Programmer Salaries: From Junior to Experienced Senior

Talking about salaries can be tricky. It would be best to look at entry-level salaries, senior salaries, and rare cases where people earn a lot more than the rest. However, we can’t blame you for wondering how much developers earn, and our goal for this article is to answer that question.

Software developers earn approximately $101,000 a year. On the lower side of the spectrum, you have people earning $55,000, while top earners can earn well above $140,000 per year. A top software engineer at Google can own up to 1 million dollars a year, but they deal with incredible workloads.

In this article, we want to discuss software developers and their salaries. However, we also want to discuss in-depth what you can expect to earn as a game developer. Remember, not everybody in the same profession earns the same. So, we will try and break down as many of the positions available as possible. Finally, we also want to talk about how much freelance developers make, so let’s get into it.

How Much Do Beginner (Junior) Programmers Make?

As an entry-level software developer, your salary might seem unfair at times because you will be dealing with a lot. Remember, as a beginner, you are an asset to any company that will try and prep you for the future that they have insight into. For now, let’s look at what you can expect to earn as an entry-level programmer.

Not all entry-level positions pay the same, even within the same company at times. As a beginner developer, you can expect to earn anything between $50,000 and $65,000 per year. I know a $15,000 difference is huge, but there are many factors to be considered. These factors include:

  • What company are you working for?
  • How good are your programming skills? 
  • What state/country do you live in?
  • How lucky are you?

Entry-level developers tend to earn more than most other entry-level professions. However, it is important to note that you will be earning that money. As an entry-level developer, there are times where you are going to feel undervalued. You will be asked to sit through meetings where your input might be limited because you are expected to learn from the more senior staff members.

You will write a lot of code and be expected to test and debug systems. However, you might end up getting annoyed because you will be under a lot of direct supervision. So, is that salary worth it considering all of this? Absolutely yes, I think it is.

Job stress vs. bigger income
A bigger salary often means more responsibilities. A good rule of thumb is whenever you are asked to do some new tasks at your work (for example, start taking care of the database, or adding backend when you only worked on front end before) to ask for a pay raise.

How Much Do Intermediate Programmers Make?

An intermediate programmer will often know how much they earn, but if you are a beginner who is trying to predict their future or if you are an aspiring programmer, we can’t blame you for asking the question, how much do intermediate developers make?

On average, intermediate developers make between $80,000 and $100,000 per year. For low earning developers, they get approximately $61,000. On the flip side of that, top earners make over $100k per year.

An intermediate developer is someone who has between 3 or 6 years’ worth of experience. So, if you look at how much you would earn as a beginner, you can see just how much you can expect your salary to increase within the first 3 or 4 years of your career.

Again, it is important to note that you will have to earn this money. as an intermediate developer, you will be asked to do quite a lot. During meetings, you will be asked for input, and if you have high hopes for your career, you will want to put careful thought behind any ideas you might put forward.

Even though you mostly work as part of a team in programming, as an intermediate developer, you will often be alone, having to solve any problems by yourself. Obviously, you can ask questions and ask for help. You will probably receive help when you ask, but it’s those expectations that are put upon you that might prevent you from asking.

How Much Do Senior Programmers Make?

As we mentioned, an intermediate developer is someone who has between 4 and 6 years of experience. After that, whether or not you become a senior developer isn’t about time as much as it is about your work ethic and how good you are. Once you have around six years of experience behind your name, your salary can increase exponentially, but you need to prove that you are worth it.

A senior programmer or software engineer can earn up to $270,000 per annum if you manage to get a job at one of the bigger tech companies. While that does seem like a lot, you might have to live in an area like silicon valley where your cost of living is extremely high.  The average salary is between $120,000 and $140,000. 

Your salary can vary significantly as a senior developer. However, if you are good at your job, you will often be offered the best salaries as you might get poached by headhunters. At this stage, you might also be approached by someone who is trying to create a startup. After all, your experience can be valuable.

So, while we can give predictions based on current data, such as the average salary of a senior developer, your ceiling cap is quite unknown. You could end up making $240,000 a year, or you could end up working at a startup or possibly even being a director of one. The future is unknown, and planning is quite difficult.

The Overall Average Salary for Software Developers

We have broken down the average salary that programmers make into three parts, beginner, intermediate and senior. However, if you still wonder what the overall average is, don’t worry. We have you covered.

The median salary for software developers is around $100,000 to $110,000 per year. Most of these salaries reported are from Developers with at least three years of experience.

As an interesting fact: Did you know Indian developers on average earn more than 10x less? That explains why there are so many outsourcing agencies offering developers from India for a cheap price (but for lower overall quality).

