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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, Salary.com 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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  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:48AM (#43995745) Journal
    Financial engineering. Wall street is sucking them up to implement high frequency and not so high frequency trading apps. Doesn't hurt to have a mathematics degree on top of that which would probably jack you up even further.
  • Re:Contractor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:54AM (#43995849)

    I make 200+k a year working in Washington state, I'm a devops(aka a seriously good generalist).

    To be blunt, I am better than most people and no I don't know everything. The problem with most people they have ZERO initiative in improving themselves. The fact is I'm a high school dropout which started coding for cash when I was rather young. I torched my childhood for education and experience, I regret nothing. I'm always in a state of learning, keeping up with new tech, OSs of all types, security and even find time for a personal/sex life.

    TL;DR: stop playing video games and hit the books continuously.

  • Issue Is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:56AM (#43995871) Homepage Journal

    I work in IT for a large multinational company and the issue I see with our approach to developers is better, faster, cheaper. In reality what this boils down to is cheaper and good enough. Projects tend to drag on for longer then they should but the development expense from a salary perspective is fairly minimal because the bulk of it is being done offshore.

    I think if you want to earn the big dollars as a programmer either need to be the best in the field working for one of the big tech guys like Apple, Google, Etc... Or you need to go work for a start-up for bad starting wages but a percentage ownership in the company.

    The only other option I see is going out on your own and starting your own development company but then if you earn big dollars it's because your business is doing well not because you are programming most of the time.

  • by p00kiethebear ( 569781 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:57AM (#43995877)
    Do it better. Do it faster. Work longer hours. Bullshit. Kiss ass. Draw a firm line when everyone is so dependent on you that they can't survive without you. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sabotage the competition. Don't ever settle. Sue. Keep your heart on your sleeve at home. Nail people to the cross in business. Cheat. Lie when you can get away with it. Bend the rules until they break.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:00AM (#43995925)

    Posting anonymously only because I know my employees read Slashdot but:

    I make a very decent living (not 200k but well above the median income for the area) working managing data analysts using SAS and R. This field is rapidly growing and without enough graduates coming out of college with the appropriate mix of programming, math, and business skill we find ourselves looking for anyone with any relevant knowledge combination.

    This void is being filled at a nearly alarming rate of high salaries for what amounts to somewhat limited skill. The average salary for someone with 3-5 years of related experience is just under $100,000/year + benefits, which is pretty impressive for an area which has a median income of about $53,000 a year.

    Want to get money as a developer? Learn to write SQL, SAS and now especially R and be able to do simple statistics, generate explanatory charts on queried data, and have decent communication skill.

  • by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:30AM (#43996327) Homepage

    This is an important point. I could make a lot more money elsewhere but I like the quality of life here.

    Though I could be making some more money here but that's a different issue.

  • by gwolf ( 26339 ) <(gro.flowg) (ta) (flowg)> on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:38AM (#43996491) Homepage

    If you don't take into account geographical issues, saying "$200K" means very little.

    I am a Mexican software developer. I consider myself well paid, and while I am far from living a life of luxury, I get enough to even set some aside to make some savings. My salary? Somehwere around US$25K a year. And I find I am a bit over the average in my country — Take as an example the study on salaries for 2012 published by Software Gurú [sg.com.mx], a national software development magazine.

    (For reference sake, the US dollar is currently at ~MX$12, and we usually talk about our payment in monthly periods... so for your convenience, you can even read the numbers presented as if they were yearly salaries in US dollars ;-) )

  • by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:48AM (#43996687) Homepage Journal

    Working in a location that pays higher dollars makes perfect sense if you are also investing that money in a house/condo in the same area. Why? Because it is not a bad retirement plan. You sell your $1m condo in downtown whereever and buy a nice home in a country setting for less than half that and live off the rest. Risk the housing market will go down? Yes, but not as much risk as in less dense areas, and IMHO lower than the risk of investing in the stock/bonds/currencies/minerals/commodities markets.

    You should still have some retirement savings, but living and working in a high standard of living area and then moving out later is a good idea. If you can stand it.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:51AM (#43996735)

    I interviewed at a hedge fund in Greenwich CT.. As soon as I walked in the door, I wanted to leave and knew I wouldn't take the job. The advertised money was 180k. I was a perfect fit.

      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.

    The interview mostly consisted of physics questions. I got the impression that they knew nothing about the advertised programming skill set they were looking for. The interview process amounted to what personalities like that do when they know they know they are in the presence of someone who just knows more than they do on a topic, and is therefore in THEIR eyes their "superior" .. they treated it like a form of ego combat and chose the field of combat to be the one they knew . Lots of physics questions..

