How Much Do Software Engineers Make?

Last Updated:
June 11, 2024

How Much Do Software Engineers Make?

If you aspire to become a software engineer, you will encounter regular opportunities to progress your career, and increase your salary. As you gain experience and learn new technical skills, new doors will open, either at your current workplace or a similar one. You’ll then be able to decide how you want to progress. However, when you begin this journey your first question is likely to be ‘how much do software engineers make anyway?’ Keep reading to find out, and learn where the best cities to work are, and the potential career paths associated with software engineering.

How much do software engineers make?

The starting salary for a software engineer is typically around $63,000 USD or $30 per hour.

Once established in a role, and after several years of experience the average salary ranges from $120,000 to $173,000 USD. However, those with in-demand skills and decades of experience can earn up to $205,000 USD per year or $98 per hour. This is a potential salary increase of $142,000 USD during your career.

Best paying cities for software engineers

Software engineers are in demand across the US, but these ten cities have salaries that are higher than the national average.

  1. San Jose, CA - Average annual salary $189,000
  2. Cupertino, CA - Average annual salary $188,000
  3. Wayland, MA - Average annual salary $185,000
  4. San Carlos, CA - Average annual salary $185,000
  5. Oakland, CA - Average annual salary $184,000
  6. Truckee, CA - Average annual salary $184,000
  7. Mountain View, CA - Average annual salary $184,000
  8. Hayward, CA - Average annual salary $184,000
  9. Antioch, CA - Average annual salary $184,000
  10. Seattle, WA - Average annual salary $183,000

As you can see, the spread between these top ten cities is only $6,000 USD per year, or about $2 per hour. Thus, it is important to consider other factors before relocating for a higher wage. Consider the cost of living in the city, housing availability, and your personal hobbies.

Career paths for software engineers

Now that you know the average wage and the highest-paid cities to work in, it is time to consider which career path to choose. Below are the three primary career paths for those studying software engineering.

Individual Contributor

All software engineers start their journey as individual contributor. This allows you to work on your technical skills and develop proficiencies to open new doors.

Junior Engineer

When first starting out you will be a junior engineer working on a team with others, and reporting to a senior engineer. Here you will write and maintain code, debug software and assist in designing new applications.


Once you are more proficient in coding, and programming languages you will be promoted to the engineer level. You will still work within a team and report to a senior engineer, but will be more involved in the development and launch of new software.

Senior Engineer

A senior engineer is an expert-level programmer, who is in charge or reviewing software code and resolving programming issues. They are also in-charge of junior engineers and their mentoring.


At a certain point in your career, after being promoted from junior engineer, you may be able to jump into the management career path. This requires relying on interpersonal skills more than technical proficiencies as you are managing staff more than developing software. This is the path to choose if you aim to become the VP of engineering in any company.

Freelance or Contract

Once you have the skills and proficiencies required, you can opt to freelance or construct out your services. This means you will often perform the same duties as those in the individual contributor career path, but with more freedom and flexibility. This also gives you a chance to really master your skills and become an expert in a specific type of software engineering or programming language.

Now that you know how much a software engineer makes, and what options are available within the career path, you must choose where to study. After all, having a degree in programming, or general software engineer is the first step to landing your entry-level position.

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