledgeable developers get paid well, and you can build marketable skills by taking software development courses here at Codecademy.