Full-Stack Developer Salary: What can you expect to make?

By: Daniel Weiss

Software development is one of the most in-demand, lucrative professions today. But first: a reality check.

When considering a career in software development, the very first question you should ask is “Will I enjoy it?” Web development is taking off and highly in demand, it’s important not to sacrifice your personal happiness for a career—it might be why you’re looking for a new job in the first place! If you’re just starting out with programming, you should try it out before committing to it as a career. Learn with free resources like codecademy.com. Build websites using tutorials, or customize a blog with platforms like Wordpress.

Programming is also a valuable career for more than just monetary reasons. Every industry is going to be largely dependent on software very soon.  Even if you don’t want to be a developer as your day job, some programming skills will help you maintain your level of work independence as machines start taking over the world—metaphorically speaking of course.

Once you’ve decided to pursue a career in web-development, it’s all about learning. You can self-teach, get a degree from a university (ka-ching), or attend an immersive coding bootcamp like Fullstack Academy.

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With that out of the way, you can start anticipating your future salary and daydreaming about how to spend all those Benjamins! But a lot of how much you can expect to make is tied up in what part of development you know—or at least it used to be. Let us explain...

1. What is Full-Stack? How much can you expect to make?

A full-stack developer can do it all. That is to say, they have proficient skills in both front- and back-end technologies. They feel comfortable discussing, creating, and meddling with code that affects both what appears on a user’s screen, and that which drives the logic in the back-end. They’re proficient with languages like C++, Ruby, or JavaScript (via a platform like Node.js), and have the expertise to make beautiful, functional, user-intuitive front-end applications. As with all other industries, your perceived value to a company will determine your salary. If you have the skills to do what might require more than one employee otherwise, you will be compensated accordingly.

Fullstack Developer Salary Search on Indeed: $110,000

2. Breaking it Down

When we get into specifics of salary in relation to particular programming skills, definitions blur and borders become less rigid. In reality, front-end developer (or engineer) is a relatively new term, attributed to what used to largely be called a “web designer.” However, while front-end work was formerly focused on markup languages, now there’s a significant amount of down-and-dirty programming work to be done, particularly using JavaScript. As a result, front-end salaries can now equal, or in some cases surpass, those of the back-end.

Frontend Developer Salary Search on Indeed: $97,000

Per techopedia: “A back-end developer is a programmer who writes the core logic of a website, software or information system. The developer create components and features that are indirectly accessed by a user through a front-end application or system.”

This sounds impressive and difficult, no? Common industry knowledge states that back-end developers are paid more because the work is more demanding and technically driven. This pay-disparity is still a reality, but it’s moving more towards parity, particularly as front-end development becomes more technically rigorous, and more technologies are shared between the two (like JavaScript, as previously mentioned).

Backend Developer Salary Search on Indeed: $98,000

3. Tech Stack Matters

We didn’t make the rules of economics, but most of us are cursed to abide by them! As a result, your developer-salary is largely influenced by how in demand your skills are. Web development is all about a few specific languages right now. If your specialty is in Perl, you may find work, but it’s unlikely you’ll be pulling in the same kind of paycheck as the Python developer next door.

Three very popular higher-order programming languages are JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. Using a simple search on indeed.com for “(language) developer salary” in New York, NY, we can see they all have relatively close average salaries, impressive numbers between $110,000 - $125,000. These are also affected by how much experience the role requires, which is not broken down in the split below. (Note: These figures change incrementally as listings are added and removed. We recommend conducting your own search for your specific needs.)

JavaScript Developer: $112,000

Python Developer: $124,000

Ruby Developer: $124,000

Regarding which language you should learn if looking to become a developer, we need to consider how many positions are available for each technology (also in NYC via Indeed).

JavaScript Developer: 2,724

Python Developer: 472

Ruby Developer: 645

Considering the number of open positions for JavaScript, this could be the best language to learn given the combination of high pay and significant industry demand.

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This and more language-specific infographics on http://www.whoishostingthis.co...

4. Location Matters

The numbers above were for NYC, a large metropolitan area with a high cost of living. Salaries will, of course, be higher there to compensate. To give you an idea of how these numbers will vary, here are the average “web developer” salaries in 5 metro areas per indeed.com.

San Francisco: $118,000*
New York City: $119,000
Dallas, TX: $89,000
Lincoln, NE: $57,000
Columbus, OH: $85,000

*We should mention, the validity of any statistics should be questioned. Other research shows SF developer salaries as the highest in the country. The language used should also be considered: Software developer (essentially a synonymous term) yields different results, for example.

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This source from dice.com shows SF at the top of developer salaries

Something else to consider is geography as it relates to in-demand technologies. While JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and other popular languages are generally beneficial anywhere where development is happening, some languages are especially popular in specific geographic areas. For example, Java—a language essential to the creation of Android apps, and also popular with government organizations—would be a great resume asset someplace like Silicon Valley, or for work in Washington, DC. Here are the number of search results for Java and JavaScript Software Developer positions in the Washington DC on Indeed.

Java Software Developer: 3,524

JavaScript Software Developer: 2,638

5. Starting Salary

Candidly speaking, developer salaries are like any other job. If you have previous industry experience, or valuable experience in another, possibly tangential field, you’ll bring more value to a hiring company and inherently receive a higher salary. Graduates of Fullstack who are straight out of college are more likely to receive an entry-level salary (around $80,000 per year in New York) while those with some sort of work experience—whether it be in marketing, engineering, or even programming—could more easily move directly into a six-figure income.

So salary averages and job listing searches do not tell the whole story. Even though there are a lot of factors outside your control, that isn’t to say you’re a helpless bystander in the hiring process!

Starting salary negotiations play a big role not only in how much you’ll be making short term, but for your long-term earning potential as well. Theserverside.com recommends negotiating a higher base rate in exchange for possible bonuses. It’s easier to match another, comparable employee’s bonus package in the future than to renegotiate a base salary. Additionally, until you accept that offer, you should always be actively searching. Nothing inspires confidence in negotiation like companies competing for your skills!

You should know your worth as a developer in a given market. This blog post is a great place to start, but it should be just that. Do in-depth research on location, technologies used, and other employees’ salaries.

Most important is to not sell yourself short. You’ve worked hard to learn these skills and you are an asset!

And not to end on a low note, but none of these salaries, negotiating techniques, or searches will matter if you don’t land an offer. Follow all job search best-practices: know what type of position you’re aiming for, apply to jobs frequently, have a great portfolio, and prepare for technical interviews. Possibly the best resource we recommend to graduating students at Fullstack is the big green book—Cracking the Coding Interview. Read it once, read it twice, take notes both times. It may not be your idea of a leisure reading, but it’ll reward you when you leave interviewers wowed by your ninja-like prowess with code.

6. What Next?

Thinking about becoming a fullstack developer? Getting a top-tier job is challenging… Fullstack Academy’s immersive program teaches an advanced curriculum, and our graduates have landed roles at Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others. Learn more about our award winning program here: Fullstack Academy.

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