How Much Should You Be Getting Paid as a Programmer?

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Career advice

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Career advice


Figuring out how much you should be getting paid as a programmer is one of the most important aspects of your livelihood. Your salary isn’t just a made up number. It’s a real-life indicator of the value that you and your employer place on your skillset.

However, determining your salary is a complex topic that depends on multiple factors. So, this article touches on the 5 main factors that usually lead to your unique salary as a developer:

  • Your skills
  • Company
  • Location
  • Job perks
  • Future value

By understanding these 5 factors, and using them to your advantage, you can make sure that you’re being paid for all that you’re worth (plus more, if you’re a bit lucky).

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Salary factor 1. Your skills

Programming is an industry in which you have to prove your worth day after day. It’s a challenging career path. But, you can be paid extremely well (more so than a lawyer or doctor) if you’re willing to consciously improve your skills, and become the greatest programmer that you can be.

So, your development skills ultimately play a massive role in the level of salary that you command.

For example, if you can prove that you’ve worked on prior successful projects (i.e. maintain a good portfolio), then you can instantly validate your worth to employers, and negotiate great compensation packages for yourself.

Salary factor 2. Company

The specific company that you work for will probably be the most realistic determining factor in the amount of compensation that you’re paid.

Generally speaking, highly-profitable tech companies know that good programmers need to be paid and treated like rockstars. If you work for a highly-profitable tech company, and you deliver high-quality code on a consistent basis, then you should be getting paid handsomely for your efforts.

On the other hand, there are always going to be modest tech companies that pay programmers a median wage.

And then, there are the tech start-up companies that usually entice early employees with equity (to make up for a relatively low salary).

So, as you can probably imagine, these three wildly different workplace scenarios typically lead to three vastly different payouts. It’s entirely up to you to decide which route you choose.

But, if possible, joining a highly-profitable tech company is usually the safest bet salary-wise.

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Salary factor 3. Location

If you’re a programmer, there’s a chance that you’d prefer to work for a software company in Zurich, Switzerland rather than Lviv, Ukraine.

This obviously isn’t always the case - since local culture can play a major factor in where you decide to work (more so than money).

But, if a programming gig is located in Zurich, San Francisco, New York City, or any other “wealthy” global city, that specific location is going to play a huge role in determining your salary.

People who live in expensive cities generally earn more money on average. You have to if you want to survive.

So, if you want the highest-paying programming job available, go ahead and interview for that job in London, Paris, or New York City.

Salary factor 4. Job perks

The best development jobs offer competitive salaries and amazing job perks.

But sometimes, technology companies will offer awesome job perks as a way of compensating for a lower salary structure.

These companies usually mean well. But, these companies might also be having issues with funding. Or they just haven’t reached profitability yet!

If you value a fun company culture and working environment, then you might actually be willing to accept a lower level of compensation in favor of amazing job benefits.

But, if your ultimate goal is to earn a solid salary, then make sure to keep your eye on the (financial) prize.

Salary factor 5. Future value

The value that you can potentially provide in the future is a major indicator of your worth today.

For example, successful tech CEOs like Noah Kagan (founder of Sumo) know that amazing employees will always receive attractive job offers. This is just the nature of a competitive global business environment.

It’s for this reason that employers need to keep their highest-performing employees around for the long haul.

So if you can successfully demonstrate your future value to a current or prospective employer, this can incentivize your employer to pay you extraordinarily well today.

How should you go about proving your future worth today, you might ask? Well, you can…

  • Work on major revenue-generating projects for your company
  • Show interest in leadership roles throughout your organization
  • Solidify your roots in the local area (i.e. buy a home, start a family etc.)

There are many ways to demonstrate your future value to an employer. Get creative, and have fun with it!

Overall, if you can use these 5 determining factors to assess how much you deserve to be paid as a programmer, you can usually guesstimate an accurate ballpark figure on your own.

Because of the vast differences in salary - programmers can make as little as $30,000/year, or as much as $1,000,000/year (and beyond).

The beautiful thing about programming is that the sky truly is the limit. You can always improve your skills as a developer, explore a new career path, or ask for a raise at your current job. Your future success is entirely up to you.


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