5 Ways to Maximize Your Software Developer Salary

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You may have become a programmer because you love to code. Or maybe you get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you read elegant and well-indented functions. But, unless you’re independently wealthy, one of the reasons you got into development was to make money – in which case, you probably care about maximizing your software developer salary. .

If you’re wondering how to earn a higher salary as a developer, read on. Whether you’re an entry-level software engineer or one with years of experience, the following tips will help you maximize your software developer salary over the long term.

1. Choose a strategic specialization.

A rule of thumb for increasing your value – and, by extension, your salary – as a programmer is to specialize in a niche that lacks skilled developers.

For example, consider mainframe programming. This may seem like an obscure and outdated area. But, according to ZipRecruiter, the average mainframe programmer salary is around $106,000. That’s almost double what ZipRecuirter reports. average programmer salary in general.

So, before focusing on the most popular languages ​​or platforms, ask yourself if you could excel in a niche where you will face less competition.

2, keep learning.

Even if you specialize in a certain niche, it’s also important to keep your skills flexible and up-to-date, especially if you plan to move from job to job to earn a raise.

Pay attention to popular languages ​​or trends and invest time in learning them. For example, if you have expertise in Rust, one of the trending languages ​​of the momentyou will line up to win a median salary around $135,000. This may come as a surprise to developers who graduated from CS programs just a decade ago, when few people were talking about Rust.

3. Be ready to move.

As with jobs in most fields, you may hit a salary cap if you stay with a company long enough. You can still get small pay raises, but to make major jumps you’ll need to look for new positions.

Plan to change programming work every four years is a healthy baseline, although some developers recommend looking for a new position as often as possible every two years.

Regardless of the exact length of your tenure at a company, what really matters in terms of maximizing software developer salaries is being open to new developer job opportunities when they arise. If you go into a programming job expecting you’ll stay there for a decade or more, you’re unlikely to earn as much in the long run as if you moved.

Of course, if you want to stay in a particular role because you love the work and the company, by all means do so. You may not maximize your salary this way, but you will be happy, which is probably more important.

4. Consider freelance programming work.

Another way to break the salary cap you’ll encounter at most companies is to work as a freelance developer rather than full-time.

Of course, there may be several disadvantages of working as a freelance programmer. However, one advantage is that you can often charge more – on an hourly or per project basis – than what a company would pay you in a full-time role to do the same development work, especially if you fill a urgent task. but not permanent need for your customers.

In other words, a company may not be willing to commit to hiring a full-time developer at a rate of $150/hour, which is over $300,000 per year, especially if they don’t have not a permanent need for skills. that the developer brings to the table. But the company might pay you at that rate for a few months to build an app or revise a legacy codebase.

If you can create a pipeline of clients with this type of need, you might earn a lot more as a freelancer than you could with a full-time development job.

5. Take advantage of stock options – with caution.

For some developers, getting maximum compensation is not just about earning as much salary as possible, but also about taking advantage of stock options or other equity opportunities offered by their employers.

It is important to remember, of course, that equity is often not as lucrative in practice as it first appears. The value of shares can fluctuate considerably and quickly. What one day looks like a large sum of equity may turn out to be much less when you cash it in. The bite of capital gains taxes can reduce the value even further.

And, if you work for a startup, any capital granted to you generally has no value until the company is acquired or taken public. It can take years. Or, it may never happen at all – many startups fail completely – in which case your capital grant is never worth more than the email you received confirming it.

Still, if you’re patient, willing to take risks, and able to wait years to cash out, stock options and other stock-based compensation can mean a significant increase in developer revenue.

Conclusion: Maximizing a Software Developer’s Salary Requires a Plan

There is no “stupid trick” or simple rule to maximize your salary as a developer. But there are a variety of strategies you can adopt – in addition to working hard and knowing your craft, of course – to put yourself in a position to get maximum long-term pay as a developer.

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