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The Almighty Buck Programming Stats IT

The $200,000 Software Developer 473

itwbennett writes "You can make a decent living as a software developer, and if you were lucky enough to get hired at a pre-IPO tech phenom, you can even get rich at it. But set your sights above the average and below Scrooge McDuck and you won't find many developers in that salary range. In fact, the number of developers earning $200,000 and above is under 10%, writes blogger Phil Johnson who looked at salary data from Glassdoor, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How does your salary rate? What's your advice for earning the big bucks?"
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The $200,000 Software Developer

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  • Contractor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:48AM (#43995747)

    You'll never make that much money as a salary. High annual rates are usually the exclusive province of contractual obligations and performance bonuses.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:56AM (#43995865)
    I would imagine most jobs paying $200K are in areas where $200K does't go as far as it would in other places. It is somewhat arbitrary to look at a dollar figure without looking at what it will cost you to live within a reasonable distance of said job.
  • This just in.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isopropanol ( 1936936 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:57AM (#43995883) Journal

    Only a few people make 2.5x the average...

    Also news:
    Only a few people have substantially higher than average intelligence,
    Only a few cars have much higher maximum acceleration than the industry average,
    Only a few people have substantially lower sprint or marathon times than average,
    Only a few drisophila have curlier wings than average...
    Only a few people have substantially more acute hearing perception than average,

    I'm not sure if it's just the summary, but it seems the author may not understand the nature of the bell curve and why it's a decent model for population distributions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:59AM (#43995907)

    How do you get started in that field?

    1) Develop strong mathematics, physics, and software development skills.
    2) Take away your sense of reason and accountability.

  • by ZeroConcept ( 196261 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:03AM (#43995965)

    According to: []

    200K in Brooklyn is equivalent to $101K in Austin, TX.

    Not that hard to make 100K in Austin, the only issue is that is surrounded by Texas.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:04AM (#43995981)

    Always strive to get the most you can, but honestly don't worry about not making over $200k. Doing something you can enjoy is more important.

    I was making $50k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
    I then made it up to $100k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
    Which was ridiculous! I'm making double the money but my debt ratio is the same!

    I now have no car payment, investing money into retirement, giving, and I'm on goal to have my house paid off this year - at age 30.

    Yes I know cost of living varies, but if you budget your money, stay out of restaurants, and get out of debt you'll live great even earning well below Scrooge McDuck.

    (Dave Ramsey's baby steps...)

  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:21AM (#43996219)

    They are sucking up brilliant people who are strong in modeling – so mathematicians, physicist, engineers, etc. Physicist tend to be good a modeling large complex natural system with math. It’s the right skill set. Heck, I even know a philosophy grad who got hired for big bucks. (Now, he specialized in formal logic, had a minor in math, and was a real renaissance man.)

    Personally, the software people (note, I don’t know any developers) that I know that are in the field are lower down in the hierarchy. Great pay but they expect perform ace now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:23AM (#43996235)

    Exactly. I make significantly less than the industry average for my position, BUT I live in a six bedroom, 3 bath house on half an acre in the middle of a small/medium city. Work is 10 minutes from the house, the house is 5 minutes from shopping, and I'm 45 minutes from great fishing (and 2 hours from world-class fishing). My children go to great schools. My community has a low crime rate. There's a commuter airport ten minutes away and an international airport 3 hours away (by car). We have a nice theatre group in town and strong performing arts because of the local university. I work in a nice office with a door. I don't work for a publicly traded company and so I don't have to worry about the hellish nightmare called the quarterly report and all it entails. Oh...... and my bosses aren't Wall Street jerks with over-inflated egos and under-performing morals.

    What's $200k compared to that? If I were to move to a large city I would have to command a salary of well over $200k to keep the same lifestyle. The money isn't really in the big companies unless you are a top-tier executive. It's in small to medium sized corporations where you can work in a smaller city for a comparatively higher standard of living.

  • by Doc Hopper ( 59070 ) <> on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:31AM (#43996349) Homepage Journal

    Two factors to consider: Location and risk/reward ratio.