How Much Do Game Developers Make?

Many of our readers are gamers. Subsequently, we get asked a lot of questions about game development. That is one of the reasons why we separated this section from the rest of the article. Also, you might be a little bit shocked at how much game developers make.

The average salary for a game developer is $100,000 per year. However, we need to break it up into three sections: beginner, intermediate, and senior. Before we get into it, we can say that until you become a senior developer, being a game developer doesn’t pay as much as other jobs do, and there is a big reason for that.

However, the big advantage is that many development companies, especially the smaller ones, tend to offer bonuses depending on how the game performs, i.e., depending on how it sells. 

You can compare game development to the movie industry. The producer, director, and lead actors usually make most of the money, but then you have hundreds of employees that make the movie possible, and they don’t get paid as much. The difference is significant. 

Beginner Game Developer Salary

As a beginner game developer, you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. You will have to deal with constant pressure and crunch, all while being paid an entry-level salary. There will be times where you might feel as if going into game development was the wrong choice unless, of course, you are passionate about what you do.

The average game beginner game developer earns around $47,000 to $50,000 per year. Significantly less than other programming disciplines. 

To some people, that may seem like a lot of money for an entry-level job, and it is. However, when you compare it to other developers’ salaries, it doesn’t seem like much. It would be best if you always kept in mind that being a game developer pays off in the long run.

Intermediate Game Developer Salary

There’s not much to say about being an intermediate game developer. You will have a lot of responsibility and sometimes be left to do a lot of the stuff yourself, or you will be asked to help solve problems that the entry-level guys are facing.

The average salary for intermediate developers is around $75,000. That number is just shy of what software developers in other disciplines earn.

Remember, you are still looking out for that endgame. Here’s the thing, at an intermediate level, you might get head-hunted as well by medium-sized companies that are looking for your expertise. Working for a medium-sized company might see you earning more than if you work for larger ones.

Senior Game Developer Salary

If you are good at your job, you will become a senior developer. This is where working in game development starts to pay off as your salary will rise significantly. Here’s what you can expect to earn as a software developer.

Senior game developers earn around $100,000 per year. However, the top earners can see that number rise to well over $150,000 per year.

Much like with software development, as a senior game developer, you might get head-hunted by big companies, and even though beginners and intermediate developers don’t usually get bonuses from big companies, you might.

The ceiling cap for your salary is hard to predict. Remember, senior developers within the gaming industry get a lot of praise. Gamers know who the people behind their favorite games are. Once you have a name for yourself, your possibilities are kind of endless.

There are so many developers who break away from companies to start their own. Some of the most famous ones end up with Kickstarter projects where the community who knows them from previous games helps them build the next project. With enough experience, this can be you.

How Much Do Self-Taught Programmers Make?

Self-taught programmers earn approximately the same as those who have a degree. However, you might have a harder time finding a job without a degree, which is where the problem is. 

Although you will make the same as a programmer with a degree, there is initial probation that many companies stick to. It could last up to three months, but during the probation period, you will earn a little bit less than those with the degree because the company is just trying to see whether or not you are worth it.

We try and emphasize this a lot, but as a self-taught programmer, the best thing you can do is have a strong portfolio behind your name. When you go for an interview, you will be asked to solve problems in many cases. Remember, most of the other interviewees can answer those problems, so you should do so and be impressive in other ways as well.

How Much Do Freelance Developers Make? 

Speaking of self-taught developers, the best way to make a name for yourself is to freelance. You might be wondering how much freelance developers end up making; let’s take a look.

As a freelance developer, you can earn up to $85,000 per year. If you are a beginner, you can expect to make approximately $50,000. 

The amount of money you make as a freelance developer depends entirely upon you, how much you charge, and how much work you can get. As a freelance developer, you can earn up to $85,000 per year. If you are a beginner, you can expect to make approximately $50,000. 

 The amount you charge per hour depends on your skill level. Look, the worst thing you want to do is overcharge people at the beginning of your career.

How to Boost Your Salary as a Freelance Developer

Boosting your salary as a freelance developer can be tricky because it is entirely up to you. See, you can’t look towards a boss and ask them for a raise by showing them your new skills. Instead, you need to put yourself in a position where you can charge your clients more money.

Here are a few things that you can do to boost your salary as a freelance programmer. The first part takes the longest because that is establishing a name for yourself. Other than that, let’s get into it.

  • Build a portfolio
  • Sign up for as many remote work and freelance sites as possible.
  • Check for work every hour.
  • Learn as many skills as possible.
  • Make your profiles stand out as much as you can.
  • Use LinkedIn for leads.
  • Write programming articles and publish them on Linkedin; this helps get followers and connections.

