I'll get right to the point.
About $100,000 a year. That's the answer if you have been programming for 4+ years and work in a major tech hub like the Bay area or NYC. Of course your mileage WILL vary. Your salary is dependent on your skill level, your experience and your negotiating power.
- Most programmers will make between $40,000 and $120,000.
- Junior prgrammers, or people starting out in smaller cities can expect to make around $30,000-$50,000.
- Most average programmers are bringing in around $60,000-$85,000 a year.
- Senior programmers will typically reach $100,000.
- And highly valued senior programmers can easily make $120,000-$150,000+.
Some programmers are even granted stock options or stock units in the company they work for. The first engineering hire for a startup can get up to 5% of the company, and if the startup does well that can turn into millions.
Programming can make you some solid dough, that is for sure. But not every programmer is making six figures, and I don't personally know any programmers who have made millions. In small towns even good programmers might not make six figures. The salaries can vary wildly depending on what city you are in. But I have worked in Austin, TX, New York City and the Bay area, and I can tell you salaries in those three places are very similar. And from what you can see on websites like Glassdoor, most mid-level programmers are netting between 60k-100k.
Of course it's not just about how well you code, it's about what language you are using. To maintain market salary, it is important to stay up to date with programming languages. Languages change fast, and in our industry you will go through 5-10 languages in your career. If you do not keep up with it, someone new will come in to fill your shoes.
Story time. In high school I had a computer science teacher named Mr. Evans, and he would always tell us stories about 'being in the industry'. Mr. Evans said that they will hire you for Fortran, keep you around till you are 40, then fire you. He said Fortran was the greatest language invented and everything that came after it sucked. But when we'd get home from school we would play with C++ and Visual Basic, two of the most popular languages at that time. If Mr. Evans would have learned C++ or VB, he probably could have gotten a better job, but instead he was stuck teaching high school kids. Poor Mr. Evans was definitely not making 100k.
So you see, there is good money you can make programming. It can be challenging to learn how to program, but once you do it is very rewarding. You won't get paid like a doctor, lawyer or banker, but you (usually) won't be expected to work insane hours, defend murderers or swindle people for money. And sometimes there is even free lunch!
Check out my #1 post: Which Programming Language Should You Learn To Make Money?
Dev/Code/Hack is a technology and business blog by me, Par Trivedi. I'm a software engineer and I've been writing code and managing teams for over a decade. This blog serves as a way to share thoughts and ideas about the tech/startup community, and also to educate newcomers to software development.