How The Average Developer Salary Differs Between Cities: A US Outlook

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There are a number of factors that determine average developer salary in the United States as well as in other parts of the world. These factors include years of experience, the rarity of special skills within a particular coding language and the type of software that is being developed. Consider the difference in salary by developer type – an insight that was gleaned from the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, as represented in the table below:

Average Developer Salary

Another, often overlooked factor, is location. Travel between cities and you may find that there is quite a significant difference between average developer salaries. A large determinant of this difference comes down to basic supply and demand. In this article, we look at the top five highest paying cities for developers in the United States.

1. San Jose, California

According to the U.S News list of Best Jobs Rankings, software development makes the top of the list in this burgeoning tech space. In San Jose, the average developer salary is $133,010. Most devs looking into the difference in salaries may wonder how San Jose stacks up against San Francisco, which of course is rumoured to be the highest paying city for this vocation. But, in a recently written article on the topic, Michel J. Coren writes that “the inflated salaries in the San Francisco Bay Area (and New York) can’t compete with the value you get from the cheaper cost of living in cities such as Austin, Seattle, and Denver.” The average salary in San Jose, California is $84,256, which means that software engineers are earning at least 58% more than the average Joe. Lily Ostapchuk, Co-Founder and CPO at Rentberry calculates that tech industry job opportunities in San Jose have grown by 79.6% over the last ten years, leaving demand at an encouraging high.

2. Seattle

Seattle may be known for its coffee but what it’s also known for, is its high demand for developers. With an average developer salary of $132,010, Seattle is just behind San Jose, according to the U.S News list of Best Jobs Rankings. In Seattle, the jobs which are in highest demand are systems analyst, Health IT specialist, database developer and administrator and software engineer. When compared to the average employee, developers in Seattle are not doing bad at all. The average salary in Seattle is currently at $68,142, meaning that developers are earning a staggering 91% more. According to Lily Ostapchuk: “One of the major advantages of Seattle’s tech scene is that the local ecosystem is not reliant on startups only, which helps local professionals achieve success and keep it stable in the long run.”

3. Oakland, California

The number three spot on the list is taken by Oakland, California, where the average developer salary ranges around $131,160. Considering that the average salary in Oakland is $63,577 and that developers earn at least 106% more, Oakland is a great city to build a career as a software engineer. In a recent study by Value Penguin, it became clear that in terms of demand, Oakland has roughly half the number of jobs available for developers when compared to a city like Seattle, although cost of living in the latter city is substantially higher. It’s all about the give and take – which is why when looking to relocate in order to maximise your earnings as a developer, you need to take the bigger picture into account. It’s all about context – commuting costs, basic costs like food and accommodation, the expectation to perform, one’s own capacity for stress – all these factors should play a role when deciding where to apply for a job as a developer.

4. San Francisco

A list of the best paying cities for developers would not be complete without San Francisco. It’s a city designed for tourism but as it were, it’s also a city in which an increasing number of devs are finding lucrative jobs. Developers in San Francisco earn around $131,160, which is 53% higher than the salary of the average employee who works in and around the city. Although the cost of living in San Francisco is admittedly higher, it is one of America’s most recognised technology centres. Lily Ostapchuk suggests that if you “head over to San Francisco to build a mind-blowing career of a software engineer…get ready to pay a fortune for housing.” According to smartasset: “The average rent on a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $4,650 – $1,000+ more than the number two city (New York) and $2,000 more than the rest of the biggest cities in the country.” For ambitious developers who want to capitalise on the good salary, it may be a temporary option – a place to work for a few years before heading back home having saved a significant amount. Settling down and building a life there may be bit a more challenging if you’re not already calling San Francisco home base.

5. Anaheim, California

Developers in Anaheim earn an average salary of $118,670. In comparison to what devs earn, the average employee in Anaheim earns 60% less, at around $49 689. At this juncture it’s important to note that the above figures are means, based on factors like demand for jobs over time. What you earn will depend on your level of experience, the company you choose to work for, any added benefits or perks and whether there are opportunities for growth within the company. These are all  important factors to consider.

When exploring your options in terms of finding work as a dev, you will most likely come across a number of conflicting sources, each with their own views on which cities rank the highest in terms of average developer salary. This is predominantly because different measures are used for calculating salary. Some sources may present their findings as raw, untouched data while others may manipulate the data to take cost of living, tax deductions or the average number of years spent at a job, into account. In the grander scheme of things, it’s all relative.

For more guidance on how to build a successful career in tech, chat to an expert at HyperionDev – we’d love to meet you at our next information session.