How much do developers earn in 2020

From its beginnings in the late 20th century, until now, the use of the internet has grown with such an exponential rate that today we can no longer imagine our lives without it. Since many people use the internet daily as their primary source of information, and to communicate, web development has become an unavoidable screw in the tech industry machinery. 

Web development is considered one of the most lucrative fields in tech, ranking in the top three for any (entry, median, or top) level of experience. 

If you’re looking to pursue a career in this field, informing yourself about where employers search for developers and about the average salary is one of the steps of market analysis that should help you figure out whether you see yourself there or not. Moreover, if you’re already in the industry, keeping up to date with web development salary trends can help you reflect on your current state. 

However, there is much more you should know about web development before jumping to numbers. Here are some basic questions to answer: 

  • What does a web developer do?
  • What are the types of web development?
  • Which factors influence a web developer’s salary?

What does a web developer do?

A web developer is a programmer who turns web design into a website, meaning they need to know how to translate a regular language (like English) into complex lines of code understandable for a computer. 

Basically, web developers make web design aesthetics functional. To achieve this, they need intricate knowledge on how to operate and properly utilise various programming languages.

As there are different types of web development, programmers on large projects usually have to collaborate, meaning that this is not a one-man show. 

This leads us to the next question:

What are the types of web development?

In website creation, each type of developer focuses on a different aspect of the process. Three main types of web developers are front-end, back-end, and full-stack, full guide here. 

Here are brief explanations of what each of them does.

Front-end developers 

Front-end developers deal with those parts of a website people interact with. They take the design and write codes necessary for web implementation. This is usually an entry-level position suitable for newbies in the field, meaning their salary is also a bit lower. 

Minimum knowledge in programming languages required is HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. The first allows you to put segmented content onto a website, while CSS is used for style: colours, letter size, borders. JavaScript is mostly used for adding interactive elements like pushbuttons. Basically, it’s for defining pages’ behaviour. 

The main responsibilities of a front-end website developer are:

  • Making the content clear, visible, and properly distributed. Some content writing skills and knowledge in SEO could be necessary;
  • Placing the colours correctly—text, headers, background, which can require some designing skills, as you want to keep an aesthetic consistency throughout the website;
  • Correct formation of the outbound links and proper website responsiveness. This means it needs to work on different browsers and devices (desktop and mobile). 

As we move on, you’ll see that front-end development is probably the simplest of the three, though not at all easy to learn and practice. The field is ever-growing and there are no job shortages for front-end developers, so you will probably be in a position to choose how and what precisely you want to do. If your career is just starting and you’re looking for some entry-level positions, front-end development could be the right option. 

Back-end developers

While front-enders need to ensure that the website is appealing and functional for the user, back-end developers are the ones ‘behind the scenes’. They create the code that controls how the website loads and runs, dealing with the server-side of the equation. 

The job of back-end developers is much more complex, as they need to create the programs that power everything on the website – databases, applications, servers, as quickly as possible. 

The basic programming languages necessary are Ruby, PHP, Python, and Java. Ruby’s and Python’s main use is in data analysis, building web applications, or prototyping, while PHP is a server-side scripting language used for developing static websites. Java is necessary for making a website suitable for mobile phones’ operating systems.

Back-end developers’ main characteristics can be summed up into:

  • Flexibility and in-depth knowledge in creating different programs;
  • Coming up with the most efficient ways of creating scalable, secure, and easy-to-maintain programs;

The role of the back-end developer is crucial for proper website building and yet, their work is invisible for final users. Since the operations they perform are much more complex and delicate, their wages are naturally higher. 

Full-stack developers

The full-stack developer job description is the most proximate answer to the question ‘what does a web developer do’, as they combine a bit from both worlds. 

Full-stack developers usually oversee huge web-development projects for companies. Their skills require in-depth knowledge of both front-end and back-end development, making them capable of both steering the process and jumping in and building programs for any part of a website.  

When clients need small websites and have a lower budget , full-stack developers can usually perform the action on their own, making them more employable and more secure on the labour market. Moreover, their salaries are the highest in the field of web development, as becoming a full-stack developer requires mastering all of the above mentioned. 

Though many developers enter the field as front-enders, you can see that there are many pluses to acquiring both types of knowledge. Not only that you’ll be eligible for any job position on the market and receive a higher wage, but your job will also be more dynamic. 

Which factors influence a web developer’s salary?

We already described the first influencing factor above, and it’s related to the type of web development. We already mentioned that front-enders have the lowest wages, while back-enders and full-stack developers earn much more. 

Apart from the job type, there are other factors that can impact the salary level, such as:

  • seniority level, 
  • experience, 
  • location, 
  • or programming language in use. 