    Money makes people really ugly and people who just lust after money above all else can never be trusted, believed, or act as my employer. To see egos that inflated, you'd otherwise have to go to a martial arts exhibition or a bodybuilding contest or something. Perhaps people there were a little above average in intelligence but they literally walked and talked and postured as if they were simply from another planet and mere humans should not think they can understand what it is they do.

    Reading the headlines, they still have that attitude. No small part of it is the coke and amphetamines that is an endemic part of that culture no doubt. Stimulants make people exactly that way.. I am superman... I am above everything- morality, other people's opinions, the law.....meanwhile they're killing brain cells by the tens of millions. ...

    Some subcultures are so destructive any normal person could smell it on contact. This is one of them. You don't want that job at any price. Working with nothing but assholes coke fiends and sociopaths carries the potential to ruin your attitude towards not just work, but humanity itself.

    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.

    Life is short and you need to spend it doing constructive things that help humanity in ways whether large or small, personal or professional., creating that thing that only you will create or just being a good parent. THESE are the activities that keep civilization going and going forward, not the Foreign Exchange.

    You have to fight in this world against the onslaught of assholes who hand you shitty experiences just to destroy your soul, because they're soulless ghouls and a part of being a soulless ghoul is to contemptuously and with pleasure destroy the things that are life affirming.

    You have to guard your outlook and optimism , your vision of a better world and the belief that it can be realized from all attacks. That and time are your most precious assets.

    A world in which good works from good-hearted people is freely flowing into it is the best defense, and by far the best offense against Wall Street / Hedge Fund scum. Don't let them even so much as brush up against your life, much less give them the position or leverage to make you think or feel anything on their account.


  • by JBHarris ( 890771 ) <bharris@isf.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:54AM (#43996783)
    If you go to work for the money, you will probably cap out at the 80%-90% percentile in your given field. Which isn't bad, but you won't set the right-edge of the curve.

    Inspirational speak Zig Ziglar had a story that illustrates this point pretty well. I'm going to try to recall the details, but the gist is pretty simple.

    Some railroad laborers were out working on a track one day when a luxurious single-car train pulled up. A voice called out from the car and said "Dave! Is that you?". One of the laborers looked up and said "Yea, I'm Dave. John, how are you?"
    Dave was invited into the car and the two were in there for nearly an hour before Dave emerged and the two men embraced as old friends would do.
    When Dave got back down and picked up his tools to begin working again, the luxury rail car pulled away. One of the other laborers asked Dave, "Was that John Abrams, president of the railroad?" Dave replied "Yes, sure is. He and I started on the same day in the same job 30 years ago." When the man pushed a little further and said "Well, if you two started on the same day in the same job, why is he running things and you're out here with a shovel?"
    Dave thought for only a moment before answering.
    "When I went to work for this company 30 years ago I went to work for $3.25 an hour. When John started, he went to work for the railroad."

    Maybe a tad cheesy, but the point is pretty simple.
  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:07PM (#43996965)

    If it's in Minnesota he was right to flat turn them down. I would have hung-up as soon as they said where they were from.

    3m recruited 100 California engineers and tracked them. After 2 winters they only had 1 left, he was originally from Wisconsin.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:08PM (#43996987) Homepage

    Actually, the authors (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner) didn't spend time with the gang, a graduate student named Sudhir Venkatesh was the one that figured that out.

    As the story goes, Venkatesh was going around doing a sociological survey in Chicago, knocked on some apartment door, saw a bunch of drug dealers, and was thinking "well, that was a nice life" when to his surprise the drug dealers were happy to talk to him and eventually let him see the books.

  • by bADlOGIN ( 133391 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @01:55PM (#43998265) Homepage

    I work in IT for a large multinational company...

    Now you have n! problems as a developer.

    $0.05 worth of free advice to anyone out there:
    #1 - _NEVER_ do software development for a large company as an employee. There's too much bullshit, politics, and brain dead process to get anything done. Also, you're nothing but a replaceable part. Go small to mid size, or (better yet) be a contractor. Which brings me to my second point:

    #2 - _NEVER_ do software development where your efforts do not generate revenue unless you're taking the job to try and learn something. If the project/organization/whatever isn't making a profit off of every line of code you write, GTFO. Otherwise, you are simply an expense to be fucking MBA'd and "managed" as opposed to a source of revenue. When those goddamned suits look at you, make sure they smile and see dollar signs & black ink.