How to Boost Your Salary as a Programmer?

There is a lot to cover when talking about how to boost your salary as a software developer. Some of this might seem quite obvious, but it does need to be discussed. So, let’s talk about the best ways to boost your salary as a programmer.

  • Write good code: If your code is clean and hardly has to be revised, you increase your worth. 
  • Make sure your work is appreciated: Do not be afraid to show off a little when you pull off something big.
  • Sharpen your skills: Keep practicing.
  • Attend specialized boot camps: If you need to learn a new system or language, get a certificate from a boot camp that shows your new skills.

You might be wondering why we didn’t suggest moving on to a company that pays more. Well, it turns out that things aren’t that simple. There is a lot that needs to be considered before switching jobs. As we have mentioned, you might be head-hunted as a developer, but whether or not you take that job could significantly impact the course of your career.

If you get an offer from a company that pays significantly more than your previous job and maybe even gives you a title promotion, then you should consider it. However, if they are offering slightly more, then being loyal to the company where you currently work could pay off more in the long run.

If you are a beginner programmer and get offered a position as an intermediate programmer at a different company, check to see what an intermediate programmer gets paid where you currently work. It might be less, or it might be more. If they earn more than an intermediate programmer does at the company you are looking at, stay loyal and ask for a promotion.

You might get the promotion and earn more.

What Type Of Programmers Make The Most Money?

At the moment, a software engineer makes the most money. However, a software developer or an engineer that helps create a startup can become extremely wealthy in a relatively short period, so we can’t factor that into the section

We can say that software engineers who work for companies like Google, Microsoft, or Facebook tend to be the highest earners; however, they live in an area where the standard of living is much higher than the rest of the country. So, in terms of how well-off they are, that is up for debate.

I wish we could give a direct answer and say that “app builders” make the most money or “point of sale” developers do, but you can’t do that because there are too many factors that need to be considered.

What Programming Languages Earn The Most?

In 2021, one of the highest-paying skills you can have as a developer is to write in a language called GO. Have you never heard of it? Don’t worry, not many people have, but it is the language widely used amongst the most popular apps available today, for example, Uber and Uber Eats. 

However, you will always only be able to say “one of the highest paying” because it is constantly changing. Think of software development as an economy. The greater the supply, the less in-demand something becomes, and therefore its value drops. That is how programming works.

As a software developer, you should spend as much time learning as many languages as you can. This will put you in a better position to get a job. Knowing only C# and JavaScript will not hold you back per se, but knowing more than just those two languages will make you a more desirable employee and, therefore, a higher-paid one.

How Much Do Google Programmers Make?

Getting any job at Google can be difficult. Getting in as a software developer is an extremely challenging task. You need to understand that they have their own internships, and they usually promote from within. However, when they employ outside of the Google ecosystem, you can always apply.

The top-earning developers at google earn $143,000 per year. That excludes bonuses. You can also open yourself up to promotions. After a promotion, you could find yourself being a level 6 software engineer where you earn between $192,000 and $1,000,000 per year.

Video: How Much Do Google Software Engineers Make?

That seems like a lot of money. However, it would be best if you considered the fact that you will be working extremely hard. See, Google is known for having started the “fun work environment” culture with lots of gadgets and gimmicks to try and keep employees happy.

The question you need to ask yourself is how often do you get to enjoy these gimmicks? For example, their famous sleeping pods, not many people use them because you have a lot of work to do most of the time. Google is the number one search engine globally and probably the most visited website in history, so their developers work around the clock to keep the site running.

Is Programming a Good Career?

Along with asking about the salary, I would say this is one of the best questions you can ask because, after all, just because something pays well doesn’t mean it’s a good long-term career. Is this true when it comes to programming? Let’s take a look.

Programming is one of the best career options available today. When you look at the US Bureau of labor statistics, they show that they expect growth in the profession, meaning there will be a need for developers within the foreseeable future.

We can see it around us every day. More and more tasks are becoming automated. At the same time, people are using technology rapidly; sometimes, we forget just how much technology is growing. Behind this automation, the AI, and the internet, there are developers that make these things work for us.

Look at the manufacturing industry. There is a misconception that automated manufacturing is putting people out of work, and soon there will be no jobs left. While it is true that it puts a few low-skilled workers out of a job, remember it creates jobs for the people who need to program the automation and maintain it.

Final Thoughts

This is where I get to give you some of my advice. It is best to know what you are worth, and hopefully, this article has helped you find that out. If you are an aspiring programmer, the last thing you want to do is to find a job where you are underpaid. Remember, the programming job market is vast, and there are a lot of jobs available.