What Is the Typical Salary of a Software Developer?

Computers would remain lifeless collections of electronic circuits were it not for the efforts of software developers. These computer professionals breath life into the hardware by creating programs to operate the system and perform tasks for users. Their salaries depend on the type of software they create, their employers and locations.

Systems Software

Systems software developers design, develop, and test the operating systems, compilers, and network distribution software that enable computer hardware to function and run applications. As of May 2012, the latest year for which complete information was available, they earned an average $102,550 per year, or $49.30 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid 10 percent received less than an annual $62,800, or $30.19 hourly, while the top earners made over $148,850 yearly, or $71.56 per hour.

Around 125,250 of the 391,700 systems software developers worked for computer systems design and related services. Average pay here ran $103,280 per year, or $49.65 per hour. Developers also found excellent job opportunities among software publishers and manufacturers of instruments for navigation, medicine, and measurement. The highest-paying employers were information services with mean pay at $118,040 annually, or $56.75 hourly.

California, the most populous state, showed the most positions of any state, with 80,130 professionals. It also boasted the highest salaries at $115,440 per year, or $55.50 per hour. The city with the most jobs was Washington, DC, where 28,600 developers averaged $114,150 annually, or $54.88 hourly. The best pay was in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at a mean $155,950 yearly, or $74.97 per hour.


Applications software developers design, develop, and test the word processors, spreadsheets, games, databases, and email processors that allow users to perform useful functions on a computer. According to the BLS, they averaged $93,280 per year, or $44.85 per hour. This equaled a yearly range of $55,190 to $138,880, or an hourly wage of $26.54 to $66.77.

About 199,080 of the total 586,340 applications software developers worked for computer systems design and related services. Mean pay here was an annual $93,340, or $44.87 hourly. Other top employers included software publishers and organizations that took over the management of other companies. The highest salary was with securities and commodity contracts brokers, averaging $107,300 yearly, or $51.59 hourly.

Most worked in California with 88,260 positions making the best pay of $105,120 annually, or $50.54 hourly. As for metropolitan areas, Seattle topped the employment ranking with 35,650 jobs paying a mean $101,910 per year, or $48.99 per hour. The highest-paying positions were in Sioux City, Iowa, averaging $126,180 annually, or $60.66 hourly.


The future looks bright for software developers of both types. According to the BLS, from 2010 to 2020, jobs for applications specialists are projected to jump by 23 percent. For systems software developers, the increase is predicted to be 20 percent. This is almost double the 11 percent growth expected for all jobs in all industries. The demand will come from the increasing use of computers and other products that depend on software, such as mobile phones and appliances.