Maybe you’re starting your career in computer programming, or maybe you’re considering a career change later in life. People arrive at the decision to break into coding for many different reasons, but one of the key benefits of a coding career is a high computer programmer salary. In fact, established programmers often earn a six-figure salary without a degree.
Entry-level computer coding salaries range from $40,000 to $87,000, and an experienced programmer can make up to $132,000 a year. In this article, we’ll talk about the factors that drive differences in programmer salaries and how to become a programmer so that you can get started in this lucrative field.
How Much Do Computer Programmers Make?
It takes a lot of work to start a new career in computer programming, so you’re probably wondering what your new computer programming salary could be. So how much do computer programmers make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer programmers get paid well, with an average salary of $93,000 per year or $44.71 per hour.
Overall coding salaries are high, but there is a lot of variability in how much computer programmers make depending on the job title, industry, company, location, education, and programming language. For example, the average salary for a software product manager is $101,149 per year compared to $76,387 per year for a mobile app developer.
The average coder’s salary increases over time as they gain work experience and continue learning about new programming tools. BLS reports that the top ten percent of computer programmers make $155,240 per year and up. Another way to get higher salary computer programmer jobs is to add top programming certifications and skills to your resume.
How Much Do Computer Programmers Make Per Hour?
The average hourly wage of computer programmers depends on what industry they work in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the computer programmer salaries per hour in some of the top industries for computer programmers:
- Scientific Research and Development – $63.80 per hour
- Software Publishing – $63.19 per hour
- Business Management – $49.25 per hour
- Computer Systems Design – $42.38 per hour
- Data Processing and Hosting – $40.64 per hour
These are just five examples of prominent industries that hire computer programmers. In a world driven by technology, computer programmers can find work in almost every field. It’s important to note that the above figures are averages, and actual hourly rates for programmers can vary a lot based on experience, education, and employer.
Factors That Affect Your Coding Salary
Most coders get paid pretty well, but their ultimate earning potential is influenced by a variety of factors. We’ve already discussed the effect of industry on a computer programmer’s salary, now let’s take a look at how work experience, specialized skills, and location can influence a programmer’s salary.
Work experience is key to landing a higher computer programmer salary. Work experience can come from past jobs, school projects, or personal projects. If you haven’t worked as a programmer before, it’s important to build a coding portfolio to show that you have experience completing high-quality projects.
Another way to show potential employers that you have coding experience, make sure to highlight your software skills on your resume. When you list past work experiences, include details about the types of programming projects you worked on.
Computer programmers work on a wide range of devices, languages, and platforms, and some of these skills are more in demand than others. The average coder’s salary varies by the programming languages they know. If you are just getting started, take some time to research the top programming languages by industry before deciding what skills to focus on.
Location can affect a programmer’s salary due to differences in the cost of living and the demand for computer programmers in certain areas. The demand for computer programmers is highest in places like Silicon Valley and the Seattle metro area, where the cost of living is also high.
These days, your location doesn’t matter if you can find a fully-remote position. Statista reported that in December of 2021, 14.5 percent of workers worked from home full time. If you want to look remotely, you should look for remote jobs in higher-paying areas to maximize your salary without having to pay high living expenses.
Computer Programmer Salary by Experience Level
The salary range for computer programmers depends on where you are in your career. According to data from PayScale, the programmers’ salary range from entry-level to expert varies from around $60,000 to $89,000. More experienced programmers also get to take on more creative and management tasks in their work.
Entry-Level Programmer Salary
Your first coding job is where you’ll earn an entry-level programming salary. Once you have some work experience in programming, you’ll be considered an early-career programmer. Early-career programmers do a lot of coding and debugging, but they aren’t usually involved in high-level planning or strategizing.
Mid-Career Programmer Salary
After you gain five to nine years of work experience, you’re considered to be a mid-career programmer. If you start to take on management responsibilities of projects or teams, you might earn even more than the average mid-level programmer salary. Now is a good time to learn management skills so you can take on these roles confidently.
Expert Programmer Salary
Expert programmers have over 20 years of coding experience, and this accumulation of knowledge is rewarded with a high senior programmer salary. It’s not unusual to see expert programmers earning six figures. At this level of expertise, you’ll likely be leading a large team or an entire department to deliver on big-picture goals.
Computer Programmer Salary by Specialized Skill
The average salary of a computer programmer increases with each new language that they learn, especially if they learn more of the in-demand languages. A 2022 Stack Overflow survey of over 70,000 web developers found that the popular programming languages that lead to the highest salaries are Ruby, Python, and C#.
Ruby Programmer Salary
The average salary for a Ruby programmer ranges from $60,000 to $119,000. Ruby programmers who also know how to use PostgreSQL can earn up to ten percent more than the average Ruby programmer.
Python Programmer Salary
Python programmers often work as data scientists or machine learning engineers, earning an average of $98,592 or $112,597 respectively. This means that data science salaries are lucrative. PayScale reports that data scientists with Python and C++ skills can earn 44 percent more than those who only know Python.
C# Programmer Salary
Programmers who work in C# can from around $68,600 as application developers to $112,700 as senior programmers, according to PayScale. C# is number 10 on Stack Overflow’s list of most loved vs dreaded languages, meaning that it’s a relatively well-liked language to use.
Computer Programmer Salary by State
In the top three states with the highest average computer programmer salaries, programmers are making six-figure salaries. These high salaries allow programmers to live comfortably, even in states where the cost of living is high.
