When the words Silicon Valley are uttered, most people associate it with tech companies dominating the business world. But who is the backbone of these companies? They are none other than software engineers.
The field of software engineering itself is vast and consists of diverse job roles and titles. If you were to look at the top emerging tech jobs, you would find that most of them are related to the field of software engineering. Every single software or application you use today is the product of the labor of software engineers. As a result, they are a much sought-after group of professionals, and the high software engineer salary in USA is a testament to that.
As the global workforce is becoming increasingly tech-centric, software developers are now hired in nearly every industry today. According to Data USA, there are nearly 4.3 million software engineers in the US alone. There has been an estimated 17.2 percent increase in the number of college graduates who are awarded computer science degrees today.
As per a 2020 survey by Hired, software engineers report high rates of job satisfaction with nearly 85% of respondents saying they’re happy to have chosen software development as a career.
There is a growing demand for software developers with nearly 316,000 jobs expected to be created by 2029. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for IT professionals is expected to grow by 11% through 2029. LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report rightly stated, “engineering isn’t a new profession by any means, but engineering roles across the board are still seeing tremendous growth.”
In this article, we will discuss the various factors that affect a software engineer’s salary and understand how software engineers can attract high-end pay packages. But before we look at the average salary of software engineer in US, let’s look at the roles and responsibilities of a software engineer.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Software Engineer
You may be wondering, “What does a software engineer do?” In this section, we take a close look at a software engineer’s role and responsibilities.
First, it is important to note that a software engineer can hold one of several job titles like front-end engineer, back-end engineer, full-stack engineer, DevOps engineer, cloud computing engineer, or machine learning engineer, to name a few. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the roles and responsibilities and the software engineer salary in America will depend on the job title to occupy, as well.
A software engineer in an entity that applies software engineering principles and systems to develop, solve, and test new computer software and programs. The most common responsibilities of a software engineer are as follows:
- Responsible for analyzing users’ needs and designing, developing, and testing the software to meet those needs.
- Developing and executing project plans while working with a team of other software engineers.
- Executing full life cycle of software development.
- Collaborating with a team of experts, including other software engineers or software developers, analysts, system programmers, and other engineers, to identify and problem-solve the needs of a project.
- Designing and developing testable codes and test cases.
- Knowledge of agile methodologies.
- Troubleshooting, debugging and upgrading existing systems and programs.
- Evaluating user feedback and monitoring system performance.
- Undertaking systems risk and reliability analysis.
- Maintaining compliance with industry standards and ensuring software updates with the latest features.
What emerges is that a software engineer is involved in the end-to-end activities of software development which also includes carrying out post-development upkeep and maintenance of the software. As a result of the wide variety of roles and responsibilities that software engineers undertake, the software engineer salary in US per month is pretty high. In the next section, we take a look at the average salary of software engineer in US and the factors which play a role in determining the pay package.
Software Engineer Salary: How much do software engineers earn?
According to PayScale, the average base software engineer salary is $87,192 per year. According to Glassdoor, the typical software engineer salary ranges from $89,536 to $181,249 per year.
The total compensation for software engineers is a sum total of their base salary, bonus, and stock options, and restricted stock units (RSU). In addition to this, every company has a leveling system on the basis of which software engineer levels are decided. Each level is associated with a unique set of responsibilities, skills, and a salary band — the higher is your software engineering level, the higher will your total compensation be.
This level is assigned at the onsite interview stage where software engineers can negotiate a higher salary based on their performance and seniority levels. Even though companies have a personalized tier-based structure to level software engineers, the general outline looks something like this:
- Level 1: Software Engineer (Entry-Level) — New graduates, diploma holders, or freshers with less than 1 year of experience usually fall in this level. Entry-level software engineers earn an average compensation of $76,633.
- Level 2: Senior Engineer (Early-Career) — Software engineers at this level enjoy relatively more autonomy and decision-making authority. They possess up to 4 years of experience and are paid an average total compensation of $84,465 per year.
- Level 3: Staff Engineer (Mid-Career) — Staff engineers are in charge of junior-level engineers and typically possess 5 to 9 years of experience. They earn an average total compensation of $95,700 per year.
- Level 4: Principal Engineer (Experienced) — Software engineers with over a decade’s worth of experience are paid an average salary of $105,648 per year.
- Level 5: Distinguished Engineer / Fellow (Late-Career) — Software engineers with over 20 years of experience can earn $114,583 on average.
Let’s look at a few other factors which affect the software engineer salary in America.
Factors Affecting Software Engineer Salary
A software engineer’s salary depends on the company they work for, their base location, education, job title, educational qualifications, skills, and experience level. We’ll look at some of these factors in detail:
Higher seniority levels and having more years of industry experience generally account for higher salaries. For instance, L3 SWE-IIs at Google earn an average base salary of $130k per year whereas L8 SWEs (also known as Principal Engineers) earn $326k per year. Bonus or stock compensations also increase with experience levels, with L3 and L8 software engineers earning $39k and $545k in stocks respectively.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field can help software developers kickstart a career in software engineering. However, to develop strong computer programming skills, build visionary software solutions, and attract higher salaries, a master’s degree is the way to go. Software developer salary in US can be heavily impacted by your educational background.
In fact, being a software engineer requires continuous learning and keeping updated with new programming languages, relational databases, and frameworks. Online resources are an important avenue for keeping updated and constantly upskilling for a higher pay package not simply as a software engineer but also to negotiate a higher software developer salary in US.
