Salary Negotiations for Developers

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You’re interested in acquiring skills to become a professional developer. After all, you may have heard that there is a serious worker shortage in many IT fields. You’ve also heard that these jobs pay well and there’s a lot of work out there. All of these statements are true. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that work will automatically come to you. The job market has changed significantly over the past decade. The IT sector is expected to go through even more upheaval in the coming years. This article attempts to honestly present the IT job landscape and provide tips for salary negotiations for developers. You may not want to hear everything that is said, but there are still some exciting opportunities waiting for you.

Current State of Developer Salary in the United States

In the United States, as of this writing, there are currently 223,054 job openings for software developers with an average salary of $104,425. These salaries are expected to increase by 2.8% in 2017. The salary for software developers is higher because of the lack of qualified professionals. While a majority of these high paying jobs typically require a degree in computer science and at least five years of experience, people are slowly moving up into those positions. It is likely that if you are just starting out, you will not qualify for these high paying jobs. The upside to this shift is that as other people within the industry move into these jobs, their positions will open up. This often means that their previous positions will open up for people with less experience.

State of Jobs Overall

When your parents were growing up, they would probably have had 5 to 12 jobs in their career. That is significantly higher than previous generations. The current job market is very different. Due to the high costs of having permanent employees, contract work is becoming more affordable to many businesses. Some of the business advantages of hiring contractors are:

  • It is not necessary to pay taxes for an employee
  • The employer does not need to provide overhead (desk, office space, technology)
  • There is no need to for the business to pay for insurance
  • The company does not need to pay for health benefits
  • Sick or holiday pay is not necessary
  • The contractor is only needed when there is work
  • There is less risk for the employer (try before you buy)
  • It is easier to retain the services of a contract person
  • The contract person can be discharged more easily than a regular employee.

In a 2015 study of 210 small to large businesses, Ardent Partners found that 35% of today’s workforce are “non-employees”. According to Techcrunch, the ride sharing company Uber has approximately 2,000 employees and 160,000 contractors. That is a ratio of 80:1. In an article by Quartz, they suggest that 40% of the US workforce will be freelance workers by 2020. A comparison of Google trends of hiring employees vs. hiring contractors, shows that the contractor inquiries (blue) are getting closer to the employees inquiries (red).

Salary Negotiation For Developers

Google Trend: Red are inquiries about hiring employees, Blue are inquiries about hiring contractors picture goes here


More Squeezes on the IT Job Market

There are two other trends that are putting a squeeze on hiring employees. The first trend is the global market. In India, a person with a software engineering background makes up to 1 million Rupee, which is just under $17,000 in U.S. dollars. This is your competition. How do you compete against that? Make sure that you read the section on Getting Yourself Ready.

The second squeeze on the current job market is a new growing trend call Artificial Intelligence (AI). Corporations are making a major effort to develop AI to replace redundant routines. The publication The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation, indicates that 47% of the US employment is at risk of being replaced by AI by 2055. While the current emphasis is on simple routines, such as accounting or legal searches/arguments, it is likely that some IT jobs will not be replaced by AI. The chat bots of several websites is evidence of this trend. It is also demonstrated by the progression of technologies like Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Getting Yourself Ready: Salary Negotiations for Developers

By this point, you may start to feel a little discouraged. This is because there are several threats to your future livelihood. However, there are steps you can take to survive this new emerging workforce. The following actions will give yourself a better chance.

TIP 1: Focus on a segment

You can’t be good at everything. You should pursue what you are passionate about. The four most in demand jobs with a projected five year growth rate of 17% are:

Cloud Engineer: Some of the essential languages include Java, Python and Ruby. You’ll also need a solid database background. Median Salary: $72,043

Mobile Application Developer: You will need to learn languages like Swift for iOS and Java for Android. However, there are other tools for developing native applications, including HTML/CSS/JavaScript. ActionScript and C++. If you want to get a good start in this field, check out LearnToProgram’s Certified Mobile Developer Course. Median Salary: $71,945

Database Administrator (DBA): This position requires knowledge of the SQL language, as well as a number of systems such as: mySQL, SQL Server and Oracle Database Administration. You’ll also need a solid understanding of database design and the relationships between tables. Median Salary: $71,429

Web Developer: The primary languages are HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript. You should also know a few server languages, such as: Ruby, Python, PHP and ASP. NET. LearnToProgram’s Web Development Professional certification program is an excellent choice to learn how to become a professional web developer. Median Salary: $57,502

TIP 2: Your Skills

Once you have a direction you’d like to pursue, start building your skills. The most common languages to learn are JavaScript and a server language like Python. PHP is also a good choice, since it’s one of the most used server side scripting languages. The PDO (PHP Data Objects) makes communication with databases much more secure and faster. Virtually all areas of IT work with databases. Therefore, knowing the basics of SQL will enhance your value.

TIP 3: What you bring to the table

If you focus on only learning to code, you will be competing with computer scientists from around the world making less than $20,000 a year. It is important to be able to demonstrate skills that are lacking in other places. The first skill to brush up on, is the ability to logically solve problems. This involves examining critical thinking techniques to help develop routines to solve issues. The second unique skill that is very valuable is creativity. An example is a tool such as Adobe Captivate. It is designed to facilitate interactive eLearning for non-programmers. Since there is no language, you must use the interface to make the learning interactive. This means that there is also a lack of features. However, by being creative, you can overcome some of the packaged application shortcomings that are not normally found in a code environment. There is creativity that can be found in restrictions.

TIP 4: Your Attitude

Your attitude is very important when it comes to salary negotiations for developers. One approach is to become the “goto” person when something needs to get done. This can be done by offering creative solutions to issues and problems.

A second approach is to embrace the new work force. Instead of having a total of 5 to 12 jobs in your career, you should assume that you will work on almost 200 projects. While there are still many full-time IT jobs, it is beneficial you to think that you may start as a “contract to hire”. Many recruiting agencies that are hired to find staff members, encourage businesses to look at contract to hire rather than hiring for a full-time position. Although not all businesses can do this due to legal and intellectual property ramifications, it is a current trend.

TIP 5: Employers are looking for experience – so get some

While college and university degrees are often important, there’s more recognition for people that are self-taught. In many contract situations, businesses are looking for a solution. You need to have some experience showing what you can do. This could involve developing your own application or website. You can also check out sites like Rent a Coder in Canada or Rent-a-Coder in the US. These sites let you bid on a project. Projects give a good baseline for salary negotiations for developers. The client outlines what needs to be done. If you’re chosen, you develop that product for the client. This helps you to get paid and to gain some experience at the same time.


The millennial generation is now the largest cohort in today’s workforce. While each generation faced its own unique challenges, the millennial generation will face the most radical challenges during their careers. While the steady and reliable income of full-time job opportunities are disappearing, contract work offers flexibility and numerous opportunities. If you’re good at your job, you can probably earn more as a contractor than as a regular employee.  Keep these salary negotiations for developers in mind when you negotiate the salary for your next job.



  1. In this line: “it is likely that some IT jobs will not be replaced by AI”, do you mean WILL be replaced by AI?

    This line needs a “for” before ‘you”: “While there are still many full-time IT jobs, it is beneficial you to think”.

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