Year after year, web development continues to dominate lists of the most in-demand skills in the world. So, it should come as no surprise that web developers’ salaries are highly competitive. But how accurate are salary aggregators’ estimates of web developer compensation?
In this blog, we answer your most pressing questions about developer salaries. How does geography impact salary? Which programming languages have the highest compensation? And what strategies should you use to negotiate a higher salary? Keep reading to find out.
What Does a Web Developer Do?
Web developers build the experiences that make up how we see and interact with the internet. Any time you visit a website or use an application, web developers are responsible for the look and feel, as well as the interactions that happen as you engage with content.
Depending on the role, web developers are also responsible for maintaining the back end. Think of all the infrastructure that supports everything you experience online — like reading this article.
Types of Web Developers
While they may have many different titles in the industry from site developer to user experience engineer, web developer roles typically fall into three categories.
The back end, or server side, of a website or application is everything you don’t see that supports the digital experience. This includes databases, applications, and servers. Back-end developers are the individuals responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure that supports the entire application or website.
When you load a website or application, the front end, or client side, is everything that a user sees and interacts with. Front-end developers are responsible for creating everything from content styles and interactions to overall design and user experience.
Full-stack developers have an understanding of front-end and back-end development. But they also know how to support back-end processes, databases, and architecture. Because a full-stack developer possesses client-side and server-side knowledge, they’re able to work at every level of the web development process.
However, each full-stack developer will have a unique combination of generalization and specialization across the entire stack. Even a senior full-stack developer might have working knowledge of both the front and back ends, with true expertise in only a few layers.
How Much do Web Developers Make? Salary Breakdown
With so many options for salary aggregators, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with estimates and projections. We took the time to share web developer salaries from several popular aggregators for you to see the differences between entry level to senior roles. For each experience level, we’ve also averaged the median salaries from each aggregator.
Entry Level web developers can expect to earn an average of $63,276
- Payscale reports a range of $38,000 to $72,000, with an average of $51,237
- ZipRecruiter reports a range of $30,000 to $85,000, with an average of $57,226
- Indeed reports a range of $48,562 to $73,403, with an average of $59,704
- Glassdoor reports a range of $53,000 to $121,000, with an average of $79,827
- Salary.com reports a range of $61,382 to $77,082, with an average of $68,386
Intermediate web developers can expect to earn an average of $77,812.
- Payscale reports a range of $42,000 to $90,000, with an average of $60,987
- ZipRecruiter reports a range of $32,000 to $136,500, with an average of $81,086
- Indeed reports a range of $48,067 to $127,574, with an average of $78,307
- Glassdoor reports a range of $54,000 to $128,000, with an average of $83,031
- Salary.com reports a range of $79,383 to $94,001, with an average of $85,648
Senior or expert web developers can expect to earn an average of $105,104.
- Payscale reports a range of $63,000 to $123,000, with an average of $88,939
- ZipRecruiter reports a range of $55,500 to $182,000, with an average of $113,217
- Indeed reports a range of $69,904 to $144,309, with an average of $100,438
- Glassdoor reports a range of $79,000 to $180,000, with an average of $118,231
- Salary.com reports a range of $92,671 to $118,235, with an average of $104,697
Base Salary vs Total Compensation
One important distinction to note is that salary aggregators report the salary of a role, not total compensation. This presents an incomplete picture of just how much employers actually compensate web developers. In addition to a base salary, most developers receive substantial stock options and bonuses. For example, the average software development engineer III at Amazon receives a base salary of $175K. But they also receive $156K in stock options and $15K in bonuses every year, for a total compensation of $345K. That’s 97% more than their base salary.
This pattern doesn’t just hold true for large tech companies like Amazon. Compensation aggregator levels.fyi reports that web developer total compensations range from $121,000 to $279,000. (That includes base salary, stock options, and bonuses.)
The important takeaway here is that base salary quite literally only makes up half of the conversation around developer compensation. By taking this into account, we can see that the preceding salary data from aggregators under represents developer compensation.
Developers, hiring managers, and recruiters should take note of this distinction, as it will have a huge impact on their careers. Developers can increase their total earnings by tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars by negotiating stock options during the interview process. And recruiters and hiring managers who pay careful attention to building a competitive total compensation package will be better able to attract, hire, and retain web developers.
Are Developer Salary Estimates Accurate?
On average, back-end developers receive highly competitive compensation packages. However, data sources on developer salaries often present a varying range of numbers at both a national and global level. The average base salary for back-end developers in the U.S. is $115,667. But some estimates place the global median much higher at $162,000.
Even within the web development discipline, you may find a few differences in salary ranges between developer types. Front-end developer salaries can be marginally lower than those of back-end developers. This could be due to the higher availability of front-end developers in the market.Ultimately, this depends on how companies define their web developer roles. And developers with expertise in focus areas such as machine learning and API development earn even more. It’s worth noting that salary aggregators generally rely on user-reported salary data, so the results of the averages generated is based on the accuracy of the reported data.