3. Job Titles
Software engineering is currently one of the most diverse and sought-after fields in the world. Given the wide range of advancement and transitioning opportunities the field offers, a software engineer can attract lucrative salaries as an Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Cloud Engineer, or even an Engineering Manager. These constitute some of the fastest-growing roles in the field today
Indeed’s 2020 Best Jobs report had seven out of the top ten roles dedicated to tech. Here are five of the highest-paid software engineer job roles:
Machine Learning Engineers
In 2018, LinkedIn found that there was increasing demand for machine learning engineers who were also amongst the highest paid professionals in the software and technology field. This holds true even in 2022 with PayScale reporting skills like NLP and machine learning help software engineers increase their earning potential.
Machine learning engineers earn an average base salary of $149,942 per year. Companies like eBay and Wish pay machine learning engineers high salaries of $335,019 and $256,134 respectively.
Cloud Computing Engineer
Cloud computing engineers are responsible for designing systems and solutions using cloud architecture. With Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure being the top cloud providers today, most companies work with these technologies in achieving cloud computing goals. Cloud computing engineers typically earn an average base salary of $102,877.
A software architect is responsible for making design decisions on high-level architecture choices. Their job is to ensure standard design protocols are followed, and tools and technologies used are cutting-edge. They are responsible for maintaining the enterprise framework of software-intensive systems.
LinkedIn listed software architect as the #1 “best” job in its 2020 list. The average base salary of software architects is $135,599 per year.
Site Reliability Engineers
Site Reliability Engineers were first introduced at Google and later adopted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. SRE teams are responsible for managing software engineering operations and supervising systems administration based on software engineering methodologies. The salary of site reliability engineers ranges from $119,000 to $195,000 per year.
Robotics engineers design and create robots or systems to carry out tasks as humans. It is a high-end profession with growing demand in the gaming and manufacturing industry. They build prototypes and test robotics machines, and develop the software that controls them. Robotics engineering is a fast-growing job role in the software development field with robotics engineers earning an average base salary of $93,984 per year.
As per PayScale, software engineers skilled at Apache Zookeeper and Mercurial (Hg) can increase their earning potential by 58% and 57% respectively. Skills like people management and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can result in a 55% and 45% salary hike respectively.
Additionally, good problem-solving, interpersonal, and communication skills are important soft skills to have as a software engineer. Software engineer salary in USA for freshers heavily rely on such skills.
Salaries vary greatly with differences in location, affecting software engineer salary in US per month. This results from a combination of differences in the cost of living in different locations and the demand and supply of software engineers in the area.
For instance, a software engineer in San Francisco, California is paid an average base salary that is 40.4% higher than the national average. The same is the case with San Jose (California) and Seattle (Washington) where salaries are 35.4% and 23.8% higher respectively. On the other hand, software engineers are believed to be paid the lowest salary in Chicago, Illinois with base salaries being 1.1% less than the national average.
Software engineers are amongst the highest paid professionals in the world with top companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google (FAANG), Microsoft, Cisco, and Lyft, to name a few, paying unmatched salaries to software engineers at all levels.
Microsoft Corp is believed to pay individuals in this role an average base salary of $117,704 whereas Cisco Systems Inc pays $109,722 annually. Google is reported to pay software engineers $121,590 per year. Software engineers at Facebook earn an average base salary of $122,803 plus an average bonus of $14,838 and an average profit-sharing amount equal to $36,716.
Below are the three biggest tech companies in the world:
- Netflix: $93,530 – $738,544
- Amazon: $164k – $642k
- Apple: $178k -719k
How can you uplevel as a software engineer?
Experienced software engineers or higher-level SWEs have an in-depth understanding of the best software development practices. They are aware of the latest tools and technologies required to diagnose problems and have expertise in nearly every component of software development. The highest-paid software engineers also manage junior-level SWEs to achieve project goals. They possess exceptional coding abilities and can write complex programs.
An advanced computer science degree like a master’s degree can help software engineers attain this level of expertise and knowledge through hands-on experience and exposure to in-demand skills.
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What is Software engineering?
The terms software and engineering combine to form the phrase software engineering. We know that engineering refers to using scientific and practical knowledge to create, design, construct, maintain, and enhance anything. In contrast, software refers to a collection of related programs. Software engineering is the methodology of determining user requirements, followed by designing, building, and debugging software to satisfy those needs. It is an engineering field focusing on developing software products using established scientific principles, approaches, and processes. An efficient and dependable software product is the end result of software engineering.
Why do we need software engineering?
There are many reasons why we need software engineering. A greater pace of advancement in user needs and the environment in which the program operates makes software engineering necessary. Engineering must step in to provide programming with a scientific method as its size grows. Software engineering aids in large-scale programming. The client's working environment significantly impacts how programming is ever-evolving and changing. If the software's quality deteriorates over time, fresh updates must be made to the current version. Software engineering aids in meeting the demands of the dynamic world of software development.
What are the traits of a good software engineer?
A good software engineer should be acquainted with software engineering concepts and have experience with systematic methodologies. Additionally, he or she needs to be well-versed in technical matters, have solid programming skills, and be an effective communicator. These include interpersonal, writing, and verbal communication abilities. In addition to being highly motivated and committed, he or she should also be able to operate well in a group. Finally, he or she should be bright and possess a solid grasp of computer science foundations.