How Much Should I Expect to Earn as a Programmer

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Because of the influx of digital adoption across industries, tech-based jobs are among the most relevant and fastest-growing in the job market. Programmer analysts, specifically, were named the 4th most in-demand tech job by CIO for 2021. With a salary ranging from $88,750 to $154,500 a year, these programmers are some of the best-paid professionals today.

However, it’s important to remember that just because a certain profession has positive trend reports and industry predictions, doesn’t mean that it will be universally as profitable for everyone. Because as with any career, your salary will depend on a number of factors.

Your Pay Will Be Based Off Experience

It’s one thing to know something in theory and another thing to know how to execute it in reality. Employers usually can’t afford to onboard inexperienced programmers who have not yet run into new — or old — software in practical scenarios. As mentioned by Walter Guevara in a list of tips to help programmers land their first job, employers often pass up on skilled programmers because they lack experience with the specific code and technology stack they utilize. The only programmers who would be able to fit this bill are those who have already been around for a while and have been exposed to various programs beyond what is taught in a basic curriculum.

Aside from coding knowledge, being experienced also implies that you’ve had time to hone your soft skills like dependability, problem-solving, and collaboration. In LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 92% of hiring managers said that soft skills are “equally or more important” than hard skills. This is because an employee with well-developed soft skills can also contribute to the company culture, work well on their own or in a team, think critically, and communicate clearly.

Upskilling and Specializing Can Up Your Asking

Being that programming is ever-evolving, those who have dedicated extra time and effort to upskilling or specializing are also eligible for better pay. Investing time and resources to upskill helps you keep up with current tech trends that employers may require. In fact, the importance of upskilling is so great that Entrepreneur reports 54% of the workforce will need to do so by 2022. Meanwhile, having a specialization means that you’ve completed advanced learning in specific concentrations. Therefore, you may be considered for higher-level positions that warrant a bigger salary that's up to $40,000 higher than entry-level programmers. That said, it's prudent to get ahead of the competition as early as now. That way, you can grab a position with better pay.

Luckily, there are many ways for programmers to upskill or specialize. Some of the most common ways are via postgraduate degrees or coding bootcamps. A Master of Science in information systems (MSIS) is one of the most popular master’s degree programs available via traditional and online platforms. Financial advice site AskMoney has a feature that details how this program teaches students database design, telecommunications, systems analysis, cybersecurity, and project management. These postgraduate studies can usually be completed in just 12 months. Moreover, holders of master’s degrees in this field have an average salary of $100,000.

Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, are more short-term intensive workshops. As its name implies, advanced coding is the primary focus in these programs, so this may include HTML, CSS, and Ruby on Rails. However, many camps also offer extra classes in digital marketing, UX/UI design, and data science. Statistically, graduates of such camps can earn an average of $50,000-70,000.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, being a programmer improves your chances of earning a higher salary from the get-go, given the demand for professionals within this industry. However, to really take advantage of the opportunities, it’s best to boost your capabilities with a well-rounded balance of education, experience, and soft skills. By doing so, you are far more likely to be within the top 25% of programmers who can demand a salary of up to $120,000 a year.

For more on programming, coding, and the business of being in software, check out the rest of our posts on ThatSoftwareDude.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.

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