Programmer Salary in Washington
The average programmer salary in Washington is much higher than the median household income, which was $77,006 in 2020. Programming and software development are the second most common jobs in the state. As a programmer in Washington, you can make a good living and find plenty of work.
Programmer Salary in California
California computer programmers earn high salaries, but the cost of living in California is the third highest in the US. Two of the largest factors in the high cost of living are high rent costs and high transportation costs. If you land a remote programming job based in California, you have much more freedom to live in a low-cost area of California or another state.
Programmer Salary in Virginia
The average programmer’s salary is more than enough to pay for the average cost of living in Virginia. However, the closer you live to Washington DC, the more expensive daily life gets. Some less expensive cities in Virginia are Newport News, Roanoke, Suffolk, and Chesapeake.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
How Do I Become a Coder?
There’s a popular idea in the programming world that if you can code well, it doesn’t matter how you learned to code. This has some truth to it but, in certain sectors, formal credentials still matter. There are many ways people get their start in coding, from tinkering with gaming source code to completing a PhD in computer science.
The main pathways to becoming a coder are learning to code on your own, going to college to learn to code, attending an accelerated program like a coding bootcamp, and getting your feet wet in a design-related tech field first. Determining which one is right for you will depend on your background, learning style, and life situation.
Learn to Code on Your Own
Some of the most well-respected coders have never taken a traditional software engineering class. Eric Raymond, one of the architects of the open source movement, states on his resume that he’s never had any formal training. However, you need to have strong self-study skills to learn to code this way.
You can start learning how to code on your own by reading a coding book or completing an online tutorial. There are also both paid and free online coding courses. Once you understand the basics, start working on coding projects to build your skills.
Most people who take this approach learn in their spare time, so the biggest challenge is staying motivated and making time to work on your projects. Try setting regular progress goals and finding an online community of beginning coders who can help keep you accountable.
Get a Computer Programming Degree
The traditional way to learn how to code is to get a college degree, like a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Colleges tend to be expensive and require several years to complete. However, with financial aid, online degree options, and accommodations for non-traditional students, anyone can get a college degree.
The benefits of earning a college degree instead of attending a bootcamp are that you learn the theory behind coding and you get to explore other related topics in depth. This makes you a more well-rounded programmer. Some employers also prefer to hire employees that have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Join a Coding Bootcamp
Coding bootcamps are short, intensive immersion courses that teach you how to code. Some bootcamps specialize in topics like full stack web development, UX/UI design, data science, or cyber security. You can attend these courses in-person or online, and as you learn you gain skills by working on real-world projects.
Most people who join a bootcamp already have a college degree and are looking to change careers. Some bootcamps have part-time programs you can take while working a full-time job. Most bootcamps cost between $10,000 to $20,000 for three to six-month programs. There are even a few free coding bootcamps.
Whether joining a bootcamp is a good choice for you depends on how you like to learn and where you’re at in life. There’s no question that they’re much faster than spending four years in college, and learning as part of a community is easier for most people than trying to learn how to code on your own.
Break Into a Design Career First
In today’s tech world, workers with a cross-section of skills make the most money, particularly workers who can combine programming skills with creative visuals to build attractive and functional websites and applications. If you have a great eye for graphics and know a little bit of programming, you should consider starting with a career in graphic design.
You can get into visual design with a college degree, web design certificate, bootcamp, or no formal education. Once you know how to use common graphic design tools, you can find small contract work for beginning visual designers via online job sites such as Indeed. Use these small projects to improve your skills to qualify for larger jobs.
Programming might sound like a difficult career path to switch into from visual design, but it’s easy to start small and work your way up. There are plenty of low-profile, low-stress web design gigs that an eager newcomer can manage. You can learn coding skills while leaning on your design knowledge and building projects to put in your portfolio.
Is a Computer Coding Salary Worth the Career Investment?
At $93,000 per year, the average computer programmer’s salary is well above the average national salary of $58,260 per year. Computer programmers can earn even more with additional experience, certifications, and in-demand programming languages.
You will need to invest time and probably some money into learning the skills needed to become a computer programmer or software engineer. However, computer coding salaries are high and you’ll earn enough over your career to make it worth the investment.
Computer Programmer Salary FAQ
A programming career pays well, can be done remotely, and often has a flexible work schedule. Programming is a good career for anyone who likes to solve detailed problems and can work steadily to achieve a long-term goal. There will be some weeks where you’ll need to put in a lot of hours to meet a deadline, but overall programmers have a lot of control over their work hours.
How can a programmer earn money online?
Plenty of people are looking to hire programmers to develop an app or launch a website. Programmers can earn money online through remote contracts found on general job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed or more specialized job boards like the Stack Overflow web developer job board.
What coding language makes the most money?
Right now Ruby is the programing language that makes the most money, but that could change over time as trends change. The average salary for a programmer with Ruby skills is $105,000 per year, according to PayScale. Both data scientists and web developers use Ruby to analyze data and build secure websites with ecommerce functions.
What’s the difference between a programmer’s salary with a degree and a programmer’s salary without a degree?
The average person with a bachelor’s degree earns $525 more per week than a person with only a high school diploma. It gets more complicated when we look at a programmer’s salary without a degree vs with a degree because non-degree holders can have bootcamp certificates and professional certifications that help even out the playing field.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.