    The "$200,000" figure -- as mentioned earlier in the discussion -- is extremely location-dependent. Let's say you live in Salt Lake City, UT and make $100,000 per year. I'm from the area, and $90K-$110K seems to be a very typical pay rate for sysadmins and programmers with 10 or more years of experience in their field, if you include health and other benefits in the W-2 (all the employers do!). Then let's cross-reference that with the Cost Of Living calculator at [] . To enjoy an equivalent quality of life, here's what that guy needs to make (these are all area averages, not the specific cities referenced):

    San Francisco, CA: $171,987
    Los Angeles, CA: $140,380
    Seattle, WA: $123,784
    Raleigh, NC: $99,154
    Austin, TX: $97,991
    Washington, DC:$151,479
    New York, NY (Manhattan): $231,289
    New York, NY (Queens): $162,684

    Advice for earning the big bucks? If you want to earn a high-end "salary", move to one of the technology hubs. Get an education in finance and high-end mathematics. Or get a security clearance, shine up your resume and skills, and plan to have no life outside of work due to travel abroad. Get some solid experience, get in on some high-profile projects, and job-hop when you're at the apex of your visibility in your company for much better pay.

    If you don't want to live in Silicon Valley or New York, then be your own boss. Write your own products. Innovate in a field that lacks innovation. Develop software nobody has really thought of before. Monetize it and make a living. Cash out by selling the company to a bigger fish, and start working on your next idea. My company, for instance, buys small companies who create innovative software a LOT and integrates that software into its other offerings. And that strategy works very well for continually expanding the customer base and revenue. Sometimes it works out well for the little guy, sometimes not. It's a risk of running your own business.

    Working for someone in a "typical" IT or software engineering field is typically not gonna make you rich. It can make you a good living with solid pay and far less stress than running your own business or working in high-pressure financial and security markets, though. And you're less likely to lose several fortunes on your way to making a fortune if someone else takes the risk, and you get paid the salary. Risk/Reward.

    For me, quality of life matters a lot. I've been on both sides of the fence (trying to make it in business for myself vs. drawing a salary), and right now in my life it makes more sense to draw a reasonable salary doing a job that I love in a great environment working with quality people and making a positive difference without feeling that my job is my life. But I know I'm probably not going to strike it rich doing so... and I'm OK with that.

  • Re:Contractor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:37AM (#43996477)

    Unless you need healthcare, then you can forget that route.

    Contractors get no health coverage and many people can't get it without group policies.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:04PM (#43996925) Homepage

    2) Take away your sense of reason and accountability.

    Also, make sure that you measure your moral worth in dollars. The ideal guy in finance thinks like this [].

  • by kscguru ( 551278 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:06PM (#43996953)

    Same message but with a more positive spin. (And yes, I'm in that 200K+ category).

    Do it better
    Make sure your code works right, on the first try. When you have to pick between a band-aid and a permanent fix, choose the permanent fix - and deliver it just as fast as the person proposing the band-aid - because you know the system well and can deliver a fix faster than the outsider who is trying to be conservative. Design defensively and plan for debugging - make sure that when something goes wrong, it's very obvious where the problem started. Don't fear bugs in your code - optimize the process of them being assigned back to you and fixed.
    Do it faster
    When you know in the back of your head that something you wrote isn't up to par, invest the work immediately. Don't wait for somebody to tell you to do it better. Be a generalist: if you are waiting for another team to deliver a feature, learn how to add it to their area, add it, and unblock yourself - what you are doing will get done 10x faster that way. (It's a lot more work for you, but see: $200K+).
    Work longer hours
    Longer productive hours, need not be longer total hours. Don't goof off during the workday - no reading Slashdot [], no kitten videos on Youtube, etc, do all that after you leave work. Most people only work 2-4 productive hours a day, and have a raft of excuses (meetings, interruptions...). If what your company does cannot keep you interested in your job for 6+ hours a day, you aren't going to be a $200K+ developer working for them.
    Bullshit. Kiss ass
    Invest in and maintain social relationships. That group you depend on for your new feature? It takes them 2 weeks to deliver when you are a person with a face they see every week, but 2 months to deliver when you are just an e-mail address. And talking to them frequently helps ensure that dependency works right when it arrives, instead of being a technically-correct-but-useless mess. You say it's your manager's job ... I say your manager would be delighted to see you take care of yourself so he can focus on the people less qualified than you who need his help to be productive.
    Draw a firm line when everyone is so dependent on you that they can't survive without you
    Establish a reputation for reliability; when the company needs an issue fixed right and cannot afford to have an average person fix, re-fix, and re-fix again, be the person who gets called. This requires working in an area where some problems must be fixed "at any cost" (e.g. a $10M contract is on the line) - hence why most $200K+ developers are at big companies where mistakes in certain areas are disproportionately expensive.
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sabotage the competition. Don't ever settle. Sue
    This requires some mental jujitsu: you don't have enemies. Your job is to make them succeed just as much as your job is to succeed. When somebody tries to get in your way, don't focus on crushing them. Get around them, co-opt them, give them chances to succeed on your coattails (they may fail due to the incompetence you suspected, but at least you tried). This is a particularly hard skill, found only in CxOs and 95%+ salary range professionals. If you think "win-win" is just a figure of speech, then you aren't mentally ready to be in that crowd.
    Keep your heart on your sleeve at home. Nail people to the cross in business.
    Your co-workers want problems solved, not drama. (They get plenty of drama from their SO's at home / their sport team / their WOW clan / Glee / Game of Thrones / whatever). Drama is a distraction from your job; see above point about fully utilizing your hours of work. This doesn't mean you cannot have drama - only that it cannot distract from your job.
    Cheat. Lie when you can get away with it. Bend the rules until they break
    More importantly, know which rules to bend / lie / cheat and which to respect. When a new feature shows up on
  • Re:Contractor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spasm ( 79260 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:10PM (#43997003) Homepage

