A few months ago, Stack Overflow published the terrible news that developers using spaces to indent their code earn more money than those using tabs, based on responses to the company’s annual developer survey.
Today, Stack Overflow announced a slightly more useful application for that same data, with the Stack Overflow Salary Calculator. Tell it where you live, how much experience and education you have, and what kind of developer you are, and it will tell you the salary range you should expect to make in five national markets (US, Canada, UK, France, Germany) and a handful of cities (New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin).
Some of the broad trends are no big surprise; for example, the chosen cities tend to pay more than their respective nations do, for example, a reflection of both their high demand for developers and their higher living expenses. Similarly, DevOps specialists and data scientists both earn well. This won’t surprise anyone who follows the fashionable industry buzzwords; businesses are increasingly working to streamline and integrate their development and operational roles to make regular software deployments easier and more reliable, putting DevOps skills in high demand. Data science is similarly sought after with the growth of machine learning, data mining, and visualization.
Other aspects of the data are a little more surprising. Graphics programmers, for example, aren’t particularly well paid, in spite of having a relatively specialized, complex niche. This could be a result of relative inexperience; graphics programmers tend to be relatively young and new. Games companies also have a reputation for somewhat underpaying; they can get away with this because so many young developers aspire to work in gaming.
And while earnings in four of the countries are surprisingly similar, those in America are substantially higher, regardless of experience; in fact, the median salary of a developer in the US is comparable to that of someone with 20 years of experience in Canada or Germany and markedly higher than 20-year veterans in France and the UK. Even after taking into account the US’ higher healthcare costs, America is the place to be if you’re a programmer.
The calculator also lets one gauge the relative value of education and experience. In at least some markets, it appears that a high school education and four or five years’ experience will offer earning potential commensurate with no experience and four years of university education. Given the high price of college in the US, this kind of data could make the decision to skip the education a little easier to make.