    #3 - Contracting let's you violate rule #1 & #2 for fun and profit. BDC's (Big Dumb Companies) are so fucked up, most competent hands-on developers don't want to touch them with a 10 foot pole. That's where contractors & contracting firms come in. When you're not an employee of BDC, Inc. you get to go work for HotShit consultants LLC. When some project is fucked and some idiot CIOs neck is on the line he'll shell out a metric ass-load of cash to get it fixed. Enter you and your friends as HotShit LLC to come in and do the dirty work. Since you work for HotShit LLC, you're of course not a direct employee of BDC Inc. (or directly involved with the politics and BS thereof ) which fixes rule #1 and most importantly, as a consultant you're putting money in the pocket of HotShit LLC thus fixing rule #2 at the same time. Fun. Profit.

  • by pele_smk ( 839310 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @04:36PM (#44000503)
    You're not spending your money in the right place if you don't think it can buy happiness. Sure buying cars and "stuff" won't make you happy, but buying experiences will. A flight to New Zealand costs around $2k. Let me see you buy that ticket plus hotels for a month long stay in New Zealand on your "happy" $60k. Good luck....30 days off work will cost a $120k per year salary worker $10,000 in time off, that's before you start calculating the cost of travel and the experiences in New Zealand. So $120 is instantly $110k a year. I'm going to lean on $145,000 with mild responsibilities and a flexible work schedule with a good amount of time off being the magic number. Anything less, makes you count your pennies when you're traveling. But please....keep working for $60k and we'll compare most interesting man in the world stories in 10 years and see who has scene more, done more, and is happier.
  • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @04:47PM (#44000661)

    This is sort of a lie. I know people who claim to live in San Francisco because of good restaurants, good museums, good shows. And yet they don't participate in those activities even once a month, meanwhile if there is a good show or museum you can still attend even if you live 100 miles away.

    And beautiful women are everywhere.

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:55PM (#44002865) Homepage

    As I've written before: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1847578&cid=34100224 [slashdot.org]

    The circle of knowledge, a poem by Paul D. Fernhout

    All philosophy is anthropology;
    All anthropology is psychology;
    All psychology is biology;
    All biology is chemistry;
    All chemistry is physics;
    All physics is math;
    All math is philosophy. :-)

    See my website for lots about the future of economics. I passed on my change to work on Wall Street at J.P. Morgan Chase doing Smalltalk around 2000. Back then I didn't think it worth the commute there (which my wife had hated earlier), as well as the risk for a Japanese-style subway gassing. Little did I imagine someone attacking the WTC, but I guess otherwise it is possible I might have been at a meeting in the WTC as the group met over there sometimes.

    Still, as imaginary as fiat dollars are, if enough people believe in the idea, that gives it a sort of reality. And, like most US Americans, I have to deal with that collective fantasy as a way to ration the fruits of production. But it is hard also to look past how the abstractions related to the fantasy of money often hurt so many people. "The Seven Laws of Money" by Michael Phillips is great down-to-Earth book on money by a creator of MasterCard, and reading it around age 15 was a formative experience in my life -- helping me avoid an early pursuit of fiat dollars and instead working towards ideals I cared about (with what limited success I've had).

    But really, almost all financial engineering is pointless zero-sum gambling work, as interesting as it may still be as an abstract game. As it was explained to me by a friendly mathematician at IBM Research over lunch when I was in the speech group there (which was a group constantly being poached by Wall Street), it rally is picking up nickels before a streamroller (Buffet's analogy). You bet other people's money in such a way as you have a high chance at getting a small percentage increase on a big sum, and you (legally) skim some money off the top as a fee (or reward), while cleverly "managing" the risks, including those black swan events that most everyone ignores and you probably will too. If you are lucky, you do this for a bunch of years and then retire. If you are unlucky, you have a bad year (either badly managed risk or a black swan?) and maybe even lose your job as the company folds, but you don't generally have to give back previous years profits -- plus you get to learn "How to Speak Hedgie": :-)
    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2007/08/how_to_speak_hedgie.html [slate.com]
    "In these days of market volatility, hedge-fund managers and executives at all types of money management firms have been forced to explain why their funds are shutting down, losing money hand over fist, and freezing investors' funds. When they do so, however, they frequently lapse into a strange euphemistic dialect. And so we thought it would be helpful to provide a handy Hedgie-English glossary. ...
    Hedge-Fund Phrase: Unprecedented, unique circumstances
    Translation: Stuff happens. But we had no clue. ..."

    But, and I only realized this much later, by indirectly raising issues about systemic risk in the 1980s around the Princeton University Operations Research group, I pretty much ensured I would not get a PhD, at least there. :-)
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/princeton-graduate-school-plans.html [pdfernhout.net]

    But, like hedge fund managers, do those professors have to give back decades of salary because they were in some sense