Level of seniority and experience

Needless to say – a higher level of seniority means a higher wage. Yes, we mentioned that front-enders usually take entry positions, but you can also be a junior full-stack developer as well as a senior front-ender. Higher seniority levels mean higher precision in the perception of your knowledge and skills, as well as more experience in the field. 

Having more experience in the field helps you perform more complex operations, which is how you move through the seniority hierarchy. Perhaps you’ve done some freelancing or internships during your studies that prepared you for more than an entry-level position, but you’re still not independent enough to count yourself a senior. 

Location 

Nevertheless, web developer salaries are far from the same in all countries. 

According to the pay-scale calculator, countries that offer the highest web-developer wages, even for entry-level positions, are the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, followed by Western European countries, and Israel. 

Another way location can affect web developer salary is through the difference between urban and rural areas, as well as different cities and country areas. People in rural areas with lower population density usually have lower wages, even when it comes to web development, just as some differences in salaries can be observed between cities or areas. 

However, it seems that the trends are changing, as the US is now seeing a shift in tech-talents’ lifestyle preferences. So far, big cities like LA or NY have been the most popular locations for professionals working in this field as they offer big opportunities, but it also seems that people got fed-up from growing social inequalities and high living costs. US tech-talents seem to be moving to smaller counties in search of a simpler life, meaning we can also expect a shift in salary grades in different locations. 

Programming language

This factor can be seen as closely tied to the type of web development in question since front-enders don’t work in the same languages as back-enders, but for the full-stackers, it’s not as important, as they use almost all of them. 

Engineers who work in .Net seem to be earning the least, while those working in Python and Ruby earn the most. With years of experience, .Net engineer salaries are likely to see exponential growth, while those programming in Ruby will more likely reach a plateau after 2-4 years. 

In 2020, Python, Java, C/C++, and JavaScript are considered the most lucrative programming languages to work with. These are among the most popular ones and luckily, not too difficult to learn. 

How much do web developers make in different countries?

Finally, we’ve come to the actual numbers. The coding and web development industry is probably one of the most prosperous ones, as digital needs rise every year.

Programmers have a vast variety of employment options. They can either work for large or smaller companies and use their machines and offices, or they can possess their own means of production (computers and programs), utilise freelance platforms, and work from wherever they want. Either way, it’s good to know what to expect from the market and from your salary. 

According to a 2020 survey, the most common way of finding new job opportunities for web development in Australia is via My Developer and Business network, or by applying directly to the preferred companies. It’s also quite common that headhunters find you on LinkedIn or some similar network and match your skills with a company. 

The most common measure for wage assessment is the average value, but this one can be tricky, as variations on the market impact it quite a lot. For example, if one company pays $100,000 per year, but three other companies pay $50,000 for the same positions, the average wage will be $62,500. However, what we see from this example is a significant difference between the average and the most common salary. The height of the average salary is affected by a huge gap between the highest and all other wages. 

Another important thing to know is that numbers can vary, as they are usually not derived from all web developer wages in one country. They are more likely based on a smaller sample of registered wages. The numbers may also vary due to differences between cities, or areas in a country. 

All this should just be a reminder to read numbers with a certain reserve, as we will now dive into the topic of web developers’ salaries in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. 

Note: All numbers are expressed in US dollars. 

Australia

According to Indeed, an average web developer salary is $85,203 per year, which is somewhat higher than an average Australian salary in general. The most common salaries according to Glassdoor seems to range somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000

But, this data is not very informative, as we now know that different types of developers, on different positions and experience levels, earn different salaries. 

According to Glassdoor, the average front-end developer salary is estimated at $54,320 while Indeed approximates to $111,127 per year. The most common salary is somewhere between $56,000 and $72,000. 

The average back-end developer’s wage seems to be only slightly higher – Glassdoor calculates it at $52,672 and Indeed at $111,330

Relying on the same sources, an average full-stack developer salary is between $54,714(Glassdoor) and $115,387 (Indeed)

Web development entry-level positions in Australia start at $39,804, according to PayScale calculator and their average value is $90,347, as reported by Indeed. Juniors’ average wage is estimated to be some $69,399, while seniors earn $97,678 on average. 

According to DevConnect’s recently conducted survey, 20% of web developers in Australia’s East Coast earn less than $70,000, and 20% earn more than $150,000. The respondents were targeted in Australia’s major cities: Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. The stats for the rest of the sample are:

  • 10% earn $70-85,000 
  • 13% earn $85-100,000
  • 11% earn $100-115,000
  • 14% earn $115-130,000
  • 13% earn $130-150,000

As visible from the list, the percentages are more or less balanced for all pay grades except the highest and lowest which have the highest saturation of the respondents. This trend remains even when we look at every city separately. Only in Melbourne there seems to be a higher number of developers at the lowest pay grade – 27%.

New Zealand

So, we’ve seen that wage values can vary significantly depending on the source and the perspective of analysing Australia’s web development market. Now let’s take a peek at what’s going on with web developer salaries in New Zealand. 

According to the Payscale calculator, the average web developer salary in New Zealand is $32,941, or $43,576 according to Glassdoor. The most common value seems to be between $32,682 and $36,000. 

According to Indeed, front-enders in New Zealand earn some $86,408 on average, while Glassdoor accounts they earn $39,945. The information about back-end developers is not available, while full-stack developers are estimated to earn around $78,458 on average

Entry-level positions in New Zealand are estimated to earn $28,083 on average, junior-level $32,564, while seniors’ average pay reaches $49,082.

USA

The salary ranges in the US seem to be somewhat higher than in Australia and New Zealand. According to Indeed, web developers, in general, earn $76,429 on average per year, which is very close to the estimated 2019 developers’ median pay of $73,760 by the bureau of labour statistics

Front-enders in the USA earn $107,502 on average, with a usual cash bonus reaching up to $2,500 per year according to Indeed. Back-end developers have an average yearly salary of $128,231, with around $4000 in yearly bonuses

Average full-stack developer salary seems to be $113,070, with some $4,100 in yearly bonuses. 

Full-stack developers’ salary is expected to be the highest, but these numbers can be explained by the huge differences between entry-level and senior-level full-stack positions. 

In the USA, professionals at entry-level developer positions earn between $55,000 and $67,607, while for juniors it’s some $66,782. Senior-level positions earn the most, which is somewhere between  $91,727 and $102,024 on average. 

Freelance work

While reading and researching about a career in web development, you’ve probably read a lot about the dream-like opportunities that come with freelancing, as opposed to full-time positions in a company. 

Working for a company gives you less freedom, as your time is structured in advance, your goals are set by the company’s needs, and you’re being told what to work on. However, with this kind of sacrifice comes a significant amount of security – every month you receive a fixed salary, regardless of the amount of work for that month, and you usually get social security and healthcare.

However, freelancing allows you to choose the projects you work on yourself, and to choose when and from where you perform work. You are your own boss, and the measure of your success is client satisfaction. You have control over your workload and who you work with, but you also need to get used to an inconsistent cash-flow and managing administrative duties, health insurance, and social security on your own. 

When it comes to finances, once you step foot in a company, you know the height of your salary and from that moment on you have an overall idea of how far it can grow. 

Freelancing it’s not like that – it’s usually more difficult to set sails in the freelancing waters, so many beginners end up doing cheap jobs at first. However as time goes by and your client base and experience grow, you’ll notice that your earnings are topping those of your full-time colleagues. 

Top cities for freelance web development seem to be San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Washington DC, and NY, where earnings range between $86,000 and $96,000 on average. 

Freelancing web developers on Upwork earn between $59,559 (lowest pay grade) and $84,643. The average wage is estimated at $68,331 per year. On Guru, which is one of the leading freelance platforms for developers, the top freelancers earn more than $200,000, while others seem to easily top $100,000 per year, regardless of their country of origin. 

So, if you’d like to have the freedom to work from the commodity of your home, or to travel around taking your work with you, freelance web development can really pay off, as you’re the master of your time. However, taxes, health insurance, social security, and administrative duties will fall on your back in this case. 

If you’re ready to sacrifice free time and possibly a much higher salary, you will enjoy the benefits of security that a full-time position in a company provides.

Has COVID-19 had an impact on web developers and how?

Although developers’ jobs and salaries seem to be untouchable by many external conditions with the need for their skills constantly on the rise, it turns out things are not that simple. 

According to DevConnect’s 2020 survey, 24% of the surveyed developers were somehow impacted by the pandemic. Some 7% of them became redundant to their companies, while 16% experienced a cut in pay or working hours. 

Moreover, 20% are looking forward to returning to the offices, but 37% seems to like the privilege of working from home and would prefer to continue that way. 

Final words

Web development is a quite lucrative career, but not only in terms of financial prosperity. Since civilization is moving towards digitalisation and everyone seems to be moving their day-to-day activities to the internet, as a web developer you get to be a major part of this revolution. Every pore of our lives requires an online space. This is where we share our thoughts, feelings, information, news, etc. Websites are like virtual offices to many businesses, and as new businesses emerge, it’s hard to imagine that web development will die out in the foreseeable future. Moreover, our lives are already unimaginable without multiple apps – for running, step counting, recipes, calendars, messaging, social networking, document organisation, and many, many more. 

So, it goes without saying that if you choose to take this path, you will probably earn a lot of money, no matter what type of development you pick. It’s fine to pick a profession by salary, as it will determine your further life quality. 

We hope that this guide on web developer salaries in different countries helped you determine where to steer your career. Keep in mind that there are so many options – freelance or full-time work, front-end, back-end, or full-stack development, and the options keep expanding as time goes by, and you gain experience. 

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