How Much Do Software Developers Make? Plus 5 Other Career FAQs
Late-night online gaming sessions, keeping close tabs on the latest and greatest smartphone release, dabbling in developing your own hobby blog: Whatever the spark, you’ve long had an interest in technology.
Now that you’ve begun to give your career options some serious consideration, you can’t help but wonder if there’s a way to tap into that interest in tech and apply it in your professional life.
Taking the steps needed to get started as a member of a software development team is one option on your short list, but you definitely have some key questions before you can commit to pursuing this career. For one—how much do software developers make?
To help you make an informed decision, we’ll answer this burning question and more with these six software development FAQs.
6 FAQs about software development careers
Read on to learn all the details about a career in software development.
1. How much do software developers make?
First things first, you need the details about a software developer’s potential salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the 2020 median annual salary for software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers was $110,140, with the highest ten percent earning more than $170,100 and the lowest ten percent earning $65,210.1 Compared to the 2020 national average all occupations—$41,950—and it’s safe to say this can be a fairly lucrative career path.1
The job outlook–related good news doesn’t stop there, either, as employment in these software development occupations is poised to continue on a strong path. The BLS projects employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers to grow by 22 percent from 2020 through 2030. That projection translates to an additional 409,500 jobs during that time.
2. What do software developers do?
You probably have a mental image of software developers huddled over a computer all day, scouring over lines of code, but you might be surprised by the variety of tasks they accomplish in the workplace.
“My typical duties are meeting with clients to understand what they need us to build, reviewing what we’ve built so far to see if it matches their vision for the product, talking with the delivery team about adjustments on features or priorities for the project, and of course, writing code,” says Joe Wilson, owner of custom software development company Volare Systems.
Depending on the specific role they’re working in, software developers can have a hand in every phase of a project, from meeting with clients to determine the functionality of an app or program, to writing the code itself and performing rigorous testing. Check out our article “What Does a Software Developer Do? A Deep Dive into the Career” to learn more about the ins and outs of life as a software developer.
3. Where do software developers work?
Many different industries have a need for the specialized skills of software developers. The BLS reports that about one-quarter of software developers in both specialties work in computer systems design and related services.1 The rest find a home in industries like finance and insurance, manufacturing and software publishers.
Software developers should be prepared to work in a highly collaborative environment. “Successful software developers collaborate with the team and the client to build great software,” Wilson says. “I work on teams with developers, testers, project managers and system admins.”
People in this career field typically have the benefit of working standard workday hours, though some companies may have a more fast-paced work environment than others. Software developers may also be able to work remotely or become self-employed, working directly with clients.
4. What skills do software developers need?
It should be fairly obvious that software developers need specialized technical skills to be effective, but with a vast array of coding languages to choose from and technical competencies to tackle, it can be hard to know what employers are actually looking for.
To help with that, we’ve used job posting analysis software to highlight some of the most commonly sought-after technical skills listed in job postings:
- Software engineering
- Oracle® database
Working in software development isn’t just about technical know-how, though. Transferable, or “soft,” skills are important for aspiring developers who want to put their best foot forward in the workplace. Software developers need a strong mix of communication, teamwork, creativity, problem solving and troubleshooting skills to make the most of their abilities—and to thrive in a collaborative environment.
5. What are important qualities for software developers to have?
You can see that being a software developer is about more than just coding skills. Your natural qualities and characteristics can play a large part in this tech position. Because this job relies on collaboration, the ability to receive feedback and work well in a team environment is critical, according to Wilson.
“It helps to have a humble personality where you have your own ideas but know they can be improved by working with others, who also have good ideas,” Wilson adds.
Other qualities that can come in handy on the job are creativity as you approach problems in new ways, curiosity and a drive to continue learning in the ever-changing technology field. Perhaps most important? An appetite for researching and exploring potential solutions.
6. How do you become a software developer?
If you’re thinking that software development sounds like an appealing career, you’re probably wondering what it takes to get started in one of these roles.
It can be an admittedly steep learning curve—there’s a reason why employers pay a premium for software developers—but try not to be intimidated by the long list of technical skills, languages and frameworks you’ll find in job postings. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a closely related field can provide a solid foundation of skills and knowledge to help you make sense of what’s most important to focus on when you’re just getting started in software development.
Software development is also a field that lends itself to portfolios and showing your work. Seeking out open-source projects to contribute to or other interesting hobby examples of your work can be a great way to show—not tell—potential employers about your skill set.
Developing your future career
You’ve learned a lot about some of the fundamentals of a software development career—including how much software developers make. But there’s still plenty to learn if you’re interested in taking the first step toward getting started in this career. Get a glimpse of the path ahead in our article “How to Become a Software Developer: Experts Expose Their Best Advice.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed July 2022]. Salary ranges represent national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,407,940 software developer, software quality assurance analyst and software tester job postings, Jul. 1, 2021 – Jun. 30, 2022).