While this has always been true, market conditions have made technical salaries especially volatile since 2020. Because of this, public salary data may be low or out of date. Total compensation packages, including equity and bonuses, are also changing rapidly. Hiring teams will need to conduct their own research to identify salary bands based on their company’s requirements and the technical needs of the role.
Why Are Web Developer Salaries So High?
On average, web developers receive highly competitive salaries. So high, in fact, that they often more than double the national average in their country of origin. In the U.S., for example, the average salary in 2020 was $53,400. In contrast, the average base salary for back-end developers in the U.S. ranges between $115,129 and $125,924 — 116 to 136% higher than the national average.
But what factors drive their high compensations? Well, web developers are in short supply across industries, have critical responsibilities, and must be adaptable to be successful in their role. Web developers who have a combination of in-demand skills and experience are in short supply compared to the current demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer employment is projected to grow 25% through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Meanwhile, recruiters continue to struggle to keep up with demand for developers with skill sets that match business needs.
Web developers also have critical responsibilities that are foundational to operations. And if that wasn’t enough, web developers must ensure they’re constantly adapting, scaling, and future-proofing their tech stack to keep up with technology.
Lastly, developers’ salaries are high because the value they provide to employers is equally significant. Without web developers, the most impactful technologies of the last 30 years – including computers, smartphones, social media, and the internet itself – would never have been invented. Considering that web developers have helped the tech industry grow to over $5 trillion, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their compensation is so high.
How Do Skills Affect Developer Compensation?
Developer salaries don’t just vary based on experience or specialization. Learning in demand programming languages or frameworks can also increase a developer’s salary.
How Do Programming Languages Affect Compensation?
How Do Programming Frameworks Affect Compensation?
When it comes to frameworks, web developers familiar with Backbone.js receive the highest pay by 48%, followed by Cocoa and Ruby on Rails. Since Backbone.js is an uncommon skill — globally, only 4% of developers know it — the low knowledge supply enable those developers to demand higher pay.
It’s important to note that, regardless of framework or language, the association to higher pay is tied in part to seniority. Since senior developers earn higher pay, it could elevate the average pay linked to languages or frameworks.
Salary Comparisons Around the World
Historically, geography in particular has had a significant influence on the compensation of web developers. U.S. developers make more than those in any other country, earning $109,167 annually on average. Australia and Canada were the next highest paying countries, with average developer salaries of $88,539 and $72,771, respectively. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom rounded out the top five highest paying countries.
How to Increase Your Salary
Whether you’re a seasoned employee, recently reached a work milestone, or you’ve become certified in an area of expertise, you should ask for a raise. Why? Our own research shows that only 35% of developers believe they’re being paid fairly, while 26% are unsure if their pay is fair. Let’s review a few tips on how to ask for a raise and increase your salary.
Do Your Research
It’s important to know the going rate for your skills before negotiating a raise, especially since many factors go into estimating salaries. Because skill level, location, and even your past employers can factor into a salary offer, it helps to come prepared to a negotiation with data specific to your role and situation. For example, a newer startup may not be able to compete with the higher salary offerings of a longstanding tech company. However, negotiating stock options or other benefits can help to close the gap in compensation.
Don’t forget to research how your company evaluates raises and promotions, as well as the timing around them. You don’t want to do the research only to realize you have to wait until the next promotion cycle.
Develop Skills and Take On More Responsibilities
Being able to solve your manager’s problems can help you increase your salary, and even earn you a promotion. Find out if there are any skill gaps or problems to solve, and consider if they align with how you want to grow in your career. Particularly focus on projects or tasks that can help the business save time or increase profitability. Typically, if your job differs from what it was when you last negotiated your salary, you should command a higher compensation. Learning technical skills that have a higher market value, such as Backbone.js or Ruby on Rails, can also increase your value to your employer.
With added skills and experience, you now have greater knowledge to do your job more efficiently at a higher quality than you did previously. Negotiate additional responsibilities with your manager and set a timeline with goals that align with your company’s policies around advancement. With your manager’s roadmap, you’ll be able to measure and show impact to negotiate a raise or promotion.
Ask for a Raise
If you’ve taken on more responsibilities and gained additional skills to upgrade the quality of your work, it’s time to prepare yourself to ask for a raise. Track your responsibilities and measure the output of your work to support your case, and come prepared to share a figure you think is fair for market value. Meeting your work goals is not enough to get a raise on its own. It’s important to emphasize the measurable results or impact of your project. Your manager isn’t a mindreader — ask for what you want directly but respectfully, using clear communication.
The average length of time that software developers stay at a given company can be surprisingly short. Around 50% of software engineers stay at a single company for two years, while the national average tenure for web developers is 4.2 years. Some web developers feel that staying too long may even cause their skills to stagnate. While switching jobs isn’t a new trend, job hopping in tech has proven to be more incentivized recently, yielding a higher salary, better benefits, or greater flexibility.
Ultimately, there are many factors to consider when trying to improve your salary that go beyond what we cover in this article, so it’s important to do your research, consider your timing, and advocate for yourself.