Today’s Developers: Self-Taught and Over-Caffeinated

Stack Overflow recently surveyed several thousand developers about pretty much everything work-related, and the results paint an interesting portrait of what the developer life is like in 2015.

Of the 26,036 people surveyed in 157 countries, 32.4 percent self-identified as full-stack developers, 13.6 percent said they were students, and 10.1 percent indicated they were back-end Web developers. In descending order, other professions included mobile developer (9.1 percent), desktop developer (8.3 percent), front-end Web developer (6.0 percent), enterprise-level lead services developer (2.9 percent), and embedded application developer (2.9 percent). But enough with the big numbers—what does your average developer actually look like?

For starters, the average developer is 28.9 years old. (“He or she was born in April 1986, just as IBM manufactured the first megabit chip,” Stack Overflow’s report helpfully mentions for context.) In countries such as Russia, Poland, and India, developers tend to skew younger; in the United States, on the other hand, the average developer is 31.6 years old.

Of those developers surveyed by Stack Overflow, some 92.1 percent were male. (Some 5.8 percent were female, 1.7 percent refused to disclose, and 0.5 percent self-described as “other.”) “Software development has a gender balance problem,” the report added. “Our internal stats suggest the imbalance isn’t quite as severe as the survey results would make it seem, but there’s no doubt everyone who codes needs to be more proactive welcoming women into the field.”

Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) never received a degree in computer science, while nearly a third never took a computer-science course at a university. Although system administrators tended to fall into the category of self-taught tech pros, others—especially those specializing in machine learning and data analytics—tended to undergo much more formal schooling, in the form of either certifications or even a Ph.D.

Stack Overflow also found that developers like to work on their own stuff, with the average one putting in more than 7 hours a week on a passion project. Of course, balancing work-life and side projects demands lots of caffeine—and the average developer suggested they consumed 2.2 servings of coffee, tea, or some other caffeinated beverage every day. (Project managers drank an average of 2.92 servings, while system administrators managed to slug down 2.58 servings.)

So that’s a portrait of your average developer in 2015: over-caffeinated, self-taught, late-20s, male, focused primarily on Web development, and just as interested in passion projects as actually doing a day job. In the United States at least, a burgeoning tech economy means these developers can also earn nearly $100,000 a year, depending on their skill sets—Objective-C and Node.js are particularly lucrative, as are C#, JavaScript, and Python.

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Image: Andrii Muzyka/

5 Responses to “Today’s Developers: Self-Taught and Over-Caffeinated”

  1. I have more years on a keyboard then the 28.9 years of life of the average programmer without benefit of certificates or degrees. One of the members of the Pascal review committee had stopped his formal education at the 9th grade. I’ve never had a problem finding work either salaried or contract. I asked one of my salary employers why he never asked about my education. He said that he only hired persons with 10 years or more experience. Why should he care about their report card? If they have been employed for a decade or more, then he only cared about their experience and their personality.

  2. Actually the average income for developers is now slightly more than 100K in some cities, such as LA and Seattle where it is almost 105K, and in Silicon Valley at 107K. The extra 2K in Silicon Valley is probably as an offset for their 60% higher cost of living as compared to Seattle or LA.
    So, some major cities are now over 100K as the “average” for developers.