How Much Money Do Computer Programmers Make?

Are you passionate about technology and coding? Do you have an eye for detail and enjoy solving problems? If so, consider building a career in the IT industry. You could become a computer programmer, app developer, software tester, cybersecurity specialist, and more. Computer programmers, for example, use their skills to write and update code for software applications. Think of Slack, Apple, Zoom, or Google Chrome — these apps wouldn't exist without the hard work of computer programmers and their teams. 

The IT industry is facing a talent shortage, reports the Society for Human Resource Management. As more and more workers are quitting their jobs, it becomes increasingly difficult for companies to find new talent. The rapid advancements in technology don't make things easier either. On top of that, many organizations set the bar too high, rejecting qualified candidates just because they don't have a college degree, says ERP Today.

All in all, it's a candidate-driven market, meaning you have leverage when applying for jobs and negotiating your salary. As you gain experience, you can start your own business and connect with companies that need your services. But first, make sure you know what you're worth in the job market. Computer programmers can make six figures, depending on their location, job duties, and expertise — among other factors. 

How much can you earn as a computer programmer?

The management consulting firm McKinsey reports that 43% of enterprises are experiencing skill gaps. What's more, the tech talent shortage could result in annual revenue losses of up to $162 billion by 2030, stalling innovation and progress. Tech-driven companies pay higher wages than those in other sectors, but the actual numbers vary based on a candidate's work experience, skills, and location.

Computer programmers earn about $93,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those working for software development companies make more than $102,000 per year — and some receive over $155,000. These professionals often wear multiple hats and work full-time, depending on their job duties. For example, you may have to design software programs, test mobile apps, or implement security patches — especially if you work for a startup or small business with limited resources. Big companies like Microsoft and Google usually have well-defined roles, and everyone knows who's responsible for what.

Some programmers work independently, which allows them to set their own rates. Basically, their income potential is unlimited. If you're just getting started, sign up on platforms like Upwork, Indeed, Toptal, or Dice to connect with potential clients. Meanwhile, reach out to local businesses that may need your services. You may also contribute to open-source projects, such as Django, OpenCV, Monero, and Jenkins, to build your portfolio and gain experience. 

Factors that can affect your pay

Salaries and wages can vary by thousands of dollars for the same job, depending on the region, experience, education, and type of employer. The IT industry is no exception. For example, programmers employed by computer systems design firms make about $88,150 per year, reports the BLS. Those working for scientific research organizations, by comparison, can earn $132,000 or higher. If you live in Washington, expect to earn a whopping $183,600 per year, or $88.27 per hour. A computer programmer working in Tallahassee, Florida, receives only $64,000 per year.

Generally, computer programmers employed by big companies earn the highest wages. Apple and other tech giants may also offer paid time off, on-site childcare, discounted products, wellness programs, and free trips. However, your base salary will depend largely on your location, skills, and the tech stack you specialize in. You can also expect to earn more if you manage a team or complete formal education, explains Business Insider.

From learning new skills to moving to a different city or state, there are ways to boost your earning potential. For starters, consider taking additional courses or continuing your education. If, say, you specialize in Java and PHP, you could also learn to code in Python, Swift, or C++. Having a good working knowledge of JavaScript, Dart, Rust, or Scala can be helpful, too, says Northwestern University. Scala, for instance, is widely used for the development of cloud-based apps, while Kotlin works best for Android applications.