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The Ultimate Software Engineering Salary Guide

James Gallagher - July 27, 2021


Out of all of the careers in technology, software engineering has one of the most impressive prospects. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in software development are expected to grow by 21% by 2028. That’s “much faster than average” growth.

While salary is not the only factor you consider when you are evaluating a career, it is an important consideration. Higher salaries lead to more financial security, which means that you worry less about bills and have more freedom to create long-term financial plans.

In this guide, we discuss what you can expect to earn as a software engineer.

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What is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer uses their knowledge of computing science and programming languages to solve everyday problems by building software. These developers are capable of breaking down a complex problem and figuring out how it can be solved with computer code.

Software engineers use a process called the Software Development Lifecycle. This process covers everything from analyzing the requirements for a project to building programs and testing the software they build. Governments, startup companies, and many long-established businesses all have needs for software developers.

How Much do Software Engineers Make?

According to Glassdoor, software engineers earn an average of $92,046 per year in the US. That’s an impressive sum!

What you can expect to earn as a software engineer depends on a number of factors. Some regions have higher average salaries than others; some companies, like big technology firms, pay more than others.

Software Engineering Salary by City

City Average Software Engineer Salary
New York, NY $97,215
San Francisco, CA $115,822
Austin, TX $82,880
Portland, OR $86,195
Chicago, IL $82,097
Atlanta, GA $78,955
Seattle, WA $106,263

Salary estimates sourced from Glassdoor.com.

As you can see, the salary that you can expect to earn as a software engineer can differ greatly by the place in which you work.

So-called “traditional tech hubs” like New York and San Francisco offer the highest salaries among all cities that hire large numbers of software engineers. This is in part due to the higher cost of living in these cities and the presence of big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, who all offer generous compensation packages.

With that said, you don’t need to work in a traditional tech hub to earn a good salary. Cities like Portland, OR and Atlanta, GA, are becoming known for their growing technology ecosystems.

While the salaries may not be as high in these cities as others, the lower cost of living makes up for it. What’s more, each city has its own culture and so no matter where you go, you’ll surely have plenty to do in your free time.

Software Engineering Starting Salary

City Average Entry-Level Software Engineer Salary
New York, NY $77,864
San Francisco, CA $91,965
Austin, TX $66,584
Portland, OR $68,946
Chicago, IL $66,362
Atlanta, GA $63,864
Seattle, WA $84,381

Data collected from Glassdoor.com.

Given the high demand for software engineers , it’s no surprise technology companies are willing to pay their entry-level employees well. Entry-level employees usually have less than one year of experience and are just starting in their careers.

Venus, a software engineer at Rockbot

"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

From the table above, you can see that most cities offer starting salaries in the mid-to-late $60,000 range. That’s a massive amount of money. In tech hubs, the amount you can expect to earn is even higher. This is, again, likely in part due to the higher cost of living and how big tech companies are concentrated in the traditional tech hubs.

These salaries should be taken with a pinch of salt. Some companies, especially big tech companies like Amazon, are known for compensating their entry-level employees more favorably than smaller companies who do not have as many resources.

Top Companies for Software Engineers

What are the top companies hiring software engineers in the US? Intuit, Facebook , Samsung, Apple , and Wayfair are among the best employers in terms of salaries.

Take a quick look at what salaries a few top tech companies offer to their employees:

  • Intuit: $187,607
  • Facebook: $186,072
  • Samsung Electronics: $181,314
  • Apple: $156,159
  • Wayfair: $152,520
  • Visa: $150,980
  • CDK Global: $150,841
  • Walmart: $148,577
  • Capital One: $144,255
  • Microsoft: $140,323

It’s not just big tech companies that compensate their software engineers well. In the list above, you see that Visa, Walmart, and Wayfair all pay impressive salaries. While these companies are not “tech companies” per se, they do have massive technical divisions.

You don’t need to go to a company like Microsoft or Apple to earn a good salary; there are employers across the country who can pay comparable salaries for the right worker.

Benefits for Software Engineers

Stock options, free meals and snacks, gym memberships, and 401(k)s are just a few of the many benefits software engineers earn.

No discussion about software engineer salaries is complete without a brief discussion of what benefits you can earn. This is because salary comprises only a part of a software engineer’s compensation package. Companies, especially big tech companies, like to add on additional incentives to encourage the best talent to join their teams.

The most common benefits you’ll encounter as a software engineer include:

  • Stock options: Shares in a company that are accessible after working for a certain period. Stock options are usually made available within four years of working.
  • Food: Free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or snacks are common at top tech companies.
  • Travel assistance: Many tech companies offer either local travel cards with credit, a travel stipend, or a commuter bus to help their employees get to work.
  • 401(k): A 401(k) retirement account may be available to you so that you can plan for your financial future. Some employers offer 401(k) matching schemes.
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance: Many large tech companies offer health, dental, and vision insurance plans to give their workers peace of mind that they are covered in case of an illness.

Before you evaluate a job offer, take into account every benefit for which you will be eligible. While a higher salary may be important to you, benefits like 401(k) matching or a health savings account may be equally, if not more, important in your eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What software engineers get paid the most?

Senior software engineers are paid more than other software developers . These programmers typically have at least five years of professional experience.

This experience translates to higher salaries because senior engineers encounter more technical problems in their career. What’s more, senior developers have a broader view of the whole Software Development Lifecycle, which means they can have more of an impact on the direction of a project.

Where do software engineers earn the most?

San Francisco is the best place to work in terms of salaries if you want to become a software engineer.

What degree do I need as a software engineer?

Software engineers come from all backgrounds. The best degrees to have are those in a field related to mathematics, engineering, or computing.

Many software engineers have degrees in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics or computer science. With that said, any degree, whether it’s in a technical field or a non-technical field, adds value to your job search.

A growing number of software engineers have attended coding bootcamp. This is an alternative education program to college where you build practical projects over a short period of time, typically under a year, to promptly prepare you for the modern software engineering workforce.

Conclusion

Software engineers are essential parts of any organization that develops software.

They are tasked with analyzing a problem, designing a solution, and building that solution into a final product. The work of a software engineer does not stop there. Software engineers have to maintain their software over time so that it continues to work over the long-term.

If you’re looking for a job in tech that offers a good salary and job prospects, software engineering is a field that is definitely worth considering.

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.

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James Gallagher

About the author: James Gallagher is a self-taught programmer and the technical content manager at Career Karma. He has experience in range of programming languages and extensive expertise in Python, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. James has written hundreds of programming tutorials, and he frequently contributes to publications like Codecademy, Treehouse, Repl.it, Afrotech, and others.

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