    Ok, so move to a first world country (ie one with universal health care) and *then* become a contractor..

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:12PM (#43997045) Journal


    You're either the ho or the pimp. Pimps don't have bosses.

  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:16PM (#43997113) Journal

    Lol, no, I don't think so. I took a job that pays $20K/yr less because there weren't assholes in the office. Having actually worked somewhere that was devastatingly dehumanizing* I realized the value of happiness.

    You know it's time to quit when you're in the dentist office, getting a root canal, not numbed because it's infected so badly the *caine's don't work, and that is preferable to being in the office. Moment of clarity.

  • by ImprovOmega ( 744717 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:18PM (#43997137)

    It's what Sonya Sotomayor said in 60 Minutes this week,.. Until she was working as a prosecutor she didn't really grasp what evil was , that some people were just evil. She had to quit after some years lest she begin to lose a part of her humanity, her faith in the future and in other people.

    This is a occupational hazard for cops also.

    "Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you."
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  • by muecksteiner ( 102093 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:24PM (#43997217)

    I object to the part of your posting where you make it sound as if only money can do that sort of thing to you. In academia, you can easily find similarly defective personalities, who gleefully ruin everything for everyone around them.

    What makes these people even more pathetic than the slime you find in the finance world is that the uni jerks don't even get large amounts of money out of it. They just do it to make people miserable, and to make sure no-one notices that they themselves are actually not nearly as smart as they pretend to be. There is a reason that something like PhDcomics exists, and parallels Dilbert to such a degree. PhDcomics is actually much less nasty than the real world. Unfortunately.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:26PM (#43997245) Journal

    Usually I'd say "if everyone you see is an asshole, look in the mirror", but finance (especially investment banking) is different. The odds of meeting 10 people all of whom are in the top 1% of asshole-ness are ... pretty good. Companies and sometimes industries have cultures.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:36PM (#43997409) Homepage

    Maybe a tad cheesy, but the point is pretty simple.

    The point is also almost completely mythical: Of the people who are thoroughly devoted employees, only a tiny fraction of them will ever come remotely close to being the president of a major corporation. For example, if you figure that 1 out of every 100 employees is working all-out in a large corporation, then that's a pool of about 1000 people. We'll assume that each of these people has a 50-year career with the company, and the average president is in charge for about 5 years, and that the company only promotes executives from within. So, mathematically speaking, of those 1000 people, under very favorable conditions, only 10 of them will be president, while 990 of them will have simply given up their family life, free time, potential earnings from switching jobs, etc for absolutely nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:41PM (#43997505)

    " I stayed through the interview just to see what I could see. Assholes as far as the eye could see. Every single person there, from the prostitute cum secretary that was at the front desk, to the manager I met to the mostly Asian guys who interviewed me just dripped arrogant asshole. "

    Maybe you're just a racist who can't see pass a person's skin color. Those guys interviewing you may very well be assholes, but you're not that different either.

    In a paragraph full of negative attributes, by lumping "mostly Asian guys" with "Assholes", "prostitute", "arrogant" you just betrayed your subconscious.

    . . . . should have taken the job. You'll fit right in.

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @01:35PM (#43998073) Homepage Journal

    The efficient application of capital is not a valuable service. It creates inflation and unemployment.

    Incorrect. The efficient application of capital creates ... efficiencies. Banning ATMs because they take the jobs of bank tellers is no way to regulate an economy. And these advances create more time, more productivity, and in a natural economy it results in cheaper goods, not inflation.

    Inflation is created by excessively increasing the supply of fiat currency, and that's done by the Federal Reserve.

  • by Internetuser1248 ( 1787630 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @03:30PM (#43999547)
    A better question is not how, but why? The limit where a higher income stops improving your quality of life is around 75k (that's Euros I think so you might want to ask for about 100k if you are in the US). I would prefer to do something useful with my life than chase after the unachievable and pointless goal of having limitless money.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay