This is How Much Developers Earn

An analysis of Stackoverflow Developer Survey 2020

Nowadays, when jobs are precarious and the job market landscape looks bleak, people are often told to Learn How to Code to future-proof their career and to enable them to upgrade their jobs.

However, does this statement hold water? How well do the people who code really earn now, not tomorrow?

Even for the people who are already on their ways to become developers, it might not be so easy to know what kind of developer they want to be or even what programming language should they learn.

A look into the data might shed some light on these topics. Let’s take a peek first on what the respondents say about what type of developer they are and what programming languages have they worked with.

What Are the Most Popular Programming Language and Developer Type?

The figures above show that almost 68% of the respondents say that they have worked with JavaScript, while the most popular developer type are both Back-End and Full-Stack Developers at 55%.

Both dataset correspond well as the following popular programming languages are the usual suspects for those who do website development (Back-End or Full-Stack): HTML/CSS, SQL, Python (63%, 54%, 44% of respondents, respectively).

So, the developers sphere is still dominated by website developers, while the currently hyped jobs like Data Scientists or DevOps are still trailing behind ( 8% and 12% of respondents, respectively), despite their often being in the spotlight nowadays and even predicted to be oversaturated in the jobs market.

What About Their Salary?

The following figures are the level of salary displayed by boxplot, grouped by both programming languages and developer types, and sorted by the most left as having the highest median salary.

In spite of the popularity of the web developer jobs and their programming languages, the data show that the median salary of those who work as Engineering Managers, SREs, DevOps, and Data Engineers tend to be higher than them and the other types of programming jobs.

These top-tier jobs have the median of $92k, $80k, $68k, and $65k respectively, while those who work as website developers, such as Back-End and Full-Stack, earn $53k and $54k respectively.

What about the Data Scientists? Their median earning is $58k, still lower than the heavyweights, but nevertheless higher than the web developers.

Perl, Scala, Go, and Rust are the top-tiers in terms of the median salary among programming languages. Their respective medians are $76k, $76k, $74k, and $74k.

JavaScript has a median salary of $53k, while the languages used often by Data Scientists like Python and R have the medians of $59k and $67k.

Basically, the general result could be explained by the supply-demand relationship: the low-tiers in popularity command higher salary in the job market.

So, for those of you who are on your way to become developers or wanting to enter the field, the tips for higher salary is to choose the least popular path in the field.

Does Educational Background Make a Difference?

So, I divided the dataset into two groups of respondents: the people who have higher education level (Master’s, PhD, or Professional Degrees) and those who do not. Between these two groups, I calculated the difference in the proportion for each of the programming language or developer type and resulted in the figures below.

The Y axis represents the difference in prevalence of different educational background
The Y axis represents the difference in prevalence of different educational background

In terms of popularity, apparently there are differences in the choice of programming languages and job types based on different educational background.

R, Python, and Bash/Shell languages are more than 5% more popular among those who have higher education (6.3%, 5.7%, and 5.1% respectively), while JavaScript and HTML/CSS are more than 10% more popular among those who do not (10.2% and 12.8% respectively).

This may be explained by the bottom figure that shows Academic Researchers or Data Scientists are more popular among people who have higher educational background (9.8% and 9.2% more popular, respectively), among which, R or Python are widely used.

While for those who do not have higher educational background, jobs such as a Front-End and Full-Stack Developers are far more popular (13.3% and 9.8% more, respectively).

What about in terms of salary? Does education makes a difference?

The Y axis represents the proportion of the difference of median salary to the median salary of those who have higher education level.
The Y axis represents the proportion of the difference of median salary to the median salary of those who have higher education level.

In short, yes. The higher the educational level you attain, the higher the tendency for you to earn more, despite of programming language choice or what type of developers you would want to be.

Some interesting exceptions are observed among those who work with Perl, Rust, and Scala (14%, 11%, and 9% higher) or those who work as Engineering Managers and SREs (12% and 6% higher): higher salary is found among those who do not have higher education level.

I can’t really tell why this is so. A further digging on the data is intriguing to shed some light on this.

Conclusion

So, we have taken a look at the data from the 2020 Stackoverflow Developer Survey to see how much do developers earn by looking at different categories of programming languages and types of developer.

This might prove useful to you in judging the case whether tech jobs are the future or even what programming language you want to adopt or what kind of developer you might want to be.

Here are the takeouts:

  • The most popular programming language is JavaScript while the most popular developer type are Back-End and Full-Stack Developers.
  • The programming languages and developer types which are less popular, tend to command higher level of salary. This could be explained through a simple supply-demand effect.
  • The popularity of programming language and developer type differs among those who have higher educational level.
  • Educational background matters in attaining higher salary: the higher the education you attain, the higher the tendency for you to have higher salary level. Though some exceptions are observed, this tends to be the case across different programming languages usage or types of developer.

A caveat here is that these findings are observational and no formal approach is conducted.

What about you? What are the programming languages of your pick? And what kind of developers or programmers do you want to be?

See more about this analysis on my GitHub.

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A confused generalist with specialization in Web Dev, Data Science, and Autonomous System.

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Wisnu Mulya

Wisnu Mulya

A confused generalist with specialization in Web Dev, Data Science, and Autonomous System.

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